Leading a small group Bible study is an important responsibility. Whether you lead a group on Sunday morning in your church or you meet at a local coffee shop or home, it’s easy to think leading a group isn’t that hard. In reality, there are a lot of dynamics that come into play when facilitating a small group. And while you might see a lot of blogs or instructions on “how to lead an effective small group,” I want to take a slightly different approach on five ways you should NOT lead a small group. Whether you identify with these or not, you’ve probably experienced these kinds of leadership at one time or another. (Or it might be a good time to look in the mirror and see if you’re guilty of these!)
1. Be late. Women are busy. You are busy. I get it. But if you want to show your group you care about them and are considerate of their schedules, begin on time. If you don’t, members won’t show up on time, and you won’t maximize the time you have together. I still remember hearing my daughter’s All-State Choir Director saying, “If you are 15 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late.” When you make arriving early a personal priority, you’ll have time to welcome everyone, and you’ll have time to handle any last minute interruptions or unexpected issues.
2. Be unprepared. The leader who hasn’t taken time to finish her personal Bible study and prepare for the group will be obvious to the rest of the group. If you want good participation, and you want to grow in your leadership, spend extra time preparing for your group. Study harder than anyone else. Do the homework. Go the extra mile. Know which questions you want to ask and have a plan for the time you have in discussion. Be prepared with any announcements and plan your prayer time specifically and purposefully.
3. Be insensitive or inflexible. While it’s great to be prepared, there are some leaders who run the group more like a military troop. The insensitive leader comes across as someone who is more interested in completing her agenda than hearing the hearts of those in her group. The old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is a perfect description of a leader who is sensitive to the needs of her group. If you show inflexibility, you aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to direct your time together.
4. Talk too much. This kind of leader tends to dominate the entire group. They might ask questions, but they rarely wait for others to answer. If there is an uncomfortable silence, they impatiently jump in and provide an answer. Instead, as a leader, focus your time on hearing from others. If there is a moment of silence, don’t panic. Someone will likely speak up. If not, consider rephrasing the question or redirecting the question. Always affirm answers and don’t turn the answer back to yourself or what you want to say. Good leaders facilitate, not dominate.
5. Let the group derail the study. Maybe silence isn’t the problem with your group. Instead, they love to get off subject and chase rabbits. It’s likely you’ll have one person who loves to talk, and they might appear as someone with attention deficit disorder. In these times, be a group leader who keeps the group on track. Steer the conversation back to the Bible study. Remind them of the time and of the purpose, but also be sensitive if a spiritual crisis comes up. Be ready to stop the group and pray together. In fact, pray at the beginning of your group and be bold enough to pray for good, balanced discussion and spiritual insight into God’s Word.
Have I left out something? If so, I’d love to hear your insights on how NOT to lead a small group.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.