Written by Andrew Waugh
You can download the PDF of this resource here.
What makes a good Bible study? Some collected wisdom from home group leaders
Before the Meeting - Leader's Preparation
- for faithfulness to the Bible
- for wisdom and understanding
- personal learning for the leader
- good questions
- head and heart involvement
- something fresh for even the most mature
Selection of material - awareness of the group’s issues
Writing / editing of questions
- Their questions, not yours; what’s on their hearts and minds?
- Open questions, not closed; closed questions produce yes/no answers and no discussion. If the question is “Was Jesus a good person?”, rewrite it as “What kind of person was Jesus?”
- Decide which ones to skip
- Highlight the application questions
- Make sure a relevant application-question comes up early
Plan to involve each person
Imagination / nonverbals; consider fresh ways of getting involvement in the Bible passage; illustration from a DVD? something more practical and hands on?
Background research if most in the group won’t be familiar with something cultural/historical
Members’ prior knowledge: do they share your culture / presuppositions / understanding? maybe not!
Expectation that the Holy Spirit will enable; he wants it to go well more than you do
Clear communication: place, start time of meeting!
What can I delegate? Maybe you can ask another group member ahead of time (eg) to make with the books and the internet in order to be ready to speak for 2-3 minutes on some background information for the passage (eg who WERE the Sadducees really?)
Room environment: work with the host to make the room as conducive as possible; chair placement, heating, lighting, disability considerations
During the Study
Who-sits-where can help or hinder a meeting
- Bear in mind hearing issues
- The leader needs to see everyone
- If there’s a real rebel, then leader-sitting-opposite makes it harder for the rebel to wrest control
Prayer together to start
Listening to God during the study; is this hitting the spot? Is this pleasing him?
Clear leadership; people like to be led (not the same as bossed) so don’t be scared to clearly say “let’s begin, let’s move on, let’s split into pairs (and point out the first pair)”, etc etc.
Encouragement of the shy: direct a non-threatening question at a shy person; subdivide the group to give each person more chance to speak; keep in mind that a few quiet people aren’t frustrated but are genuinely happy to say nothing
Restraint of the garrulous: cut across them if necessary; if they interrupt someone else, don’t immediately shift your gaze away from the person who was interrupted; privately ask the talkative person for their help in bringing out the quiet ones, by not jumping in with answers all the time! One of our groups actually has written ‘ground rules’ for this
Allow silence: resist the urge to answer your own question; maybe rephrase it after a while; silence always seems longer to the leader than to the others
Awareness of mixed ability and maturity and the tensions that can bring; reading ability, readiness to read aloud, Bible knowledge etc may all be on different levels and some may feel inferior. A positive aspect is that the ‘younger’ ones can be motivated to feel free to ask the ‘older’ ones for help
Recognition of gift: take note if (eg) someone demonstrates real pastoral care for another group member by, say, helping them past an embarrassing ‘wrong’ answer, or if (eg) someone shows a gift for explaining things well
Environment: is the room getting too warm?
Timing: have we gone on long enough, or are we going to finish the notes come hell or high water?
Steady progress through the passage: it’s not encouraging if we’ve been discussing for an hour and we’re visibly only 10% of the way through the material
Dealing with tangents - stay with it for a while if the tangent is helping more than half the people, but assuming the Holy Spirit was also involved in the original planning, get back to the plan eventually. If you know straight away that you don’t want to go there, ask “where’s that in the passage?” To cut it off after a few minutes say, “Maybe we can look at that more over coffee at the end”, or privately “Y’know, Jim, trade justice IS important, but not every verse in the Bible is about that, so please don’t bring it up all the time, eh?”
Working toward application; we’re not just here for head knowledge; if time runs short make sure you go for the (highlighted) application questions
Pray together at the end
Afterwards (maybe the following day)
Keep a prayer diary
Evaluate the discussion
- Quantity; was the length OK? were the questions too closed?
- Quality; were people helped?
Members’ gifts revealed
- Who’s going to lead this group when I leave?
- Or who’s going to lead the other half when it grows and divides?
- The garrulous - to ask them to cool it
- The upset - do they need a call tomorrow to check they’re OK?
- The heretic - to gently point out they’re repeatedly misquoting the same scripture or getting something wrong which could mislead others
- The rebel - someone who is always playing devil’s advocate in an unhelpful way or who seeks to control too much
Impact on next meeting: anything I need to change?
Long term - maybe over 6 or 12 months - are we growing/maturing as we should?
Notes by Andrew Waugh; big thanks to Steve, Canun, Jan and John, Henry, Bill, Shirley, Grace, Liz, Peter and Alan for coming and contributing