top of page

Leadership Techniques for Good Bible Study Discussions

How do you manage what goes on in your meeting?

Tom Faletti

March 25, 2024

In General: Remember that You Set the Tone for the Group

Be excited about your group and about God’s Word. Be welcoming, affirming, and supportive. Set a climate of openness and caring. Be honest in what you share.

Cultivate a sense of humor, as Jesus did. Jesus calls us to a joyful life.

Help people respond to the challenge of God’s Word on a personal and spiritual level as well as intellectually. Set an example by what you say and do.

Contact people who have been absent to let them know they are missed and to see how they are doing. Those who get a concerned message after an absence of one or several weeks are much more likely to return. Also, pray for your group members.

Trust in the Lord. You are qualified to lead by your faith, your willingness to say yes to God’s call, and your willingness to improve. Your group members will respond to you and overlook your mistakes if you are truly trying to serve them.

At the Beginning of the Meeting: Set the Stage

Always start with conversational prayer. Direct the group through the steps of silence and prayers of thanks or praise.

In the early weeks of a new group, start the meeting with a low-risk getting-to-know-you question (or “ice-breaker”) that allows people to share something about themselves. Encourage everyone to share a response. Set the example of honesty, both here and throughout the meeting.

Summarize the main points of the previous week’s passages and discussion.

During the Meeting: Facilitate Good Discussion and Sharing

In general. Remember that your role is not primarily to give information, but to stimulate and encourage good discussion and sharing. Your primary goal is to encourage the kind of faith commitment that allows God to transform lives.

When necessary, explain to the group that, because of the different Bible translations, what one person reads from the Bible may not be the same as the words in another person’s Bible, but the meaning is usually similar. Take advantage of the different translations to help clarify verses that are unclear in one version.

Ask a variety of good questions. Make sure you ask all three types of questions: fact, interpretation, and application (see “Preparing to Lead a Small-Group Bible Study Meeting”). Leave plenty of time for discussion of the application/sharing questions, and encourage a variety of people to respond to those questions.

Ask only one question at a time, and be appreciative of every answer.

Don’t be afraid of silence after you have asked a question. After a pause, ask the question again in the same or different words. Periods of silence usually seem much longer to the leader than to others in the group. Silence gives members time to absorb previous comments and formulate a thoughtful response to the question.

Try not to be the first or only person to answer your own question. If you give an answer later, don’t give the impression that yours is the only right answer.

Keep the discussion from dragging. Take an active role in keeping the discussion moving. It is better to ask the group another question too soon than to wait too long and let the discussion drag on or go around in circles.

Help the group stay focused on the Scripture passage. Keep bringing the group back to the passage so that people keep confronting what God’s Word says and means.

Don’t feel the need to ask every question you have prepared. When the group has explored the passage in depth, gained the main insights, and applied it to their lives, you may want to move on. Ask, “Does anyone have anything else they would like to add before we move on? . . . . If not, let’s look at the next passage.”

Help the group go deeper and share more. Don’t be satisfied with the first answer given. Ask, “Does anyone have anything to add?” or, “Is there more to what the author is saying?” or, “Are there other ways of looking at this?” After one or two people have answered an interpretation or application question, repeat the question to see if others have additional or alternative thoughts to share.

Bring out the faith dimension. Use Scripture to interpret Scripture, i.e., to clarify and expand on a passage. Have the group look up a cross-reference or a related Scripture passage to help understand the passage currently being discussed.

Don’t be overly troubled if people express concerns about accepting the demands of a passage. Trust that God is at work. Encourage others to share their perspectives. The discussion may help those with questions to deal with their doubts so that they can embrace the message of God’s Word. Don’t claim to speak for God, but encourage them to be open to what God is saying through His Word.

Give a balanced picture of faith in Jesus. Don’t ignore or soft-pedal the demands and struggles of faith, but help people see also the joys and positive results of faith. Encourage trust in God as the basis for dealing with all aspects of life.

Dealing with Common Problems

Discussions that get off the subject or wander. Don’t be afraid to cut off a discussion that has wandered off the track or is going around in circles. Say, “This is very interesting, but I think we have gotten off the track. Let’s go back to the question of. . . .”, or, “What does verse 17 say about this?”, or, “There are clearly different ways of looking at that, and we’re not going to resolve it here. So let’s leave it for now and move on.” or, “Let’s discuss this after the meeting.” or, “We need to move on. Will someone read verses 19 to 26.” Or ask a new question that brings the group back to the passage or a personal application of the passage.

Unclear answers. Follow up an unclear answer with another question. Ask, “What do you mean by that?” or, “I’m not sure I understand. Can you rephrase that?” or, “Can you give us a concrete example?” Or ask, “What makes you say that?” or, “Why do you think so?” or, “Let me see if I understand you right. Are you saying . . . (and rephrase their statement).” Or take whatever piece of the answer you understand, relate it to the topic, and move on to the next person or question. If the group is giving vague answers and doesn’t seem to be getting the message of a passage, rephrase your question, or ask someone to re-read a verse and then ask, “What does this specific passage (or verse x) say about this issue?”

“Off-the-wall” answers. Don’t feel you need to correct every wild answer. Ask, “What do the rest of you think?” or, “What does verse 12 say about that?” As the discussion continues, the person will often realize they did not understand the question or the passage.

People who talk too much or dominate. If someone is talking too much or dominating, ask the group another question when the person takes a breath, or say, “Excuse me, John, but I think Helen has something to say.” or, “Thank you. I wonder if someone else has something to add or has a different perspective?” Or ask everyone to share a short answer and go around the group. Or have the group pair off into groups of 2 (or divide the group into groups of 3 or 4 persons) and have those pairs or small groups discuss a sharing or application question.

If the problem is that someone is rude or overly critical of what others have shared, say to the rude person, “Your experience may not be the same as Mary’s, but Mary has apparently had that experience and it is valid whether you have experienced it or not.” or, “If we want people to share their thoughts, we need to be respectful of their comments even when we disagree. We can disagree without being unkind.” Or, if appropriate, share your own experience in a way that supports or validates the experiences that were criticized. If possible, make a positive comment or a comment that connects with the rude person before correcting them.

If you need to talk to someone privately because they regularly dominate the discussions or are disruptive, enlist their help in helping others to participate. Point out to them that briefer or kinder comments will make it easier for others to share, and that how they communicate is as important as what they say. Describe the behavior you have observed in them and how it affects the group. Describe the different behavior you would like to see and what it would look like.

Shy or quiet people. Call on the shy or quiet person when you see the spark in their eyes that tells you they have something to offer. Or ask them to read the passage, or ask them the easy fact questions. Or break into pairs or small groups to discuss a question that involves sharing. Or ask everyone to answer an application question. Be appreciative when they do share.

When you don’t know the answer to someone else’s question. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know; I’ll try to find out.” or, “Let’s all look at that during the week and talk about it again next week.” It is better to say you don’t know something than to say what you “think” is true and risk misleading people. You are not expected to be an expert. Don’t put that burden on yourself.

At the End of the Meeting

Summarize briefly at the end of the meeting. (It is also good to do this before going on to a new passage.) Make sure your summary points people toward faith in God and a commitment to following Jesus and living according to His ways.

Always close with a time of conversational prayer. Guide the group by giving them sample phrases (“Lord, help me or us to. . . .” or “Lord, help my brother or sister to <and mention the need>. . . .”) Encourage and model following up on each other’s prayers with additional prayers on the same subject (“Yes, Lord, help, me or us or Chris to. . . . Give them your. . . .”) Pray specifically for God’s help to apply the week’s insights, and offer the wrap-up prayer that ends the prayer time.

When You Are Not Leading

On weeks when you are not leading, answer the leader’s questions when it helps get things going or others are stumped, but don’t dominate. Pay attention to how things are going. Help the leader notice when someone wants to share (leaders can be so busy leading that they don’t see certain things). Make clarifying comments when the group seems confused. Re-phrase correctly when the leader misstates something. Set a good example of personal sharing on application questions and by keeping your answers short. Monitor the time for the leader if desired.

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.

Please Join the Conversation!

If you are a member and would like to react to or ask a question about any topic here, please post a question in the forum below. You are also encouraged to continue the conversation in any post by posting a response. Join the conversation here:

bottom of page