If you’ve had the opportunity to lead a small group or facilitate a Bible study, you’ve probably had the struggle of making sure there is good discussion from the group. Whether you’re faced with silent stares or have one member who tends to dominate the conversation, here are ten ways to encourage discussion in your Bible study.
- Pray for good and balanced discussion. Before you begin your discussion time, begin by praying that the group will all participate. Pray for balanced discussion and pray that tangents will be minimal. It sounds so simple, but it truly is effective.
- Encourage the group to verbalize their views—even if they aren’t right. One of the reasons women are afraid to answer questions is the fear of being wrong. Accept every answer at first and then work the discussion to the best answer.
- Give them an opportunity to express themselves. A good Bible study leader doesn’t answer all the questions. They “facilitate” the discussion. If you’re doing all the talking, be more intentional about letting everyone participate. Give them permission to speak.
- Be grateful for every answer. Thank members when they share. Encourage them to participate. Give them confidence.
- Don’t be satisfied with every response. Encourage lots of responses. Even if the first answer is right, encourage other responses—especially if the question is an open-ended question.
- Keep the discussion moving. In other words, start with the end in mind. Know how much time you have for discussion and consider how much time it takes to answer every question. In the past, I’ve often written two things beside the question—the time where I should be on each question and the number of people I want answering the question. It keeps things moving.
- Be alert to different personalities. Some will be extroverts and some will be introverts. Some will see Scripture in black and white while others will challenge the gray areas. Know your participants and anticipate reactions.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. Sometimes people need time to think about their answer or they wait to see if someone else will jump in the discussion. Silence can be awkward, but be patient. If you don’t get a response, redirect the question or rephrase the question until someone provides an answer.
- Turn difficult questions back to the group. The facilitator doesn’t have to be a know-it-all. If a difficult question arises, ask others in the group to help provide different answers. If it’s a question where the group doesn’t reach consensus, tell them you will research the question later and get back to them with possible answers. Be prepared to learn from your group.
- Let your group self-correct its tangents. Chasing rabbits is common when leading a Bible study. While it’s easy for you to “control” the discussion, see if the participants will get back on track first. If they don’t, remind them of the question and get the discussion going again.
What other suggestions do you have?
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources and oversees the YOU Lead events. Join her this year and get to know her heart for ministry leaders. Follow her on Twitter @kellydking.