Group Leader Tip#1
The most important thing you can do as a group leader is FINISH ON TIME. Nothing respects people more than honoring the appointed ending time. My own personal rule of thumb is to never run more than 4 minutes over.
Just make sure to START ON TIME, then occasionally say “Let’s keep moving” a few times during the lesson, and finish fast if you need to.
Remember, rule #1 is FINISH ON TIME!
Group Leader Tip #2
This teaching maxim is on a plaque on my desk:
- Tell me and I forget
- Teach me and I remember
- Involve me and I learn
This saying is attributed to Ben Franklin, but likely he borrowed it from an ancient Chinese proverb. Whatever the case, it is so true! Your main job as a small group leader is NOT to teach folks all the things you know. It is your job to involve people.
Just get people involved and they will naturally learn.
Group Leader Tip #3
Smile and be friendly.
People won’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel.
Group Leader Tip #4
Many group leaders mistakenly think that “discussion” is the holy grail. It is not! What you should really shoot for is “participation.” You want folks participating towards a certain point or goal, not getting involved in open-ended discussions that can and will go absolutely anywhere.
Always elicit “participation” towards a specific point. If your members stray, nicely pull them back and keep them on point. Keeping people on topic is an art form that the best group leaders develop over time.
Remember, what you are after is “participation”, not “discussion.”
Group Leader Tip #5
Having good listening skills is critical for a small group leader. People are going to speak, and when they do, you need to listen like a hawk.
Use this plan for when someone else is speaking:
Actively listen to the person with both your eyes and your ears. This means looking directly at them. Your body language matters too. Turn towards them or lean towards them. Concentrate on what they are saying. Then acknowledge what the person said to show them you really were listening. Use a simple phrase like “I hear what you are saying,” or “That makes sense.” Finally, add your own thought if you want and move the group along.
Honestly, one of the most important gifts you can give a person is the gift of listening to them. I mean it. People yearn for someone to listen to them. Be the person that gives them that important gift.
Group Leader Tip #6
Make folks aware of your attentiveness to finishing the study on time. It is super easy and it makes people feel comfortable. Try these simple phrases.
- At the start – “We will be done in 45 minutes at 8:00 tonight.”
- In the middle – “We gotta keep moving.”
- Near the end – “We have 6 minutes to wrap this up. We can do it!”
- Afterwards – “We ran our typical 2 minutes over.”
All of the above shows people you really care about finishing on time. Trust me, they will appreciate it!
Group Leader Tip #7
When a new person visits your group, learn their first name immediately.
Here’s how. When you meet the person, say their first name out loud once, and in your head 5 times quickly. Then during the gathering, use their name every chance you get. Like, “That’s an important observation, Megan,” or “What do you think, Megan?”, or “Hey everybody, this is Megan from New Jersey.”
When you use the person’s name, you will naturally remember it. And they will really appreciate the care you’ve shown to learn their name.
It’s a little thing. But it’s a big thing. And your small group will follow your lead and integrate Megan faster.
Group Leader Tip #8
Don’t let one person dominate the group.
This is easier said than done. Almost every small group has one person who seems to take up way more than their fair share of the discussion.
As the leader, for sheer balance, you need to control that dominant person using all the diplomacy and creativity you can summon.
Our Bible study lessons work to your advantage by showing an outline of what will be covered in 45 minutes. Folks can see that each lesson has some finite parameters, and yes, a goal line! They sense that there isn’t time for open ended rabbit trails. Dominant type folks tend to become team players under these circumstances.
Group leaders constantly tell us that our little books really do somehow magically help control that particular person who would prefer that the lesson revolve totally around himself or herself.
Group Leader Tip #9
Always bat clean-up!
When you throw out a question, never give your answer first.
Let one or two people go first. Then, when you feel the time is right, give your view, or example, or opinion in a wrapping up sort of way.
There are many reasons why this works best. Just trust me on this one. Don’t be the lead-off hitter. Bat clean-up!
Group Leader Tip #10
As time winds down, have a short exit strategy that revolves around quickly restating the main point of the study. It will wrap the study up nicely and feel good and final.
Group Leader Tip #11
Always promote the next study coming up!
This is super simple. At the very end, say something enthusiastically like: “The next study looks very interesting. It does Psalm 23 backwards!”
Just a little teaser to give people one more reason to come back the following week.
If you don’t promote next week, who will?