Leading a Small Group

How to Guide Others in the Essentials of the Faith



Welcome to “Essentials for Spiritual Growth and Multiplication.” This is a small group discussion series designed to help people grow in Christ and begin to share with others what they have learned.

The Format: Guided Conversation


“Essentials” doesn’t fit the typical Bible study pattern — there are no lectures or workbooks. The approach is simple and relevant to the way most people prefer to learn: connecting with peers, discussing instead of just listening, considering life stories and making an immediate practical application. 

An “Essentials” session is simply a directed conversation around key passages of Scripture. Group members pray and consider what the Scriptures say and how they apply to daily life. 

You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to lead a session. Your role as a leader is to guide the group in discovering truth together.

The Content: 2 Tracks for Different Levels 

“Essentials” is divided into two tracks. Track A has 12 discussions that teach the "DNA" of the Christian life. Track B has 12 discussions that teach in greater depth about knowing and responding to God. 

All the sessions are organized into groups by theme. This leader’s guide will help you get the conversation going. 

The Discussion: How to Keep It Moving With Purpose

Every discussion moves through four phases: “Connect With Needs,” “Hear What God Says,” “Apply That to Life” and “Tell Someone They Know.” The group discussion flow helps you direct the conversation, with open-ended questions to ask, Bible stories to tell and passages to read.

To give you additional insight, a brief commentary on the relevant Scriptures is included. 

Get Ready: Preparation Checklist

To help you get ready, there is a “Notes and Preparation Checklist” for every discussion. This checklist helps you think through the discussion flow beforehand so you have examples, alternate questions and transitions to use during the session. 

The discussion is designed to flow through four phases, as explained below. 

Before you begin, pray for wisdom and confidence. 

Also, pray that each person in your group will: 

  1. Attend the session. 

  2. Have God’s help to understand what is discussed. 

  3. Apply the main lesson in a specific way. 

  4. Share what he or she learns with someone else.

Four Phases of Each Group Discussion Flow


Use discernment when you are connecting with the people in your group. 

  • Get to know where people in your group are on their spiritual journeys. 

  • Based on the spiritual interest and the maturity of those present, your sessions may contain more basic or more in-depth explanations. Do not assume everyone in the group has the same views on faith or the Bible. 

  • Be sensitive about prayer times and other practices with people of different backgrounds and varying beliefs in your group.

1. Connect With Needs

Have a good personal example ready to illustrate how you have experienced the stated truth. 

This entryway into the Bible discussion is intended to be a sharing of personal experiences, not a debate of opinions. 

Your example should create a climate where most people acknowledge the truth based on life experience so you can easily lead into the “Hear” section with a statement like, “This is also true in a relationship with God,” or in the Christian life, etc. 

2. Hear What God Says 

Read the suggested Bible passages and … 

  • Think about which passage(s) you would like to use or will have time to use. 

  • Plan ahead which questions you want to ask for each passage. 

While flexibility is important, this advanced preparation will help you guide the discussion more easily.

Feel free to come up with your own questions based on your group. You may need to ask questions that clarify or ensure proper understanding, such as, “Is there anything about this passage that isn’t making sense to you?”

3. Apply That to Life

Application should flow very directly from the “Hear” discussions. 

This is a good place to reiterate the theme and the main lesson of the study and have them write down a lesson learned.

In the “Assured” session, you could say something like: “We agreed in our discussion at the beginning of the session that relationships thrive on acceptance and assurance. This includes a relationship with God. We can see from our discussions related to the Bible passage(s) we looked at that God does indeed love and accept people who have established a relationship with Him. So it is crucial to be sure of your personal relationship with God.” The next logical question is, “Why don’t we always experience assurance in our personal relationships with God?” This can lead to some ideas for individual application.

Make sure your group members write down an action to take, then share and pray about those actions. 

4. Tell Someone They Know

Make sure your group members write down at least one person to tell what they have learned from each lesson. This should be someone outside the group. 

Some people might be reluctant to talk about spiritual things with friends. Like we said before, it’s important to know where your group is at spiritually. Some may need to take a step of faith to share, while others may still be figuring out what they believe. 

Pray and look for opportunities to encourage people to take their next steps of faith. Telling someone what you have learned may be an opportunity for you to meet with people outside the group and share Christ with them. 

From time to time over the weeks, ask yourself: “What are some things I can do to build stronger relationships in the group?” Once in a while, you may choose to take a break from the regular material to do a group activity and build deeper relationships. 

Time to Multiply


It’s possible that after several weeks, some in your group may want to try out this conversational style of Bible study with others. Or the Lord may direct you to challenge specific people to pray about leading their own groups. This is what is meant by “multiply.”

Look for people who are particularly faithful to attend and are excited about the discussion, application and sharing. (People they have been telling week-to-week may be willing to join their new groups.)

Plan time to talk to them about it. Let them lead parts of your sessions and acquaint them with this overview.

Here is an example of an “Essentials” study.

Get Ready: Sample Group Discussion Flow

To prepare for the first session using this how-to guide, go to the first topic, “4 Walks: Assured.” The session has four parts, which are explained below.

Connect With Needs

After connecting personally with the people in your group, pray and then state this simple truth: “Relationships thrive on acceptance and assurance.”

You have probably experienced this in your life, as have your group members, so people can share experiences related to this truth. After this time of sharing, transition to reading from the Bible by saying, “This is also true in a relationship with God.”

Hear What God Says

Taking one Bible passage at a time, ask the standard questions found alongside the suggested Scripture passages in each lesson. You can also use the alternate questions found in the “Notes and Preparation Checklist” at the bottom of the “Hear” section.

This section always provides additional discussion questions, which pertain to the specific passages in each lesson. For example, when discussing Luke 15:11-24, you could add the following questions:

1. What demonstrates the father’s love and acceptance of the rebellious son?

2. In what ways were the son’s thoughts and actions reflective of the father’s love and acceptance?

3. What are some things we can learn about relationships from this story?

As you lead the discussion, remember that you are seeking to engage people in the learning process rather than simply telling them what they need to know. Encourage discussion by listening intently and inviting others to share what they think. If you encounter silence in response to a question, call on someone who often has something to say. If some people have been quiet for a while, ask if there is something they would like to add.

Try to sense when your group members are really seeing how this truth works in a relationship with God. (Note that you might not need to discuss all the Bible passages or ask all of the discussion questions to accomplish this.) One way to transition to “Apply” is to review what has been covered: “We agreed that relationships thrive on acceptance and assurance. We also saw that God does accept us. But that won’t help us unless we feel sure of His acceptance.”

Apply That to Life

After reviewing key points from your discussion, state the main lesson: “Be sure of your personal relationship with God.”

In other words, reiterate that the Bible teaches that God loves and accepts each of us as His child who has trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Of course, the lesson learned is most helpful if your group members apply it to their lives.

That is the next step: Ask, “Why don’t we always experience assurance in our personal relationship with God?” In other words, “If the Bible teaches that we are accepted by God, why don’t we always feel accepted by Him?” Once that discussion brings barriers to the surface, it will be easier for each group member to answer the next question, “What is one action you can take this week to begin to feel more assured?”

One action step might be: “I will pray every day for a week, thanking God that He really does love and accept me.” If some in your group have not received Christ yet, it would be appropriate to share the gospel at this point or make arrangements with those individuals to meet at another time to talk about that further. You can use a tool such as “Would You Like to Know God Personally?” or “Connecting With God” to share with group members how they can know God in a personal way.

Give your group members time to think of how they (individually) could take specific action steps in the next week to apply this lesson. Have them each write down an action to take in the mini journal and discuss it with one or two other group members. After that, have them pray for one another about their action steps unless you don’t think your group members are ready to pray aloud.

Tell Someone They Know

Finally, ask them to plan to tell someone else (outside the group) what they learned in this session. It can be a Christian or some other interested person.

Group members will dramatically improve their commitment to apply if they keep talking about it. Sharing with others what they have discussed and applied from the Bible also makes them a part of a spiritual multiplication process. (Remember 2 Timothy 2:2.)

When you start the next group session, in a low-key way, see if you can get some of your group members to share how the applying and telling went. Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it? In the next session, “4 Walks: Forgiven,” use the same approach. For further preparation, see the “Session Preparation Overview.”

More on Leading a Small Group 

We’re so glad you’ve taken the step of faith to lead a group. We hope the “Essentials” tool is helpful to you. 

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

You can find more great info about leading a small group in the book “The Ultimate Roadtrip: A Guide to Leading Small Groups.”

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