20 “Bible Dialogue” Questions

Here’s a way you and your group can study the Bible without using a Bible-study guide. I developed these questions (some of which I picked up from other places) several years ago.

Read a section of Scripture (a chapter, for instance) together as a group. Be creative. Read in the round (one verse or sentence at a time) or have group members read in parts. Then ask some general questions to get people dialoguing around the text. Move from “what did you get” questions to “what will you do” questions. Here are a few possibilities. You might use only one or two of these kinds of questions in a study! Remember that follow-up questions are the best questions.

  1. What jumped out at you in this passage?
  2. What’s going on here? Summarize what’s happening.
  3. What did you notice here, maybe for the first time?
  4. Who are the main characters in this passage?
  5. What’s your favorite verse in this passage? Why?
  6. What’s your least favorite verse in this passage? Why?
  7. What do you think God is trying to communicate overall in this passage?
  8. If we were writing a sermon with three main points from this passage, what would be our three points?
  9. What did you sense the Holy Spirit saying to you?
  10. What example do you see here that you can follow?
  11. What commands do you see here that you need to obey?
  12. What thoughts do you find here about God himself?
  13. What promise(s) do you see here for you to claim?
  14. What principles do you see here that you need to accept?
  15. What can we learn as a group from this passage?
  16. In what verse or section do you sense God speaking directly to you?
  17. How will this passage affect your relationships this next week?
  18. What changes do you feel like you need to make based on this passage?
  19. So what? What are you going to do based on reading this?
  20. What is one specific thing from this passage that you would pray back to God? How would you word that prayer?

Share Stories … Grow in Grace

Helping people in our churches, classes, and small groups understand and experience God’s grace is vital. What is the best way to teach and, better yet, experience this fundamental doctrine?

Use stories, says Kyle Idleman.

Grace Is Greater by Kyle IdlemanIn a recent interview for CT Pastors, Kyle Rohane and Andrew Finch talked with Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, about his new book, Grace is Greater (published by BakerBooks; also available as a small group study, pastor’s kit, leader’s guide, and journal).

“We have found that an effective way to help people experience grace is by telling stories,” Idleman says. “It’s not difficult to find biblical examples. In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t use the word grace, he didn’t give a long theological explanation of it, but his whole earthly ministry was marked by stories of grace.”

Idleman says the church is learning to be more intentional about vulnerability, and he explains the important difference between vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability, he says, is being honest about our struggles. Authenticity is no longer pretending, but vulnerability is revealing.

“When we ask someone to give a testimony about, say, a health struggle,” says Idleman, “we tell them not to feel like they have to have the whole thing wrapped up. It doesn’t have to be a happily-ever-after story. Instead, we ask them to be honest about the journey, to share why it’s hard and where they feel like God has let them down. That takes things further than authenticity.”

Idleman discusses how this plays out in small groups. “It takes just one person being a little bit vulnerable, pulling back the veil a little, for everyone else to do the same thing,” he says. “If people are going around the room and sharing their stories, and someone shares a struggle or a challenge they’re going through, just watch. The rest of the room will join in.” But he points out that if people share only superficial stories and refuse to go deeper, they will set the tone for the rest of the group as well.

“As a pastor,” says Idleman, “I want to set that temperature so others will want to celebrate their weakness. In doing so, we will point to the beauty of God’s grace.”

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Quotes and information excerpted from, “Kyle Idleman: God Never Wastes What We Go Through” in Christianity Today,’s “CT Pastors.”

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Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Dec. 26-30, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS come from my new book, Small Group Leader TOOLBOX.

Question: What TIP for leading a healthy small group would you share with other leaders? Scroll down and comment below! 

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!

 

Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Nov. 28 – Dec. 2, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS focus on facilitating discussion and prayer.

QUESTION: What’s YOUR best tip for facilitating discussion or prayer in a small group meeting? Please comment below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!

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Small Group Leader TIPS of the Week: Oct. 17-21, 2016

Here are the Small Group Leader TIPS for the last week as Tweeted, posted on our Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

This week’s TIPS focus on Facilitating Discussion, especially asking great questions.

QUESTION: What tips would you add about asking great questions? Please share your responses by clicking the Comment box below.

Read All Small Group Leadership TIPS here!

25 Tips for Dealing with Politics in Your Small Group

How do you discuss politics civilly in such a politically charged culture?

Or should you even try?

Your group members may debate whether you should even talk about politics in small group meetings. Some would maintain that this could fracture a good group. Here’s my take: your group should be a great place to discuss politics IF you handle it well. Here are 25 important principles:

  1. Before you begin discussing politics, consider the spiritual and emotional maturity of your group members, as well as your group as a whole. As a shepherd leader, you should be able to gauge where people are and if they can follow the rest of these principles in a discussion.
  2. Before entering into the discussion, set the ground rules. Use some or all of the following as your basis for what and how you will discuss.
  3. Pray that God will lead this discussion and do what only he can do to use it for your good and his glory.
  4. Agree on how you will relate to one another. The following 12 New Testament guidelines provide some of the most important relational principles for any group discussion.
  5. Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another and each other’s positions and opinions (1 Pet. 5:5).
  6. Love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Pet. 1:22). Love covers over a multitude of political positions.
  7. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50) and live in harmony with one another (1Pet. 3:8). This is a decision of the will you make before any discussion, especially a political one.
  8. Honor one another above yourselves, and above your own political opinions (Ro. 12:10).
  9. Be patient, bearing with one another, and one anther’s political views, in love (Eph, 4:2).
  10. Accept one another, regardless of political views, just as Christ accepted each of you (Ro. 15:7).
  11. Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32).
  12. Do not slander one another (Col. 3:9). And while you’re at it, don’t slander the other person’s candidate or political party.
  13. Do not grumble against each other or each other’s candidate (Jas. 5:9).
  14. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people (2 Tim. 2:24; see Prov. 17:14, 19).
  15. Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another (Col. 3:13).
  16. Pray for each other so that you (as Christ’s body) may be healed (Jas. 5:16).
  17. As you discuss issues, look at the larger context/perspective, that is, God’s story as revealed throughout Scripture.
  18. Discuss: What is the role of human government in God’s story? (Study Romans 13—all of it; don’t stop at verse 7—as a basis for this dialogue.)
  19. You may need to talk about the overall context of God’s story. What is it? It’s a story of redemption, so how is government part of or not a part of that story?
  20. As people turn to discuss/present specific issues, candidate and party positions, and their own ideas/opinions, always go back to Scripture to see what it says about these issues. The Bible, not a group member’s or politician’s opinion, is always your standard!
  21. If (when) group members turn the discussion toward a politician’s unethical, immoral, or illegal behaviors or words, turn the discussion toward Biblical principles for these issues. Use some of these as follow up questions: * God seeks leaders after his own heart (King David – 1 Sam. 13:14). In a secular government, how does that apply? * Let’s talk about us. The Bible says we’re all ministers/ambassadors for God (2 Cor. 5:18-20), so what importance does morality and ethics have for us? * We know God is sovereign; in other words, he’s in control in how his story unravels over time. How can we view the current political climate and what this election might mean from a big-picture point of view?
  22. Talk about the biblical role of government in today’s society that has become increasingly secular in a world that’s winding down toward Jesus’ coming.
  23. Discuss: How has God used secular government in the past to carry out his story/mission? How is he working today in and through government?
  24. View your discussion, even debate, as an opportunity to grow spiritually, not to make a point.
  25. Utilize this discussion as an opportunity to model for our culture what real hope, peace, love, and unity look like even when we disagree about issues.

God has a vision for your small group that is part of his grand story and is bigger, way bigger in fact, than current politics. Don’t let Satan divide you through what in the overall scheme of things amount to side issues.

Your group can bring glory to God and his kingdom by the way you relate to him, one another, and the world … by his power.

And that’s HUUUUGE!

How is your group dealing with politics? Get in on the discussion by clicking the comments box below!

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the Week: February 15-19, 2016

Small Group Leadership TIPS of the past week as Tweeted, posted on the Small Group Leadership Facebook page, and posted on LinkedIn.

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Monday, 2/15: Don’t be the small group answer man or woman. Let group members experience aha moments.

Tuesday, 2/16: Become comfortable answering questions with, “I don’t know but let’s all find out this week.”

Wednesday, 2/17: As you study God’s Word together, “remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

Thursday, 2/18: The most strategically consequential action u take today is to climb into your Daddy’s lap and abide w/ him.

Friday, 2/19: Help ppl learn to follow Jesus – really follow him – and you will develop great leaders.

All Small Group Leadership TIPS

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Follow Mike and Small Group Leadership on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks by clicking on the icons in the “Connect with Mike” box in the right column.

The Challenge of Challenging People: 7 Keys to What Works

I’ve known today’s guest blogger for more years than either of us would care to admit. I first came across her material on small group leadership 20-some years ago when I was an editor at Standard Publishing, and we’ve partnered on several projects ever since. Today, Pat writes and speaks from her home base in California. She is the author of Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members and a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel for SmallGroups.com.  She is the founder and President of Mighty Oak Ministries, and blogs at Why Didn’t You Warn Me?and An Ordinary Woman Pursuing Splendor.

GUEST POST by Pat J.Sikora. Follow her on Twitter at @PatSikora or on her ministry website, Mighty Oaks Ministries.

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Challenging people. Wounded people. Dysfunctional people. Each year we see more in the church. Your average small group might have one challenging person. Those leaders can read my book. But have you considered leading a group of people so wounded they don’t conform to the “norms” of small groups? As I have led groups of severely wounded women, I’ve learned 7 keys about what works and what doesn’t.

 

  1. Be clear when inviting participants. Many wounded people have had problems being part of a group. They already feel ostracized. So I’m honest. I let them know that in addition to Bible study we’ll work on group skills. Most are excited by this.
  2. Keep it small. A skilled leader can manage six to ten members, but with challenging people, limit it to four. It’s OK. It’ll feel like ten! You’ll want plenty of time to do the study, process group issues, and deal with distractions.
  3. Agree in advance. I use a group covenant that includes meeting time, attendance and punctuality expectations, goals, confidentiality requirements, boundaries, and anything else I expect to be an issue. Members need to understand your expectations and to share theirs.
  4. Stress attendance and punctuality. Be especially clear about your expectations here. Challenging people always have something come up. Their car breaks down, their kids get sick, they get sick, their favorite TV program is on . . . They need to understand their absence creates hole in the group and that arriving late or leaving early is disruptive. Start the group on time, regardless of who is there and try to end on time, regardless of how much is left to cover. Talk about attendance and punctuality often and affirm those who make improvements.
  5. Discuss group processes. In a group of challenging people, you’ll face a bit of everything. Discuss expectations in advance and provide reminders as necessary. Cut off the person who never takes a breath and call on the quiet one—difficult skills, for sure. Challenging people are lonely. When they have someone to listen, many go on and on—and on. It takes grace to lovingly cut off a member over and over—and over.
  6. Set boundaries. Some challenging people want to be your new best friend. Decide early if that’s your goal. I set firm boundaries, telling members I only answer the telephone when it’s convenient, and I can’t spend much time on the phone. Challenging people always have a crisis. They always need to talk. I need to give up my Messiah complex and remember that they reached their present age without me. Chances are, they’ll live without my undivided attention.
  7. Enforce confidentiality. As with any group, confidentiality is essential. Even challenging people need to know that their private lives are private. Enforce confidentiality in the group as well, dealing with breeches immediately and firmly.

 

Leading a group of challenging people can be, well—challenging.  But you’ll be glad you did. They’re delightful, and watching them grow will be the most enriching experience you’ve had in ages!

MORE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH GROUP CHALLENGES

 

24 Icebreakers for a Small Group Christmas

Here are 24 icebreaker questions and activities I’ve written over the years that you can choose from. (Tip: save or print this for future use!)

How are you “lighting up” your home for Christmas? Who is in charge of the lights and other decorations? Any special traditions?

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What are your expectations this Christmas? What are you hoping for?

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What does your busiest week in December look like?

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Describe the favorite or most meaningful Christmas card you’ve received this year. (If possible, ask group members to bring their favorite card with them.) What makes this card so meaningful?

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In 60 seconds, write down the titles of as many Christmas songs or carols as you can think of that mention angels. At the end of the 60 seconds, see who came up with the most and the most original.

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How well are you prepared for Christmas? Physically (home decorations, buying gifts)? Financially? Emotionally? Spiritually?

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What is the most special Christmas gift you’ve ever received? What makes a gift special to you?

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Ask all three of these questions:

  • What is the most memorable Christmas gift you ever received?
  • What is the most memorable Christmas gift you have ever given?
  • Which was more meaningful to you?

 

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As you anticipate Christmas, what phrase or phrases best describe you?

  • OH NOOO, there’s so much to get done!!!
  • How long IS your family staying?
  • Do we HAVE to buy a gift for every single person we know?
  • What a wonderful time of year to reflect on the birth of Jesus and all the promises.
  • I really miss the people who are not going to be with us this Christmas.
  • Other

 

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If you could give any gift to anyone, what would you give, to whom, and why?

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What is the silliest gift you ever received for Christmas? What was the silliest gift you ever gave for Christmas?

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Is there someone (don’t name names) that you will avoid at a Christmas Party this year? What avoidance techniques do you employ?

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Which Christmas carol evokes the strongest memory for you and why?

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When you were a kid, did you sneak and find your gifts? How far did you go to figure out what you were going to get for Christmas?

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What scene is your favorite from It’s a Wonderful Life? Can you quote a line from the film?

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As people arrive, give each a name tag to wear for the evening. Instruct them to print their first names vertically down the left side of the tag and then print a word or words for each letter describing their favorite things about Christmastime.

Leader Tip: Create your own name tag first, before other people arrive. As always, you as the leader go first and model this for the group.

As everyone gets settled, invite each person to introduce themselves and say why they chose the words they put on their tags.

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Before the meeting, set up a nativity set in the center of the room where all participants can see it. Ask:

  • What traditions, if any, did your family have with the nativity set?

Now pick up Mary and show her to the group. Ask:

  • How have you viewed Jesus’ mother Mary through your life?
  • From where did you develop your views of her?

 

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Set up the nativity set in the center of the room where all participants can see it. Pick up Joseph and show him to the group, then ask: What is your general impression of Joseph? Explain your response.

  • He’s an extra in the Christmas story. I don’t even notice him.
  • He’s got a part in the manger scene, but he’s always in the background.
  • He was always there for Mary, standing behind her and taking care of her. His role was simply to be Mary’s husband.
  • He probably was a good dad. He taught Jesus to be a carpenter.
  • He’s the leading man in the Christmas story. God chose him to be Jesus’ earthly father.
  • He’s a great man of faith, a great model for us to emulate.
  • Other: ______

 

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Point out the shepherds and angels outside the nativity scene. Without saying anything, move the shepherds so that they are gathered around the manger. Then ask:

  •  As a kid, what Christmas traditions, if any, did your family have as it related to the shepherds and angels?
  • Did you ever play one of these parts in a Christmas pageant?
  • Was your tree topper an angel?
  • Anything else?
  • How about in your family today?

 

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As a child, how did your family build up to Christmas Day? Did you have any particular traditions to help you anticipate Christmas (for instance, an Advent wreath, candles, a calendar, creative use of the nativity set, etc.)? Do you have any traditions today?

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As a young child how did you anticipate the coming of Christmas Day?

  • It can’t get here soon enough!
  • It can’t be over soon enough!
  • Other: _______

How would you answer the same question now?

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What family Christmas traditions are you using this year to focus on Christ and why he came into the world?

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What’s your favorite quote from any Christmas movie? The first person to guess what movie it’s from and the name of the person who said it wins (a white elephant gift?).

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(For after Christmas) How was this Christmas different from previous Christmases?

MORE CHRISTMAS IDEAS AND RESOURCES

What to Do When God Does Not Feel Very Much Like “Immanuel”
Not Just Another Sentimental Christmas Message
7 Ways Your Small Group Can Celebrate the Incarnation this Christmas Season: #1: Experience Christmas!
#2: Celebrate Immanuel
#3: Love Those Who Are Struggling
#4: Give Gifts
#5: Start Some New Traditions
#6 & 7: Party and Plan

The Six Count: The Astonishing Yet Simple Secret to Leading Phenomenal Discussions

I’m a big fan of today’s guest blogger. I’ve known his dad, Kent Odor, who we affectionately call Small Group “Yoda,” for years, and he’s been a great encourager, mentor, friend, and coworker. His son Micah has the same kind of traits. Micah has made it a regular practice to sit in on workshops I’ve led at various events, and he is never timid about asking questions, making comments, sharing his own ideas, telling stories about his small group experiences, telling stories about stuff that has nothing to do with small groups . . . Micah can talk, but here’s the thing: most of what he says is laced with wisdom.

Today’s post is no exception, except I kept him to about 500 words.

GUEST POST by +Micah Odor. Micah leads groups and group leaders at Whitewater Crossing Christian Church, just west of Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @micahodor.

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I’ve been leading small groups and small group leaders nonstop for more than 20 years. In that time, I think I’ve made almost every mistake you can make leading a small group. My biggest weakness? I talk too much. Here’s a simple trick that’s helped me a lot.… I hope it’s helpful for you, too.

It’s important to ask good, open-ended questions. Nobody will discuss something that can be answered by a yes or no. If they can raise their hand and answer “Jesus” or “The Bible,” your questions need some work. But even with good questions, sometimes it’s hard to get the group to engage.
For most group leaders, there’s nothing worse than an awkward silence. We ask a question, we wait on pins and needles for someone to answer, and the longer we wait the more uncomfortable we get. Eventually we answer our own question “just to keep the conversation moving.” We think that by going first and modeling a good answer, we can get the rest of the group to follow us. Sometimes this works, but often (usually) it just teaches the group to wait for your answer.
Here’s what I tell my small group leaders:  
After you ask a question, don’t say a word until you’ve (silently) counted to six.
If you’re leading a group, you have to remember that most of the people in the group are far less worried about the silence than you are. For you, silence feels like failure. For them, silence is the time that they’re using to process your question. I’ve seen many group leaders that get uncomfortable after four seconds; some after just two. When I asked them how long they gave their group before they broke up the silence, most of them had no idea. But on average, people need at least six seconds to process a question and come up with a good answer.
I mean this very literally: if you’re the type that answers your own questions, don’t do it until you’ve said to yourself “One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six.” But what if they don’t answer by then?
 
If you don’t get an answer in six seconds, try to rephrase, redirect, or retreat.
Judge your response by body language. If people look puzzled, maybe the question wasn’t clear. Try to rephrase the question; use different words to ask the same thing. “Let me ask it a different way…”
If people won’t meet your eye, then maybe they don’t want to go first. Redirect the conversation by steering away from a question to the group and direct it instead toward a specific person. Try to pick someone who won’t hate you, of course, but gently drawing people out doesn’t have to be dramatic. Often someone who’s nervous talking to “the group” will be far more comfortable talking directly to you.
If all else fails, retreat. Don’t double down on a bad situation. If the group is completely unwilling to engage, you need to move back a few steps and break some more ice. Spend some more time on story-telling and affirmation first! But that’s a topic for a different post.

MORE ABOUT FACILITATING GREAT DISCUSSION

When to “Call” on Individuals in a Small Group Meeting
Top 10 Ways to Stifle Discussion in Your Small Group
The Differences Between a Teacher and a Facilitator… and Why This Matters (by Rick Howerton)
What Small Group Leaders Can Learn from Great Preachers About Facilitating Dynamic Discussions