Leading a Small Group

How to Guide a Meaningful Group Discussion

Rick Hove

A group discussion can be like a captivating, well-played volleyball game. As the leader, you serve the ball by asking a good question. Then someone answers, setting up the ball for someone else in the group to respond.

It takes practice, preparation and hard work to play an exciting game of volleyball, and the same is true of good group discussions.

Below are five different ways of asking questions and listening well that can help you lead a good discussion in your small group.

Launching Questions

A good way to start your study or discussion is with a wide-open question that raises an issue from the Bible passage you are reading.

These questions come after the icebreakers and before you get into the actual Bible study. They can help link to aspects of our need for God that surface in the passage you’re reading.

Q: Describe a time in your life when you felt like you just couldn’t measure up? (A possible lead-in question to a study on grace or forgiveness.)

Q: Name a hero you had growing up. What made you want to be like him/her? (This could launch a study on, say, Ephesians 5, where Paul exhorts his readers to “imitate God,” or a 1 Timothy 4 study on “setting an example.”)

Exploring Questions

After your launch question(s) and a summary of the passage, you can ask questions that help your group discover what God says in His Word. In order to arrive at the meaning of the passage, these questions should be both limiting and open-ended and should focus on the following:

  • What does it say? (Observation Questions)

  • What does it mean? (Interpretation Questions)

  • Why does it matter? (Significance Questions)

Before you move on, help your group discover the big idea of the passage. Ask a question that helps them see the central theme or main point of the passage.

Q: What do you think Paul wanted these Christians to understand about grace in Ephesians 2:1-10?

Heart-Level Response Questions

Your group’s study will be most effective when it helps expose spiritual brokenness (hearts looking for life outside of a relationship with Christ) and points to Jesus as the only remedy.

First, ask a couple of questions that help the group envision what it would look like to practically live out the passage.

Q: We are called Christ’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). What does that look like in the life of a Christ-follower?

Next, ask a couple of questions that expose our need for a Savior and how the heart tries to find life apart from Christ.

Q: Our culture tells us that we can become anything we want to become. How does this mindset subtly creep into your walk with God?

Then, ask a couple of questions that point the group to Christ, our only remedy for our brokenness.

Q: We often want to control our future; why do we struggle to trust Jesus with it?

Q: How would your life be different if you truly believed Jesus cared about you and only had your best interests in mind?

The goal of these questions is to point the group away from their natural desire to work harder at changing their behavior and instead toward Christ as the only source of growth and life.

Community and Conversation Questions

Launching, exploring and heart-level response questions uncover the meaning of the text, the roots of our sin and our response to Jesus; these are the critical questions.

As you ask heart-level questions, your Bible study should grow in authenticity, honesty and community. But it’s also important to think through questions that have the sole purpose of generating discussion and adding to the social dimension of the group.

These questions are not insignificant. While your primary focus is for people to encounter Christ, you also need to make sure that they encounter one another, which is encountering Christ through community.

Q: What is the most encouraging thing about what we read today? The most challenging? Why?

Becoming a Better Listener

When it comes to having good discussions, asking good questions is half the battle. Listening is the other half.

As you listen, you show the rest of the group you value their opinions; your questions will become more relevant and the group will be more likely to participate in the discussion.

As people share:

  • Try to see the situation from their perspective.

  • Be encouraging. Thank people for sharing and asking questions.

  • Actively listen. If it’s unclear what someone is trying to say, rephrase it in your own words and ask that person if you’ve understood them.

  • Be a “total body” listener. Maintain eye contact with the person speaking and be aware of your posture. How you’re sitting (like crossing your arms or leaning back in your chair) or responding can communicate a lack of interest.

More on Leading a Small Group

We’re so glad you’ve taken the step of faith to lead a group.

For other tips and resources, check out “(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Leading a Small Group,” or sign up for our weekly small group leader tips email series.

You can find more great info on leading a small group in the book “The Ultimate Roadtrip.”

Adapted from Rick Hove, “The Ultimate Roadtrip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups” (Orlando: CruPress, 2010). Order at CruPress.com.

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