17. Leading a Small Group

What and Why


God is working in you and through you. You have seen people you care about take important faith steps. Some of them have started the process of laying a solid spiritual foundation. How can you help them continue to grow?


Movement building involves a community. It requires a team of like-hearted disciples. It thrives when people come together to seek the truth. God will use you to build this community.


As we follow Christ we discover that we belong to a greater family. The students you are working with need that family. They need a place to connect. They will grow more quickly in a context where they make friends and build bonds of trust. Some students are quite skeptical about religious structures and organized efforts.


They are inclined to pursue God in a very individualistic way. Such an approach isn’t healthy and has negative consequences. Jesus made us one Body. His plan is for us to be interdependent. He calls us to worship and serve him together. We are wise to develop a community of students who learn together in small groups. Small groups help us to be part of each other’s lives and experience God working through us as we reach others.

Learning from the Word


The Christian life is both taught and “caught.” Some aspects of following Christ can be understood as a result of logical explanation. Other aspects need to be observed. Seeing examples of others loving Jesus, and applying Scripture in their day-to-day lives can be powerful and motivating.


Read Hebrews 10:19-25

Click for the text

In Hebrews 10:19-25 we are exhorted to draw near to God (vs. 22). As we draw near to God, we are to express faith (v.22), hope (v.23) and love (v.24). These are the three great themes of Christian behavior.


The author’s choice of words is quite instructive in v. 22. We are urged to draw near to God together. Verses 19-25 are written to the “brethren” not to one individual. What is significant about this command being in the plural?


Throughout this passage the writer emphasizes what we are to do together.

What might “drawing near to God” (together) look like? (v.22)


What might “holding firm to our confession” (together) look like? (v.23)


What are some practical ways that we can stimulate one another to love and good deeds? (v.24)


After the text encourages us to do these three things, it advises us to avoid one thing -- do not stop meeting together. Why do you think this is a problem?


This passage calls us to live and grow in community. Small groups are not the only expression of community. They are however one important form of community that helps believers grow.

Connecting to the Truth


Determining the purpose of the small group is the place to start.  As you form a small group there are some important questions to consider.


♦ How does your small group fit into the big picture of developing a movement?

♦ Is your small group part of a plan to reach a section of campus? 

♦ Is your focus on evangelism, building new believers or training believers to minister to others? 

♦ Is your small group trying to develop future leaders?


Ask the Lord to direct you to the precise purpose of the small group.


Key elements


The purpose of your small group will help you determine what needs to be included in your meetings. Because there can be a wide variety of purposes we can’t give you an exact list of what you need to do. However, many small group leaders in a movement building context have found the following to be helpful:


- Prayer / Worship                      - Setting goals & accountability

- Sharing / Connection time      - Training

- Study of God’s Word                - Vision


The following link might be helpful as you seek to determine the elements of your group meeting: https://youtu.be/sa_WFQPg-s0



Leadership Roles


A small group leader has several roles. The leader is a teacher, discussion leader and someone who involves others in leading the group. As the leader, you might have more experience studying God’s Word than other group members. There are things that need to be explained as we seek to understand Scripture. As a discussion leader, your task is to help group members discover the truth themselves. Self-discovery has always been a powerful way to learn. Within the group there are others who will grow by leading. Involve them, empowering them to lead the appropriate element of the group. (Give your group members a vision to lead and they might soon be leading other groups.)


Group discussion can be like a captivating, well-played volleyball game. As the leader, you serve the ball to the team by asking a good question. Someone answers, setting up the ball for another group member to respond. Everyone gets in the action, working together.


When the volley ends, the leader serves up another question. The goal is not to keep the discussion going, but to direct it in such a way as to facilitate learning and life-change. For example, in the context of Bible study, questions help the group probe the meaning of Scripture and apply its principles to their lives. As your group discusses its ministry on campus, questions help everyone participate and share their insights.


It takes practice, preparation and hard work to play an exciting game of volleyball. The same is true in leading an effective small group. Some questions are highly effective. Others can be childish or difficult to answer.


Asking questions is essential:


One goal of a small group is building community. Communities grow through interaction. The relational dynamic of the group will be used by the Lord. A group leader helps everyone participate in the discussion, creating a context in which deeper relationships develop. Asking questions is an excellent way to foster interaction.


A good way to begin a study is using a wide open question that raises an issue that the study will later address. This is not just a “get to know you” type of question, but one that links the Scriptures to everyday life. For example: suppose you were studying Ephesians 5 where Paul exhorts his friends to “imitate God.” You might start with a wide open question like: “Who was someone you wanted to be like when you grew up, and why did you want to be like him/her?” With one question the community starts to get to know each other and the context is set for a study of Ephesians chapter 5.


During the study ask your group members questions that cause them to read the text carefully and explore its meaning. In order to ask effective questions a leader needs to have already studied the text so that they understand it well.



We recommend that you benefit from the work other people have done in preparing interactive Bible studies. Campus Crusade has a collection of small group studies called “Cru.comm.” These lessons provide you with some of the questions you might want to ask your group. You can find the material: Cru.comm


Leading a diverse group can be challenging.


Let’s suppose a small group will be discussing Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish men building houses on rock and sand. In broad strokes, here are the players involved in that group:


1. The group leader who tries hard to make the study interactive and exciting. The leader has studied the lesson and knows the content well.

2. Natasha is very quiet and somewhat socially closed. Not even the group leader knows much about her. During this small group meeting, she is feeling down due to a personal issues.

3. Ivan is a real talker. He loves to hear himself speak and he has theories and opinions about everything. If the leader asks 10 questions, Ivan will answer at least 8 of them.

4. Stefan is kind and likable. Over time it has become obvious to the group leader that “being liked” is a high value for Stefan so he tends to agree with everyone. His thoughts and convictions look more like a reflection of whatever group he is around rather than something that comes from his heart.

5. Elena has rough edges. She is generally critical of everything. Nothing is good enough. She has a habit of pointing out the flaws that she sees.


What sort of small group discussion do you think these 5 will have?


What challenges can you anticipate?


As a group leader, how can you prepare to work with this interesting collection of people?

Taking Action


It is time to plan for your small group. Walking through the following questions will help you determine how to start and lead the group.

1) Who should be part of the group?

2) Who should you invite to take part?

3) Why are you selecting these people?


In light of your goal to build movements and in light of the people you will challenge to be part of the group, what is the purpose of the group?


Write out the purpose. The clearer it is, the easier it will be for you to challenge someone to be part of it.


What will you study?

Look through materials like Cru.comm. What passages or themes fit with the purpose of the group? Write some of your initial ideas for your group’s study.


When, where and how long?

1. What is the best place to meet?

2. What is the best time to meet?

3. How long will the group meet?


Building relationships and community.


1. What will you do to provide a context in which people get to know each other and become friends?

2. Are there any fun activities the group might want to do?


Once you have answered these questions you should be ready to step out in faith and start a small group. The Lord will help you, empower you and lead you as you lead others.


We believe God can use small groups in the process of changing lives.

Keys to Creating a Good Environment

With a little planning you can provide the right sort of atmosphere.


Meet in an informal and accessible location. Often a great place to meet is in the room of a group member as long as it’s OK with their roommates. Places such as a church may intimidate new group members. Likewise, classrooms may be familiar and accessible, but they hinder communication and warmth.


Set your meeting time so that all members are able to attend. Choose a time when everyone will be sharp and awake. Make sure no one has an ongoing schedule conflict. Friday afternoons and late nights are better for blowing off steam or sleeping rather than for a small group meeting.


Arrange the seating so everyone can easily see one another. Sitting in a circle at the same level will help. Also be aware of the distance separating each member. Try to sit close enough so each person has eye contact and can hear one another easily, but not so close people feel uncomfortable or their personal space is being invaded.


Meet in a location where you can control distractions and interruptions as much as possible. Make a habit of people not taking phone calls during the study. Put a sign on the door to prevent people from knocking.


Provide refreshments (especially in the first few weeks) to help warm up the group and give people something to do at the beginning of the meeting. People often interact better when there is food. You’ll discover it is worth the investment. With time, different groups members will probably help with this.


Make sure you have good lighting to create a warm feeling. No one should have to look into the sun or toward a bright window. Likewise, avoid dark, catacomb type rooms. You are developing fellowship, not watching a film.


Bibles can be downloaded to phones and tablets. You will do your friends a service helping them with this. Because there might be multiple versions of the Bible available you might want to direct them to the version that most people in the study will use.


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