A note from Kelly King: Being prepared to lead a Bible study can be intimidating, especially if you are a perfectionist. But leading a study is more about facilitating discussion, asking the Holy Spirit to show up, and just being you. Cynthia Hopkins offers some great tips on providing an environment where you can do that. She wrote the Leader Guide for Beth Moore’s Entrusted Bible study. If there’s a Lifeway Christian Resources store near you, stop in and peruse all the latest resources for women.
You might not be the type of person who thinks about gathering extra pens for the Bible study group you’re leading; on the rare occasion you do remember, absolutely zero of them have a daisy hot glued to the end. The email/phone list you collect at the first meeting might be written on a napkin, because that is the only paper product available at the last minute when the thought occurs to you to gather that information. You might even make it through the entire study without once bringing a tray of brownies.
And here’s the beauty of it all: God will use you anyway.
Your effectiveness as a Bible study leader has far less to do with experience, personality, and delicious desserts than willingness, authenticity, and a teachable spirit. There are some steps you can take, though, to provide an environment conducive to great discussion and growth.
1. Know your role. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit facilitates every bit of growth and learning that takes place. You’re simply the conduit He uses to get that growing out in the open. Let that truth take a load off!
2. Think outside the box. There’s a learning curve to figuring out what works and what doesn’t with each group; good leaders embrace it and are flexible.
3. Look for the balance between guilt and “It doesn’t matter.” Women tend to stop showing up when they get behind on homework, typically somewhere around week three. Your approach can do a lot toward maintaining strong attendance and helping women stick to it. Asking, “What do you think?” instead of “What did you write?” is a good place to start.
4. Trust the group. Encourage members to highlight meaningful truths from their homework and be prepared to share them in class. Then let their thoughts and questions help facilitate discussion.
5. Ask your own questions. Any leader guide you use is simply a source of ideas. As you study, add to the ideas you find there by jotting down your own thoughts and questions. Then use those as you lead the group.
6. Ask questions that prompt discussion. Should you ask open-ended questions? Yes.
7. Ask yourself the very same questions you plan to ask the group. If you find a question awkward or difficult to answer, they probably will, too.
8. Look to explore what people are learning more than what they already know. Here’s what makes people feel like they don’t belong: when they come into a class and everyone seems to know all the answers. They don’t know all the answers, but the discussion sometimes makes it seem that way. To some extent, we should all struggle with the truth every time we study the Scriptures. The direction of the questions you ask can help with that.
9. Embrace silence. If you ask a question and the only sound you hear in response is a chorus of crickets chirping outside the window, don’t panic! Sometimes people need to let a question marinate a bit before they answer. Resist the urge to rush the process. Rather than answering it yourself or jumping to another question, don’t be afraid to embrace a moment or two of silence.
10. Invest in people. Anyone can push a button on a remote. There’s more to it than that, and that’s why there likely wasn’t a long list of volunteers playing rock-paper-scissors to see who got to facilitate this semester’s study.
11. Be authentic. Don’t ask any question of your group you’re not willing to answer yourself. In fact, you should be ready to answer them on occasion when you need to get the ball rolling.
12. Pray boldly and pray big. In Beth Moore’s Entrusted, she points out, “We don’t just study the Scriptures to build up Bible knowledge. We get to know the Scriptures to be equipped to do what He’s called us to do.” Pray it happens in your group. Pray it happens in you.
Adapted from “12 Signs You’re a Fantastic Facilitator” (Entrusted Leader Guide, Cynthia Hopkins)
Cynthia Hopkins is a writer, speaker, and the founder of Platform 320, a nonprofit ministry for women. Cynthia has been writing articles, Bible studies, and devotions for Lifeway for almost 20 years. She is the author of “What Now?” a 30-day book of devotions to help teenagers own their faith after the spiritual high of a camp or retreat experience. Through Platform 320, she leads multi-church women’s retreats, ministry wives retreats, and women’s mission endeavors. Her husband Clay is the associate pastor at their church, FBC College Station, TX. They have two young adult children, Brandon and Abby.