In the last post, I gave you 3 reasons why you can lead a Bible Study—by faith, without knowing all the answers, and even if you are scared. Actually, being scared is a good thing because it teaches you how to depend on Jesus Christ more. Today’s post addresses a few of those challenges that all Bible Study discussion leaders face. I call them the “What if’s….”
What if someone keeps talking on and on and on?
What if someone drops out of the group?
What if I can’t get everyone to participate in the discussion?
You can probably think of quite a few more. One thing I have learned through the years when it comes to handling the “What if’s” is that Jesus will help you with all of these challenges to leading a Bible Study group. You can depend on Him to show you what to do. He is faithful!
Here are some words that the Lord gave to Paul to write down for us:
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
There are gracious, loving ways to respond to the common challenges that both experienced and new leaders face. You can trust in Jesus to help you do this.
“What if” #1: What if I can’t get everyone to participate in the discussion?
You know what? It’s not your job to make everyone talk. I have learned that people will share when they are ready to do so. Calling on people to make them participate often makes the shyer ones feel like not coming back. Be patient. Listen well and affirm answers as they are shared.
“What if” #2: What if someone keeps talking on and on and on?
If you are the talkative one, mark the question(s) where you want to share an answer. Otherwise, let the rest of the group members answer the questions. Ask Jesus to help you think of words you can use to jump in and sum up what they just said. Use humor. Quickly thank them for an answer, turn your eyes away, and move on. You are the “content guardian” for your group, that is, you need to keep the discussion focused on the lesson and what participants are learning from the own study. The group depends on you to do this so you do not have to let the talkative people control your group.
“What if” #3: What if I am feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility?
Ask someone in the group to be your helper with the organizational stuff. If your group is large enough, ask someone to be your co-leader so that she would be prepared with her lesson to step in if something happened to you one day. It is always good to have someone else take ownership of the group besides you. And, it gives experience to someone else in leading a group. Ask outgoing women to help with making others feel connected to the group
“What if” #4: What if someone asks a question, and I don’t know the answer?
Assume you will get asked questions for which you don’t know the answers. Stay focused on the lesson. Dwell on what you can know. Avoid speculation just to come up with an answer. Humbly accept what you can’t know or don’t understand. Say, “I don’t know.”
“What if” #5: What if some aren’t doing their lessons ahead of time?
Assume this will happen. You can’t control this. Don’t let it annoy you. Encourage them to come to the study and learn as you read the Bible passages and discuss them together. Realize that some people are so busy with work, school, and family, that they have a hard time finding extra time to do another thing for themselves. It could be just the season of life. Keep encouraging them to feed themselves from God’s Word, even if they only do the first page of the lesson. Do something. If this is the majority of your group, pick a shorter Bible study that can be done in one sitting.
“What if” #6: When group members drop out
Don’t take it personally. Give any feelings of insecurity to Jesus! Some sign up for a Bible study group with good intentions of doing the lessons and attending regularly. But, things get in the way. Try to find out the reasons why. More than likely it’s not your leadership but that person’s season of life. Or, their schedule has changed preventing them from continuing.
If you have newcomers to your group, or those who don’t already feel connected, make an effort to connect with them personally. I find that if I connect with someone who kinda stays on the “fringe” or outside of the group, there is a higher likelihood that they will continue to try out the group. Then, we have a better chance to connect her with the other group members.
Ask a trusted friend to let you know if your leadership style might be pushing someone away. If there is anything you can address with her or with the group to keep her coming, do that. Otherwise, just let it go.
See, that’s not so hard, is it? Don't let these "What if's" hold you back from jumping in with both feet to lead a Bible Study for some friends.
The 5 C’s of Small Group Leadership on Bible.org (especially chapters 3 and 4)