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Preparing to Lead a Small-Group Bible Study Meeting

How do you prepare a small-group Bible Study meeting?

Tom Faletti

March 25, 2024

At the Previous Meeting

Tell the group what verse you are starting at or what verses or chapters you will be covering, especially if there is an expectation, or a desire among some, to study during the week.

During the Week Before the Meeting

  1. Don’t wait until the last day to prepare.

  2. In your preparation, it is better to be prepared to cover too much material than not enough.

  3. Pray. Ask God to guide you, help you understand the text, and help you formulate questions and comments that will lead others to understand God’s Word and how it speaks to their lives.

  4. Read the text at least twice. Then read a commentary and/or study notes to learn some of the nuances of the text and the kinds of issues that might come up.

  5. Break the text into appropriately sized passages: a paragraph, a story, a set of verses that focus on a particular topic.

  6. For each passage, formulate a series of questions, including all three of the following types of questions:

What does it say? These are questions of fact. They help the group to acknowledge and agree on the basic facts of what the passage says. Examples:

What happened?

What is Jesus (or God or some other person) saying here?

What issue does Paul (or some other author) raise here?

What does the author say we should do?

What guidelines for living does he offer?

What does it mean? These are questions of interpretation. They help the group to wrestle with what the passage means, and with different interpretations of what it means. Examples:

Why did the man do what he did?

Why did Jesus react in that way?

What does that word (or phrase) mean?

Why did the author (or person) use that particular word (or phrase)?

What does the author mean when he uses that term, or says “. . . .”?

Who is this referring to, or who does this apply to?

What does this passage tell us about God?

Why do you think the author chose to focus on that problem?

How does this passage make you feel?

What are some attitudes or actions that term would apply to today?

What does that key word (or phrase) mean to you?

What are some ways that people demonstrate this characteristic?

Give some examples of actions that fit the description in the passage.

Describe a time in your life when you encountered this problem.

How can we apply it to our lives? These are application questions. They help the group to share their faith and practical insights with each other, and apply the passage to their own lives. Examples:

What do you find most challenging in this passage, and why?

How can we learn from the example of the person in this passage?

What does this person’s example tell us about what me might do in our own lives?

How can we apply this passage to our lives today?

What does this passage say to us about our relationship with God, or about God’s attitude toward us?

What are the modern problems we face today that this passage is talking about? How does the passage say we should respond?

What does this passage say to you about yourself?

What do you find most encouraging in this passage, and why?

What are some things we can do to live out these commands?

Which of these commands do you find hardest to obey, and why?

When do you find it especially difficult to do what this passage is saying? Why is that the hard time, and what can you do about it?

What are some ways we try to avoid the implications of this passage?

What do we need to change in our lives to become examples of what Jesus (or God or the author) is talking about?

What are you facing right now where you need to hear and apply the ideas in this passage?

When have you experienced what the passage describes?

When are you tempted to do what the passage describes?

What does this person’s example tell us about how we can deal with similar problems at work (or at home, or in our church, or in our relationships)?

In what ways do we fail to do what this passage is describing?

How well does our parish reflect these values? What can we do to improve our parish’s way of living this part of the Gospel?

What do you need to do to live out the truths of this passage?

What holds you back from living out these principles? What would the author (or God) say to you in response?

What do you find hardest to accept or live out in this teaching? Why?

In the next week, what is one thing you can do to live out the challenge of this passage?

Determine whether there are some key issues and applications you think the group should see. Make sure your questions will lead the group to wrestle with those issues, but don’t put your answer in the questions. Allow room for the members to reach a different conclusion.

(For example: If you think the key is faith, don’t ask, “Don’t you think faith is the key point here?” Instead, ask, “What do you think this passage says to us about our relationship with God?”. If the group answers in a different way than you expect, you can share your view, but don’t push them to see it only your way.)

During the Meeting

  1. Extend a welcome to each person as they arrive. Greet each person warmly.

  2. Don’t delay your start. Reinforce those who are on time by starting 5 minutes after the official starting time, regardless of who you are still expecting.

  3. Begin with prayer, reminding the group that Jesus is here with us, and spend a short time in silence to become aware of His presence. Then ask the group to pray short prayers of thanks or praise: “Thank you, God, for. . . .” Or “I praise you, Lord, for. . . .” Close this prayer time by asking for God guidance and the group’s openness to Him.

  4. Unless you are covering several chapters each week, ask someone to read aloud the first passage. (If you are covering large sections, instead ask the group to read the chapters in advance and begin by summarizing what happened in the passage, perhaps reading a key part.)

  5. Ask the questions you prepared. Always start with the basic “what does it say” or fact questions. Quite often, people don’t really understand or agree about what the passage actually says, and if they don’t understand what it says they certainly won’t understand what it means or how to apply it. Your study during the week may have given you some background knowledge you can share here to help the group understand what the passage says. However, try to elicit as much as possible from the group rather than telling it all yourself.

  6. Ask your interpretation or “what does it mean” questions, but don’t let the group get stuck there. Leave plenty of time for application questions.

  7. Ask some application questions that help the group find apply the passage to their daily lives. Don’t skip this step. Your job isn’t done until the passage has been applied. Frame your questions in ways that encourage personal sharing and a faith response to the passage.

  8. Know in advance which questions you think are most important. After the group has talked about what the passage says and means, ask your most important application questions first. If the group spends a long time on your first application question, you don’t have to use every question you prepared.

  9. Try to involve everyone. Make sure that people who want to say something but are more shy about breaking into the conversation are given a chance to speak. (For example, say, “I think Chris is trying to say something here.”)

  10. If one or two people have taken the discussion into a side area that is not involving the whole group, bring the group back to the topic. “Off the track” is often in the eyes of the beholder, so if the area is somewhat related to the passage, and most of the group is interested and participating, you may want to let the discussion go for a little while. The goal is faith sharing and spiritual growth, and the Holy Spirit can sometimes accomplish that in a different way than you anticipated. But don’t let the discussion get way off the passage and don’t let a few people go on and on without involving the rest of the group. Bring the discussion back to the passage. (For example, say, “Let’s look at the passage again to see what it says about this.” Or ask another application question that brings the group back to the passage.)

  11. When you feel it is time to move on, briefly summarize what the group has discovered in that passage and suggest that the group move on to the next passage.

  12. Repeat steps 4 to 11 for the next passage.

  13. Before the end, try to summarize the key findings and applications from the week’s discussion.

  14. End with prayer, inviting short prayers asking God to help us or others: “Lord, help me or us to. . . .” or “Lord, help my brother or sister to <and mention the need>. . . .” Encourage the group to echo each other’s prayers, so that it is truly conversational prayer: “Yes, Lord, help, me or us or Chris to. . . . Give them your. . . .”

  15. Make sure newcomers and quieter people are included in the social chit-chat after the meeting.

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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