Imagine that you are heading up a forest field trip. You and the group participants set out in different directions. As you all explore, everyone makes observations and experiences the forest for themselves. Then, your group comes back together to discuss what you’ve all seen and learned, guided by thought-provoking questions posed by you, the group leader.
In many ways, this scenario is similar to Bible study discussion time. Each member of the group spends time in God’s Word, exploring its meaning for themselves. Then, during discussion time, the group comes together and a leader—that’s you!—helps guide everyone in a deeper exploration of what’s been discovered in Scripture and how individuals should respond.
Do you want to learn how to lead an effective Bible study discussion? Here are three helpful tips:
Set a welcoming group atmosphere.
For a robust group discussion, it’s important for people to feel comfortable sharing. There are several ways you can set a welcoming atmosphere to help people open up and grow together:
- Focus on others’ learning, not on your leading. Be more concerned about serving the group in love than you are about how you’re being perceived.
- Be encouraging. Let your group know that you care about what they say and what they learn.
- Keep eye contact. Your group will appreciate knowing they have your undivided attention as they express their thoughts and feelings. Observing people’s expressions also helps you see if any of your questions aren’t fully understood by anyone in the group and need to be restated or repeated.
- Don’t call on people unless it’s obvious they want to share. Usually someone will make steady eye contact with you if they’re ready to jump into the discussion. Some people in your group might feel more comfortable simply listening than sharing, and that’s okay!
Ask engaging, thought-provoking questions.
Not sure what questions to ask your group? Here are a few tips:
- Start with simple questions. Warm people up by asking easy or obvious questions at the beginning of discussion time. The 5 W’s and an H questions can help guide you: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- Focus on the lesson your group studied. It’s easy to get off track when leading or participating in group discussions, but let the lesson be your guide. Stick to the content covered that week to keep discussion time intentional and productive.
- Keep it broad. Usually, general questions will generate better discussion than very specific questions. For example, “What did you learn about God?” is usually a more engaging question than a more specific question like, “In the first part of verse 3, what does it say about God?” Ask just enough to get people talking—and try to encourage your group to think through how what they studied relates to their everyday lives.
- Don’t rush. Once you’ve asked, count to 9 slowly in your head as you wait for someone to share. Give people time to think through your question. Also—try to allow time for more than one person to answer each question to generate discussion.
- Lean on the Leader Guide, if available. Many Precept studies have free Leader Guides to help you lead with confidence.
Discussion time can be unpredictable. Sometimes, things don’t go how you expect! Here are three common difficulties that arise during Bible study discussion time and tips for how to work through them:
What do I do if I ask a question and no one says anything?
Try asking your question again. If no one responds the second time, try rephrasing your question. If that doesn’t work either, direct your group to the place in the lesson where your question is coming from. Whatever you do, try not to answer your own question—that won’t help generate discussion.
What do I do if someone talks too much during Bible study discussion time?
In any group, there are quieter types as well as talkers. Allowing one person or a few people to dominate the discussion can make it uncomfortable for others to share. If you encounter this difficulty, try starting your next question with, “Now, someone else…”
You can also try stating at the beginning of discussion time that your hope is for everyone to participate in discussion, and it’s important that no one dominate the discussion so as to give others an opportunity to share.
What do I do if someone’s answer is wrong during Bible study discussion time?
It’s bound to happen—sometimes, an answer is just off-base. If you encounter this difficulty during discussion, try asking what someone else thinks. If that person answers correctly, the problem is solved.
If the issue is not minor and it’s not likely to be cleared up later through further discussion, you may need to take the group back to Scripture and ask questions to reason through the text.
Other times, if a controversial issue is raised, you may have to agree to disagree, in love and humility. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit is more important than making your point—and it’s a mark of a seasoned leader.
We hope these tips help you lead group discussions that are fun and impactful! Thank you for leading your group faithfully—you’re helping transform communities with God’s Word, one group at a time!
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