SMALL GROUP LEADER NOTES
Meet for five weeks. Five weeks is a good length of time for several reasons:
- It is doable for those who have never attended a weekly Bible study.
- It is a good length for first-time leaders to test their skills.
- It is also enough time for the group to grow close and build momentum for future five-week studies.
- It is attractive for those who can only commit to a short time frame and doesn't freeze out new attendees for a lengthy time.
Hold to the start and end dates and meeting times. Begin and end on time. Honoring the times and dates gives people the confidence to continue attending. Use a 90 minute meeting time frame. Finishing on time gives people an easy exit time. Of course, you can always hang out afterward to mingle.
Limit the size. The ideal number is 2-12 people. More than 12, and discussion becomes several simultaneous conversations. If your group is large, use breakouts. Make sure breakout locations don't share the same audio space. Overhearing another group's discussion is distracting. Instead, use a white noise app or a kitchen hood fan.
Close the study. This appears counterintuitive, but there are a couple of reasons to close a group. The first is to keep it from growing beyond a size that facilitates sharing and discussion. The second is to build trust. Open groups stifle transparency. If your group is closed, you will need to announce this during the first meeting. Third, it does not limit the growth of the ministry. Because the duration of each session is so short (five weeks), closing the groups does not limit the overall growth. On the contrary, it enhances it because word gets out that the groups are helpful and enjoyable.
Know your role. Your job is to guide the discovery process. Lead by affirming good answers. Don't lecture. Instead, ask follow-up questions. Keep the group on target. Be ready to say, "I feel like we've wandered away from our subject. Let's bring it back on topic."
Ask follow-up questions. Use what, why, how, when, where, and who springboards for secondary questions. Brief, well-worded follow-up questions can deepen understanding.
Use leader-led and focused prayer. Leader led prayer consists of the group leader opening the study in prayer. It is not a time for the group to pray. Focused prayer occurs at the end and targets what the group studied. It also does not consist of prayer requests. Prayer requests can shift the focus off topic and to issues unrelated to the group as a whole. Encourage people to pray with each other about personal issues. Note: Sometimes the questions in the Fellowship portion of the Discovery Study naturally lend themselves to prayer. If that's the case, go as the Holy Spirit leads.
Be ready to handle the three types of talkers.
- The under-talker. Someone who remains silent. Be ready to ask if they have anything to say. Often they need an invitation. Be sure they maintain the option to stay quiet observers. You will need to be ready to say something like, "Before we move on, I noticed we have not heard from everyone. Sarah, is there anything you would like to say?"
- The over-talker. This is the person who dominates the conversation. They usually respond well to a gentle reminder. You will need to be ready to say something like, “Bob, it’s good to hear your thoughts on the subject, but I’d like to give others a chance to contribute at this time.”
- The unhealthy talker. This is someone whose comments indicates they have needs beyond the group's scope. You will need to be ready to say something like, "Those issues are beyond the scope of this group. Let's talk afterward." It would be best to speak with an unhealthy talker during refreshment time. Take someone with you. Inform them of their need to contact the church to access resources designed to meet their needs. Talk to your coach if there is no resolution.
Train an apprentice. Be on the lookout for someone who shows the potential to lead a Circle. Try to give them a chance to exercise leadership skills during the session.
Think love and truth. The two ingredients to a transforming experience are love and truth. Love for one another expresses the love of God; the word of God is truth. John 17:17 Transformation occurs as love is demonstrated and the truth is discussed.
Consider using online resources for your preparation. This is optional. There is no requirement for leaders to study beforehand. However, consider free online Bible study sites: Bible Gateway, BibleHub, Bibleref.com, and paid online Bible study apps (Olivetree) may prove helpful. Suggested Olivetree resources include the following: Bible Knowledge Commentary, MacArthur Bible Commentary, Ryrie Study Bible Notes, Wiersbe's Expository Outlines, Thru the Bible Commentary.
Address two issues at the end of the last meeting. First ask members what they want to do next. Options include dropping out, continuing on in the same or different group, and leading or hosting a group. Second, ask for constructive feedback. Get the answers to two basic questions, "What did you like best?" and "How can we improve?" Be ready to share the answers at Wrap Up.
Use your coach. Take advantage of this if you hit a bump in the road. Your coach is there to help you work through any issues. They will also be in touch with a weekly email to remind you of important information and update you on future events.
Attend Wrap Up. A meeting immediately after the current session for group leaders, hosts and spouses. It includes a meal (catered, restaurant, potluck). The purpose of the meeting is to say thank you, get input about how to improve, and receive referrals for future hosts and leaders.