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Practical Tips for Leading Small Group Discussions

1. Prior to the group

  • Leaders, no need to wait till the meeting to lead. In this era of easy communication, there is no reason leaders can’t remind the group of upcoming dates and assignments.

  • Conclude every meeting by highlighting what’s next–what should be read? When is the next group meeting? Where are they meeting? Don’t forget to remind them but no need to flood them.

  • As for the meeting itself, respect people’s time. Get things started promptly and end at the agreed upon time. There will be emergencies and exceptions to almost every rule. But when you plan to be consistent, you will get much more accomplished.

  • Remember not to do everything yourself. This defeats the whole purpose of the group. Who can bring a snack? Organize the upcoming barbecue? Open in prayer next week? This not only builds up others, it will encourage greater participation. No need to assign. Just ask people. Remember to treat people like adults.

2. Be mindful of group dynamics

  • Strive to foster a warm, welcoming environment in your group. This means being especially mindful of new people, weak people, all people.

  • The arrangement of the room is significant. The leader should be part of the circle, sitting with the group to engage in learning and growing.

  • Disposition of the leader is that of a co-learner rather than that of a lecturer or a scholar. A friend and a guide rather than a teller and transmitter.

3. During the group

  • Your openness tends to breed openness among the group

  • Aim to include as many people as possible in group discussion. Obviously, the aim is not to make quiet members feel embarrassed, but often the quiet members simply need to be asked.

  • Don’t let every discussion be dominated by the same two or three people. Invite those who haven’t said much by saying something like “Let me see if anyone else has something to add before I come back to you.” The group should not be afraid to share ideas, confident that no one will laugh at their contributions or harshly criticize their conclusions.

  • Create a safe place, we care, we want to know, we will ask you about it next week. WE WILL NOT GOSSIP

  • During this time expect to share victories, struggles, sins, dreams, plans, what’s on our hearts and may be going on in our lives

  • Open your bible for insight and direction on the above

  • Pray together/confess sin

  • Get advice for ourselves and others we are helping (Prov 12:15 – Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others)

  • Luke 9:10 Ask for accountability

  • A good leader will be sensitive to the mood of the group, discerning whether there is hurt, confusion, sadness, or frustration that needs to be addressed.

4. What should I be covering in the group?

  • Responses from the Sunday/Midweek messages

  • Whatever the church is striving to accomplish (i.e. How is registration going)

  • Relationship with God/Church/Lost

5. How can I help my group go deeper?

  • Ask questions that draw out the heart.

  • Be creative in how you phrase your questions. Don’t just say “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about this?” or even “How can we apply this to our lives?” There are hundreds of good questions you can ask on any given week. Few of them will come to you on the spot without any preparation.

Ask questions like:

  • What is one thing you want to see change in your life as a result of this study?

  • What new promise can you take with you into the week?

  • What did you learn about God?

  • What’s one thing you can change this week to help focus on the lost?

  • How does this relate to the cross?

  • How can you strengthen your relationships in the church?

  • Where is this a struggle for you in your marriage?

  • What do you have a hard time believing in God’s word?

6. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Iron sharpens iron

Angry conflict is rare, but it does happen. Conflict is not bad and probably will happen more often as the group learns to say what they really think. Depending on the circumstances, here are some of the things you may want to say during a disagreement:

  • Sam, it sounds like you are trying to say XYZ. Am I hearing you correctly?

  • Amanda has offered a different interpretation. What do the rest of you think? How should we interpret this verse?

  • I know it’s hard to talk about such a controversial or painful topic, but I don’t think we should we run away from constructive conflict. I’d love to hear what everyone else is thinking.

  • This is an important discussion, but it’s not really involving the whole group. It would be great if the two of you could get together and continue the conversation at a different time.

  • It sounds like I may have done something to upset you. Why don’t we talk about it after the meeting is done?

  • Guys, it’s normal for us to have a disagreement in this group. But that sounded personal. Let’s try to be gentle even when we are passionate.

  • If all else fails, you can assure the person that we can get more help outside the group.

7. Plan for prayer

Ask for prayer requests. How long do you want the prayer to be? How many people are you hoping will pray? Let’s continue to faithfully pray for each other every week.

8. Learning to Lead

Remember learning to lead is a process. You are on the path to building spiritually, relationally, and biblically edifying groups which can only happen with faithful, wise, skilled men and women to lead them. Being chosen to lead a group is not a mistake and a responsibility you want to continuously be praying about and laying at the feet of God. Also, make the most of the time that you have with other leaders to ask questions, get input and pray about the things going on in your group.

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