What Small Group Leaders Can Learn from Great Preachers About Facilitating Dynamic Discussions

As small group leaders, we can learn how to lead vibrant, life-changing groups from a variety of sources, and we should always be looking to learn more. Why? Because God uses what we do to transform lives and grow his kingdom!

Last week, I viewed the “Preach Better Sermons” online conference webcast from Preaching Rocket, featuring some of the best preachers and presenters around. While watching and listening, I made some of my own applications for leading a small group:

Create Tension. Andy Stanley talked about how he deliberately creates some tension in the beginning of his message to get people to say, “Tell me the answer to that question or problem.” Stanley said, “You’re never bored when there’s tension.” You can do the same as you lead your group. Boil down your lesson purpose or main idea into one tension-building question that your study and discussion will eventually answer. Make it as personal as possible, and you’ll draw people into a dynamic discussion!

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Be the Real Deal. Teachers who make an impact on their audiences don’t take themselves too seriously, said Jeff Foxworthy. People relate to speakers and leaders who are authentic and open with their lives. Don’t hide your struggles and hurts, but be transparent and vulnerable at a level that is appropriate to your group stage.

Be Humble. “You cannot be thinking about yourself and make an impact on someone else,” said Dr. Charles Stanley. Focus on what your group members need in order to grow, not on how well you present the lesson or on sharing your own thoughts or ideas. Dr Stanley discussed his six-step process for developing a sermon. You can apply these to how you prepare to facilitate your group:

  1. What’s the need of the people I’m speaking to? This is where Jesus always started when he taught. If you miss this question, your discussion my be good, but irrelevant. 
  2. What’s the text that best helps them meet that need? Let Scripture speak into their needs and into their lives. 
  3. What’s this text say? You must always deal with what God’s Word says before you can apply it to your lives. 
  4. Gather material that fits the need and text. Do you have stories to share? Particular questions to ask to get people to share their stories? Ways of illustrating a truth? A group exercise to use? 
  5. Pray. Of course you should be praying throughout your preparation process, but take time here to be sure you’re hearing from God. Ask God, “What do you want the people in my group to get and not forget?”
  6. Outline. As a small group leader, this is where you put structure to your study and discussion.  

 Lead with the End in Mind. Vanable Moody calls this “behavioral preaching,” and contended that Jesus was a behavioral preacher. Do you want to make an impression or an impact? Lead your small group study with the end in mind. It’s not enough to lead a great meeting. Ask yourself, What behaviors do we want to see because of this discussion? What changes in behaviors do we want to occur? 

Make it Practical. Moody also encouraged preachers to give people an opportunity or vehicle to do what they are teaching them to do. As small group leaders we can come up short here too! Provide a very specific opportunity for your group members to live out what you are discussing. Move the conversation from people’s heads to their hearts and then to their hands. This will take some creativity and also some major stepping out of your comfort zones! Get your group off your comfy couches and love seats and into real-life ministry to one another and others outside your group.

These were the five things I learned from preachers to adapt to leading my small group. What have you learned from preachers that you have applied? 

Which of these are you doing well, and on which do you need to work? 

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