The Differences Between a Teacher and a Facilitator… And Why This Matters


GUEST POST by Rick Howerton, Discipleship & Small Group Specialist at LifeWay. Read Rick’s Blog.

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Because the Bible is getting its rightful place in group life again, sometimes the term, “teacher,” is being used to describe the person leading the group’s Bible study time.

If you’ve been around the small group world long, you know that the term “facilitator” is used most often.

When considering the terminology being used, a few super important questions come to mind.

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  1. Are we just splitting hairs if we are concerned with this?
  2. Will honing in on one term or the other affect the way we do Bible study?

These are great questions that need to be answered. But first … the differences between the two terms:

  • The term teacher describes someone espousing information while everyone else listens to them “teaching.” At least in the Western culture.
  • The term facilitator describes someone who is spearheading a conversation between those gathered.


  • The term teacher is most often used when a group is seated in rows looking at the person standing before them.
  • The term facilitator is most often used when a group is seated in circles looking into each other’s eyes.


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  • The term teacher insinuates that the group is there to gain head knowledge.
  • The term facilitator intimates that the group is there to discuss the thoughts of the heart.


  • The term teacher declares that groups of any size, even groups of thousands, can hear the teaching.
  • The term facilitator asserts that only a group of 12 or less will effectively engage in a transformational conversational Bible study.

Using the right term for the experience you’re creating does make a difference for the following reasons:

  1. The person leading the Bible study will be confused concerning what they are to do if the wrong term is used.
  2. The person who is leading the Bible study time will be confused concerning what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish if the wrong term is used.
  3. The group members will be confused concerning their role during the Bible study time if the incorrect term is being used.
  4. The way the group leader prepares for the gathering will be misunderstood if the incorrect term is used.
  5. The people who are invited to join the group will be frustrated at the first gathering they attend and may bail if they thought they were coming to a conversational Bible study only to find out that they were actually coming to hear someone teach the Bible.

Please know that both teaching the Bible and facilitating a transformational conversational Bible study are effective means of learning Scripture. But, the terms we use really do make a difference.


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Dilbert on Facilitating Group Discussion
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