EP 31 – Great Discipleship, Bible Study, and Small Group Leaders.
Below you’ll find the transcript for the bonus episode – from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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Today we’ll be talking about Great Discipleship, Bible Study, and Small Group Leaders.
We’ll look at:
- What makes a great group leader
- How to find great group leaders
- Options for training group leaders
Welcome to the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast. I’m Cyndee Ownbey, your host and women’s ministry mentor. I’m the founder of Women’s Ministry Toolbox and the author of Rethinking Women’s Ministry. The Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast is a podcast for women’s ministry leaders and team members of all stages (from new to seasoned) serving in their local church community. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! In addition to discussing the nuts and bolts of women’s ministry, I’ll be asking seasoned women’s ministry leaders to share their best tips and the lessons they’ve learned. Together we’ll learn to build a flourishing, Christ-focused women’s ministry.
Leading a small group is one of my favorite things!
But before we launch into this discussion, I want to be clear about the role of a discipleship, Bible study, or small group leader. I am speaking specifically about group leaders that are facilitating a group and NOT teaching a Bible study or a lesson. These group leaders are not responsible for the Bible study content. They are responsible for leading their group through the discussion of the content. In most cases, these group leaders will have access to questions or a guide that they can use to facilitate their group time.
Now that we’ve cleared up any possible confusion, here are five things group leaders might be responsible for:
- Guiding the group discussion
- Tracking attendance
- Weekly communication
- Prayer requests
In some churches, small group leaders are encouraged to offer optional fellowship and service activities. But not everything has to fall on the back of the group leader. Group leaders can also ask group members to help with tracking attendance and distributing prayer requests.
Chances are you’ve had a really great group leader and not-so-great group leader. I have too!
What makes a great group leader?
I asked the leaders in the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Facebook group, and here are some of the qualities that made their lists.
- Welcoming – Welcoming leaders make certain every woman feels like she belongs, no matter her experience with the Bible.
- Transparent – Leaders who are transparent admit their mistakes and share from their personal life.
- Let’s the Holy Spirit Lead – This doesn’t mean we go off-topic. It means that we extend the pause when we sense God wants someone to share or follow that prompting to reach out to a group member. It also means encouraging women to spend time with the Holy Spirit as their teacher before looking at commentaries.
- Challenge women to grow. She meets women where they’re at and loves them so much she’s not willing for them to stay there.
- Love’s the Word of God.
- Confident – Able to gain control of the group if needed. This doesn’t mean they’ll know all the answers, but they are willing to find out.
How do we train our leaders to exemplify those same qualities?
For some group leaders, it comes naturally. For most of us, we need someone to teach us how to lead our group well.
While it can be tempting, especially if you have an immediate need for group leaders to ask for volunteers, that’s not what I suggest. Back in episode 11, I talked about building a women’s ministry team. Those same strategies for recruiting group leaders can be applied here.
We are looking for leaders. These women will be shepherding a group of women. We want to make sure every woman we place in the role of group leader has a proven track record of being a godly woman. Not perfect, but a woman who has exhibited wise decision-making and spiritual maturity.
Many churches have in place requirements for group leaders. If you’re not sure or you don’t know, please ask a church staff member. Church membership is usually one requirement that must be met.
When you’re looking for new group leaders, ask your current group leaders for suggestions.
They have likely noticed women in their group that would be great group leaders. They’ve seen them love the other women in their group well. They know who is reliable, who is completing their homework, and who is engaged.
We’re looking for women who may be ready to lead a group next week, but we’re also looking for women who need a little bit of coaching before we let them loose.
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I was involved in Bible Study Fellowship as a small group leader for a couple of years.
The leadership training I received during that time was phenomenal. I was brought in as a new leader for the fall semester during the previous spring session. I trained alongside the current leaders before taking on my own group. We had the opportunity to listen, watch, and learn from seasoned group leaders. I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating. I didn’t realize how big of a commitment it was. Knowing that I would receive ongoing training throughout the year gave me confidence that I could step into the role come fall.
If you’re not familiar with Bible Study Fellowship, the leaders meet one day earlier in the week for training and to work through that week’s lesson together. Some weeks we would role-play – things like handling a group member that might dominate the group discussions. We practiced difficult conversations and shared how things were going in our groups. Working through that week’s lesson was also beneficial – we were aware of any areas that might be sticky, and we had time to share our answers so we could make it about our women’s answers the day our groups met. We also took time to pray for our groups each week.
What are some options for training group leaders?
I’ve got three suggestions for you.
- Like Bible Study Fellowship, you could hold weekly group leader meetings. If you are overseeing a large number of groups, I’d recommend this option if at all possible.
- Create a mentorship program where a seasoned leader trains an incoming leader. This might include a time of co-leading together.
- Create or purchase a training program for new group leaders. You might have an all-day training session at the start of each semester. You could create or purchase a series of video lessons leaders watch. I created my Bible Study Facilitator Training Course to meet this need.
If you’re in a smaller church, you may need to train women one-on-one. In one church where I served, that meant I met with the Bible Study Coordinator. I had a packet of materials to read through. She hit the highlights and answered any questions I had. All new leaders in that church had to co-lead a study first. Even though I have had extensive experience as a small group leader, I had to walk through the process. I admit this was hard. I grumbled and complained, and the Lord used that experience to humble me and teach me another lesson about submission. I was willing to do the work to have the privilege and joy of serving as a group leader.
Today’s Toolbox Tasks:
- Review your process for training group leaders and make any needed adjustments.
- Make a list of potential group leaders.
Training group leaders takes time, but it is absolutely worth it. Your leaders are much more likely to stay on if they feel supported and equipped.
As you fill empty spots, whether it’s from group growth or leaders stepping down, I pray the Lord will give you wisdom and discernment.
You may also want to read:
Selecting Discipleship, Bible Study, or Discipleship Materials
What’s the difference between discipleship, Bible studies, and mentoring?
How To Be a Great Bible Study or Small Group Leader