Q: What advice do you have for leading a biblical small group? I’m going to lead a group with some friends around my age, and I’m not sure how to lead, or how to encourage conversations that are helpful for everyone. I pray and hope that we can be open to each other and that God can use this group to build a good and deep bond in all of us and grow us even further spiritually, but I’m scared it will be awkward or passive.
Oh girl, the first time I led a small group, I had no idea what I was doing! I invited a few friends from school over to my house and led them through Romans 12 on my bedroom floor. But you know what? It was a start. And God has a way of using even our starts in life to accomplish His purposes. Bonus: He usually multiplies whatever we’re willing to give Him into fruit we couldn’t grow on our own.
I’m proud of you for being so thoughtful as you begin. I wish I would have thought to ask someone for their advice and experience before I fumbled through Romans 12 with a group of girls from different faith backgrounds! But after a couple decades of leading groups—from my living room to bigger venues—I have a little more advice for you, small group leader:
- Have realistic expectations. Your job is simply to set the table, so to speak, but you can’t make anyone feast on the food! That is between them and God. So you do your part to create an environment where girls can learn and laugh and grow, but then take a deep breath and release the results to God.
- Do your homework. Make sure you have the time together planned out. If you’re going through a book, make sure you’ve read the chapter yourself and have some discussion questions ready. (Shameless plug: Each one of the Life, Love & God Series books has discussion questions already waiting at the end of each chapter. I had small group leaders in mind when I wrote them, to make it easier on all of us!) If you’re cruising through a passage of Scripture, same thing. If you want to do a game or something fun to start out your time together, have that ready too.
- Pray. This is huge. Pray for the girls in your group, pray for the time you will spend together, and praise God through prayer when each meeting is done.
- Be open. If you want others to be vulnerable, it has to start with you. Be honest about the ways you are learning right alongside everyone else.
- Embrace awkward. 🙂 There may be moments that feel forced, or too quiet, or—let’s face it—like a total flop, but that’s okay. Don’t give up! And don’t judge how effective a meeting was based on how smooth it felt. You never know how God will use what feels like a failure today for big growth later.
- Don’t take attendance personally. I was talking with someone recently who was super discouraged because she was doing a Bible study for her co-workers and almost everyone canceled on her at the very last minute. That stinks—it just does. But try not to take it personally if others flake on you. It’s usually not a reflection on you as a group leader or the quality of the study. More often the non-committal nature of our culture is to blame.
Small groups are where the magic happens: community, growth, faith, and good laughs. I’m praying today that God will use this experience for your growth, as well as all the girls in the group. I’m proud of you and I’m excited to hear what God teaches you in the process!