The goal of Bible study is to know God. Yet, there is a great difference between intellectual assent of the concept of God’s love and a personal experiential knowledge of how much God loves us. This is where community comes in. Biblical truths will often remain abstract concepts until we catch a glimpse of them being fleshed out within the context of relationships. We begin to understand sacrificial love, mercy or grace because someone has demonstrated them to us.
At Covenant EFC, we believe discipleship best happens in the context of relationships because life transformation best happens in such a context. John Ortberg puts it beautifully: “God uses people to form people. That is why what happens between you and another person is never merely human-to-human interaction — the Spirit longs to be powerfully at work in every encounter.”
This transformation in the community life happens when, with God’s spiritual gifts in us, we make ministering to one another’s lives a priority beyond just completing the study.
Here are some tips as you lead a small group discussion. (adapted from From Learning to Care by Navpress, pg 98)
- Serve as a facilitator, not a lecturer. Your goal is to encourage personal interaction and self-discovery. Avoid pitfalls of being overly directive or too passive.
- Focus on what Scripture has to say – and not on you as the leader. Point members to Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to make application according to each member’s needs.
- Maintain an atmosphere of love and acceptance which will lead to open discussion. Never put down a person’s comments or contribution.
- Ask open-ended questions which have several possible answers and which can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”.
- Encourage involvement by calling on non-participants by name to respond. This also helps control the “overly” talkative.
- Stimulate discussion by active feedback to responses such as:
– Acknowledging responses whenever you can.
– Asking follow-up questions to clarify a too general or “vague” response.
- Deal with wrong responses and comments by asking, “What do others think?” or “Does everyone agree?” Never tell a person he is wrong. This kills an open discussion atmosphere.
- Encourage application by asking, “What should we do differently as a result of this discussion?”
- Keep the discussion on track by acknowledging the problem or new issue raised, but suggesting that you table the issue until you finish your present discussion. Your attitude toward the tangent should always be positive.
- Summarize the main ideas that are presented to help keep the group focused.
May God grant you wonderful, life-giving encounters with His Word in your community!