How to prepare a small group bible study

Hi there, I have just written the below for a church small group leadership training manual and thought it may be helpful for others, so here it is:

Choose a passage/ topic
Here you have several options:
1) Study what was taught on the previous Sunday or what will be taught the next.
2) Choose a topic/ passage that you know well, feel led to or that has helped you personally.
3) Think about your group: What theological gaps have you noticed? What would they like to know more on? What specific study will serve the unique vision of your group?
4) Work through a study guide or other resource that has been recommended or made available.

Do some personal study
This is hard work but preparation is critical to success. A lot of the stuff you learn may not even be used during the discussion but is helpful to know in case it’s needed. Here are some helpful pointers:

1) Start by praying, invite God to focus your mind and bring revelation.
2) Read the text(s) a few times through slowly (try using different translations) and write down anything that jumps out at you: thoughts, ideas, notes, questions, answers.
3) Get the context right: What did the text mean to the original biblical audience? What are the similarities and differences between the biblical audience and us? What is the theological principle in this text? How should Christians today apply that theological principle in their lives?
4) Imagine yourself in the time and place, what would you have felt/seen/heard/smelt?
5) Consult some commentaries to discover background information and check your thoughts correlate with those who have studied the passage more thoroughly. Helpful websites are:

Create a plan for the discussion
Now is the time to shape all you have learnt into a study for your group.
1) Be thinking: What is the aim of this study? What are the key points for the group to get?
2) Mould it into your allotted time, probably around 30 minutes.
3) Form a rough structure, i.e. split a passage into 3 sections and then create an introduction and 2 group discussion starters for each section.
4) Remember that you are not preaching but facilitating a discussion: How will you engage the group and get them all participating?
5) Be creative. Think about trying to use maps, flipcharts, games, time lines, small assignments, quizzes or other fun group activities.

Lead the discussion
People are looking to you to bring direction, so don’t hold back as you remember the following:
1) Relax, be yourself and enjoy it!
2) Rather than asking, “What do you think about verse 30?” try and form unique questions, i.e. “Why do you think Jesus responds with a question in verse 30?”
3) Don’t let it be silent for too long; try giving hints or asking individuals directly.
4) Remember that you don’t have to know everything, it’s okay to say “I don’t know, does anyone else?” Or “Let me find out for you and tell you next week”
5) Ensure you are asking people to think about how the truths you discover would apply to our everyday lives.

Review the study
1) Genuinely invite feedback from the group; what worked well and what didn’t?
2) Ask yourself questions like: Was everyone engaged throughout? Why/why not? Had you prepared well enough? Did you run over/under time? Did you bring some interesting background to the study? We’re people challenged/ inspired/ comforted? Was there an application discussed?

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