It has happened! Maybe your pastor called you at work today and asked you to lead a small group Bible study. Perhaps you have an irresistable nudge from the Holy Spirit (my Calvinist friends relate to this) that is telling you to start a small group in your home for your neighbors. Or maybe you are in a small group and it has decided to start a new group – and you volunteered to be the new leader.
First, let me direct you to a couple of Bible passages. Check out James 3:1 and Romans 12:8. Mark them in your Bibles and spend several devotional times letting those two verses really sink into your soul.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
…he who exhorts in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence…
Leading a small group is not something to be taken lightly. I do not want to demean any area of service, but Ephesians 4:12 actually puts pastoring and teaching together! Teaching and leading are two of the highest callings of a believer, and for good reason. People trust their small group or Sunday School leader. They may appreciate the warm handshake of a greeter at the front door, or the work behind the scenes of people who stuffed all the handouts in the worship guide. But whether they realize it or not, the people who attend the meeting in your home are submitting to your leadership and influence. What you say and how you live your life has incredible impact. To slightly rephrase Romans 12:8, "If you are going to lead, then lead well." Once you have answered the pull of the Holy Spirit to be a small group leader/facilitator, then be the best leader you can be.
Here are a few simple suggestions:
Pray. Yes, it is never too late to deepen your prayer life! Pray for the people in your group by name during your daily devotion at least once a week. Pray that people that you want to invite to your group will have receptive hearts and respond. Pray for your group to grow spiritually and numerically. It is never too early to begin praying for the new group that will form out of yours.
Learn to relax. Virtually any research you read indicates that people are terrified of speaking in public. That may include you more than you realize. A small group leader who is tense will generally have his tenseness reflected by the group. They will get tense. They will get nervous about sharing. But a leader who is comfortable in his or her own skin will help bring calmness to the group. Practice taking a deep breath each time before you speak or share. Avoid making a comment the moment a group member finishes sharing. Slow down.
Get some training. Nobody knows everything. All of us have more to learn when it comes to being a small group leader. One recommendation I have for you here is take advantage of "peer learning". We have a tendency in our culture today to want to sit at the feet of superstars. With technology so prevalent in our world, it is easy to get help from a "guru" with a few clicks of your mouse. I'm not against learning from superstars, but I have found that our peers are often closer to our situation and have a better understanding of it. You may pick up the most practical advice from the guy sitting next to you at a leadership training event than from the expert speaker. Our peers walk in the same shoes and stratosphere we do, and finding someone who may be just a step or two ahead of you could be really beneficial.
Study. No one else can do this for you. Other people can make phone calls. Another group member can line up the food, but no one else can study for you. A leader who has studied and gotten familiar with the week's Bible study will be able to bring insight and direction to the group.
Facilitate. It is so tempting to dump a keen spiritual insight on your group.. avoid it. Part of your study should include the development of 4-6 thoughtful questions that will help your group get their arms around the Bible study. As the group discusses your questions, there will be moments for you to share what God has taught you… at the proper time. One other suggestion, especially if you are meeting in a home; sit down. That's right, take a seat. Arrange the seats in a circle and then sit with the group. Standing while others are seated gives you the position of prominence. You've already got that.. so sit down and join the crowd.
Attend meetings. Yeah, that's right. When your church has a meeting for small group leaders – attend. Even if it is just an information dump (and I hope it is more than this), it is information that you need. Also, remember that peer learning thing a few paragraphs ago? Comparing notes and asking questions at leadership meetings is not only a great way for you to learn, but other leaders are going to be learning alongside you and appreciate your questions. I have been asked so many questions by leaders after a leadership meeting. Often, I wished they would have asked their questions during the meeting. Your question is probably more important than you realize.
On Friday, I am going to post how to facilitate a Bible study with no curriculum. Yes, that's right.. NO curriculum. Is that allowable? And no, I'm not upset with LifeWay! Check by Friday and find out how to do it. I have a plan.