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Important Functions of Leaders

What are your goals as a small-group Bible Study leader, and what do you need to do to fulfill the role you have taken on?

Tom Faletti

March 25, 2024

Bible Study groups seek to accomplish at least three important goals: (1) increase people’s understanding of the Bible, (2) foster spiritual growth through the application of God’s Word, and (3) provide a place to experience Christian community.  Although leaders have different styles, leaders of every style need to try to fulfill several important functions as they guide their groups.

1. Ask all 3 types of questions. 
  • In order to facilitate both the understanding and application of God’s Word, a leader must ask all 3 major types of questions:

    • Questions of fact: What does the passage say?

    • Questions of interpretation: What does it mean?

    • Questions for application: How can we apply it to our lives?

Some leaders focus on the 2nd and 3rd types of questions but leave out the “What does it say?” questions.  This leads to misunderstandings, as people jump to conclusions about what the Bible says and get it wrong.

Some leaders focus on the 1st and 2nd types of questions but leave out the application questions.  This leads to dry studies that seldom change lives.  Make sure you ask a specific, challenging application question about every passage.  A general question like “Where do you see this in our world?” will not change lives the way a specific question like “Where do you experience this in your own life?” can.  Personal application questions are a key to having a thriving group.

2. Manage the time. 
  • A leader must stay aware of the time and manage it carefully.

Leave plenty of time for application questions.  Don’t let the first two type of questions squeeze out the chance to talk about how to apply the truths we have discussed.

Don’t be afraid to gently redirect the conversation.  Sometimes this is as simple as asking another question or drawing the group’s attention back to a particular verse.

Break the passage down into manageable chunks.  If you make your chunks too large, you can easily overlook key points.  Sometimes it is helpful to say, “Let’s read verses 25 through 36 but focus first on verses 25 to 30.”  Then you can ask questions about the first half of the passage before you discuss the second half.

3. Always welcome other people and their ideas. 
  • A leader must help set people at ease.  People will not be able to be open to what the Scripture says if the group or the leader do not demonstrate an openness to them.  Your openness to them sets the stage for their openness to God.

Don’t try to refute every idea you think is wrong.  It’s OK to leave unchallenged things that you disagree with.  Sometimes you will want to point out that church teaching or scholars view the matter differently, but do it in a gentle way that doesn’t prevent future sharing.  Otherwise, people will simply keep silent about their views.  By allowing room for differing views, we allow room for the Holy Spirit to slowly guide people into a clearer understanding of God’s truths.

4. Encourage faith. 
  • A leader must guide the group toward a faith-filled response to God.

When people express doubts about a Scripture passage, we need to give them space to share those concerns. At the same time, we want to encourage a faith-filled response to God’s Word.  Often, the best way to do this is not by challenging the doubter but simply by expressing our own faith and our confidence that God is with us even in our doubts.  We can tell Him how we feel and still try to stay open to Him.

Our attitude of faith will rub off on others much more than anything we say.  Don’t be afraid to express your faith and encourage and praise the faith-based responses of others.


Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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