I was talking to some students this week and were asking them about their small group and how it was going. I sensed some hesitation in their answer of “good” so I dug a little deeper. Overall, they said their leaders talked too much. Out of the hour of the actual Bible study time, the leaders would teach for a good 40 minutes. Basically a sermon. The students said the content was good, which knowing the leaders, I know it was but they wanted more time to talk and discuss.
Small groups for students is where I believe the life change happens. It is where they are able to dig deeper in their faith and that small group allows the opportunity to do so.
The group is for the students, not you.- Save the in depth Bible study for your own time. This is not the time to show how well you studied, but it is a time to be a pastor to your students and hear them out and what they have to think.
Stop talking. – I think the most I have ever taught in a small group setting is 10 minutes, 15 if I really am feeling it. The rest of the time needs to students talking it out. It is really important that they are the ones who are talking all of this through. You just studied in preparation for this group (hopefully), we know you know it. Your students don’t yet. When they are able to actually talk through it, read through it themselves, you are there to answer them. But I try to allow them to try to answer any question among themselves.
Start the fire, walk away. – I like this saying. I’m TM’ing it right now. Your job as the leader is to set the study up, ask the questions and back up and let them answer. I feel what makes a great small group leader is not one who teaches the whole time but is able to facilitate a conversation between a group of people that does not die down but is in a continuous state. Some of what I feel my best nights of group is when I am just asking a few questions and the students are talking out what they are thinking and basically finding their own answers.
Students minister to students. – I think this is my favorite part when we as leaders step back. I know one of my guys in my group has not made the decision to follow christ yet. But he comes every single week. He asked a very honest question, “What does it mean to worship God and how do you do that?” He asked it to me, but I opened it up to the group so they (most of them have been believers for a couple years now) and the results were amazing. I got to watch as these high school guys opened up to share what they feel what it means to worship and how they do it in their own lives. What a cool moment as students were ministering to another student. My heart was full that night.Instead of me as the leader, he got to hear from his peers and I know that was so much more powerful.
It’s a safe place. – I always stress this. Sometimes small group is the only place some students feel that they could vent what they are dealing with in life. They don’t have anyone at home to do it with. Or at school. But group could be the only place. I always stress this and always allow a time in group for prayer requests and so we can allow anyone to share what is going on. It is so important to know that this place is safe and they can be real there. Once that trust is broken, good luck getting them to share again. But it is really hard to share when we as leaders are taking up the whole time teaching and talking.