Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Set the Tone with Music

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Set the Tone with Music

Back in my single days, I taught a single adult Bible study class made up of men and women of all ages that enjoyed digging into and discussing Scripture with me every week. I learned a lot about leading a small group Bible study and shared some of what I learned via a blog I created dedicated to the subject. This post is a refresh of a post that appeared on that blog.

Imagine that you’re visiting a small group for the first time.  On your way to what you hope will be the group of your dreams, you pass a small group in another room which is alive with music, chattering, and smiling faces.  But once you reach your destination, you find stillness and soft voices.

Wouldn’t you want to go back to the first room?

As teachers, we want our classes to be places where people feel free to talk and share.  But first we must create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

To create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, you can:

A good first step in creating an atmosphere in which people want to linger is some good upbeat music.  Something that brings a smile to your face, a bounce to your step, and a feeling of “Hey, y’all!”  (Or “Hey, you guys!” for northerners.)

It can be as simple as doing one of the following:

  • Use a CD player.  Keep an inexpensive CD player with your small group gear, along with a collection of CD’s or you’ll end up listening to the same CD for a year.  Trust me – I  KNOW. You can work with the music that you already have by burning CD’s or grabbing some from your stash.
  • Bring a radio to class and tune in to a Christian station.  This will work only if you get good reception in the room in which your group meets. And that’s not a given (the room my class met in did not get good reception at all), so test it out first.
  • Create a small group playlist for your smartphone/tablet.  Keep a portable speaker system with your small group gear. If you’re using your phone, be sure to put it in airplane mode first so that the music isn’t interrupted by a phone call…and so that you won’t forget and answer the phone while it’s on speaker. (Can we say awkward?) Or you could use an old phone that doesn’t have service activated for playing music.

Think about whether or not small group members will need to reach you before choosing to use your phone for playing music.

And a note about volume: the music should be loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough for people to carry on a conversation. Think “fun and casual,” not “everybody dance now!”

To get you started with your small group playlist, here are a few good options:

  • Forever Reign – Hillsong
  • Running – Whiling
  • Gold – Britt Nicole
  • Good Morning – Mandisa
  • I Need a Miracle – Third Day
  • God’s Not Dead – Newsboys
  • Give Me Your Eyes – Brandon Heath
  • Made to Love – tobyMac
  • Friend of God – Israel & New Breed

Now it’s your turn – what would you add to your small group playlist?

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: How to Title Bible Study Lessons

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: How to Title Bible Study Lessons

Back in my single days, I taught a single adult Bible study class made up of men and women of all ages that enjoyed digging into and discussing Scripture with me every week. I learned a lot about leading a small group Bible study and shared some of what I learned via a blog I created dedicated to the subject. This post is a refresh of a post that appeared on that blog.

I’m not a witty person.  I’m amazed by people that say the right thing at the right time, spur of the moment. And by people that have a quick comeback. Why can’t I be that person, instead of the person that sits with a dumb smile on her face when a quick comeback is deserved by the other party?

But let’s not get side-tracked by my lack of social skills. What I’m trying to convey here is that my lack of wit became a handicap as I tried to come up with clever titles for my Bible study lessons each week.  I would wrack my brain to come up with something cute and funny that would grab the attention of the group members. I usually wasn’t successful.

One day I had an epiphany.  I noticed that a popular speaker gave simple names to many of her messages.  The names conveyed exactly the topic of the message.  Nothing clever.  Just on target.

That I can do!  I decided to name my lessons with one word or a simple phrase that summarized the major points of the lesson.

Simple titles had three benefits:

  • Simple lesson titles made me a better teacher. A simple lesson title taught me to focus on one main topic that I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to cover in that particular passage of Scripture.  Lesson preparation became much more focused as this forced me to cover only major points that supported that topic.
  • Class members had a topic to focus on.  They left each class with one word or phrase ringing in their ears that summarized most of what we discussed.  We won’t remember every word that was spoken during a lesson, but we can remember a simple phrase that helps us recall some of the major points.
  • My angst over lesson titles disappeared. And I wasted less time.

A good example is worth a thousand words, so I’ll share with you five titles that I used as I taught through the gospel of Matthew:

How do you come up with lesson titles?

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: 5 Ways to Keep Their Attention

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: 5 Ways to Keep Their Attention

I planned blog posts for the next couple of weeks in church on Sunday. I know, I know, I should have been paying attention. And I was trying, because it was a pretty good sermon. But I’m chronically tired, thanks to a 15-month-old that has started waking up at night. A lot. And sitting in the half dark, listening to a sermon is like hearing white noise. And hearing white noise gets my mind working. Before I knew it I was jotting down notes about blog posts.

Drifting off is easy to do when someone is talking and they don’t expect any interaction from you. So let’s keep that to a minimum in our small group studies. We do that by getting group members involved.

The following are five ways to get group members involved in the lesson:

  1. Create a fill-in-the-blank handout. I used to do this for every lesson. They kept us all on-track during the lesson, and waiting for the answers to the blanks kept everyone a bit more attentive.
  2. Limit the lecture time and present questions for discussion. The discussions were what I looked forward to each week. I never asked a right or wrong question (like, “Who built the ark?”) since people are afraid to answer those and they don’t promote discussion. I’d ask questions like, “Can you think of an example to illustrate the last becoming first?” or “What goes through your mind when you read about God asking Abraham to present his son Isaac as a sacrifice?” The Holy Spirit does glorious things when believers get together to discuss Scripture.
  3. Get other senses involved besides their hearing. Show a replica of an artifact, have them draw a picture, even use molding clay! I once got Play-Doh for everyone in class so that they could press their fingers in it and see their fingerprints (to illustrate the impact Christ has on us).
  4. Split the group up into smaller groups for further discussion. I once paired everyone up with one other person (or two other people) to discuss a question.  I was happily surprised to see that people that wouldn’t open their mouths in the larger group chattered away when discussing with only one or two other people, rather than a roomful. In a group of married couples, two or three couples could make up a smaller group for discussion.
  5. Get everyone involved in Scripture reading. We visited a Sunday school class after the service last Sunday, and the teacher did something interesting. Instead of reading the chapter we were studying himself, he started off at one end of the group and had us take turns reading a verse each. Everyone had their noses in their Bibles, following along so that they would know what verse to read when it was their turn. I thought that was a great idea and filed it away for future use.

Do you have any ideas for getting group members involved in a Bible study lesson?

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Greet People at the Door

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Greet People at the Door

Back in my single days, I taught a single adult Bible study class made up of men and women of all ages that enjoyed digging into and discussing Scripture with me every week. I learned a lot about leading a small group Bible study and shared some of what I learned via a blog I created dedicated to the subject. This post is a refresh of a post that appeared on that blog.

Have you ever noticed that if you say hi to someone first, they’ll usually say hi back?  It’s just a matter of making the first move.  And I have to say that I love for people to say hi to me.  It makes me feel like they noticed me and thought that I was significant enough to acknowledge.

We want to make sure that every person that attends our small group Bible studies feels noticed and significant. 

The best way to do this is to designate at least one person as a greeter. It’s nice to think that the entire room will welcome each person that walks in with heartfelt hellos, but the truth is that people get caught up in conversations and don’t want to be pulled away. And that’s ok, because isn’t that part of the reason that we attend small group studies? Designated greeters allow people to focus on catching up while also ensuring that new arrivals get the attention they deserve.

Now let’s look at the details.

Who?
Anyone can be a greeter, as long as they have an attitude to help.  One of the first things that I ever did to help in a Sunday School class was server as a greeter, and I’m not exactly a social butterfly or belle of the ball.  As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed that many groups look for extroverts to serve as greeters, but I think that can be a mistake. As an introvert, I sometimes feel like backing away when welcomed by an overly enthusiastic greeter at the door of a church or small group, so there may be people that appreciate a calm hello from a more introverted greeter.

The bottom line is that, whether introverted or extroverted, anyone can serve as a greeter as long as they have an attitude of helpfulness and are willing to work at doing their best in this very important role.

When?

Greeters should be ready to receive people at least 15 minutes before the official group start time.  It’s important to keep in mind that visitors usually show up early because they’re trying to give themselves enough time to find their way. I once showed up at a Toastmasters meeting (that I was visiting for the first time) around ten minutes before it started, and I was the first person there besides the guy setting up. I felt awkward and in the way, which is the opposite of how we want our guests to feel. We want visitors to feel welcome and as if we were waiting for them.

Where?
This depends on the type of small group. If your small group meets at the church, the greeters should stand outside the classroom door.  This way they see everyone walking down the hallway and can help along those that are a little shy to come in.  I even had a greeter once that noticed visitors wandering the halls looking lost and encouraged them to come join us in class.  Now that’s a good greeter!

Many churches like to have home groups because they feel it’s a more intimate environment than meeting in a church building. And that’s true for established groups. But visitors may feel awkward going to someone’s home for the first time, especially if they don’t know anyone in the group yet. It somehow feels like an invasion of personal space. For that reason, it’s especially important that greeters welcome new attendees to a home-based group and help them feel at home. For that reason, the greeter should remain close enough to the door to hear a knock or to notice people coming in.

How?

  1. Greeters should smile, say hi, and look the person in the eye.  People want to feel like they’ve been seen, especially in church or a Bible study setting.
  2. If your group distributes an announcement sheet or other handout, you may want to give those to the greeter to give out as people enter.
  3. If meeting in a home, greeters should make sure that first-time attendees know where the restroom is and direct them to the refreshments.
  4. Greeters may want to introduce first-time attendees to at least one regular attender that has agreed to make visitors feel welcome.  For this reason, you may want to have two designated greeters so that the door is always manned if one of the greeters steps away.
  5. There may be a few minutes between people showing up, giving the greeters a chance to chat.  It’s great to catch up with someone that we may have not seen all week, but the greeters shouldn’t be so lost in their conversation that they’re not paying attention to people walking in.
  6. Greeters should stay at the door for at least the five minutes after the official start time of the group to welcome late arrivals.  If you structure your group time to give announcements before the lesson, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  7. Although many visitors arrive early, some arrive really late.  So the greeters should be ready to jump up and welcome into the group any really late arrivals, making sure they have the handouts and a place to sit.

The point is to make people feel like they are welcomed and wanted.

Do you have any tips for ways to greet group members?

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Build a List of People to Invite and Call Them

Leading a Small Group Bible Study: Build a List of People to Invite and Call Them

Back in my single days, I taught a Sunday morning single adult Bible study group for about three years. The number of people that attended each Sunday varied – one Sunday I sat knee-to-knee with one attendee, but during the last year I taught the class I had Sundays with close to 20 people (which is too big for a small group, by the way). My responsibilities included building up attendance to the class, as well as preparing lessons and teaching to the best of my ability no matter how many people attended.

While it is true that you should put just as much heart into leading an itty bitty group as you would a large group, your responsibility to grow your group is often easier said than done.

The first thing you’ll need is a list of prospective group members, along with their phone numbers. People to put on your List include:

  • Your friends and acquaintances. These may include life-long friends, playgroup buddies, neighbors, co-workers, people you met at church, that nice lady that a friend introduced you to. Include both believers in Christ and those that don’t yet know Jesus. You never know what work God is doing in a person’s heart.
  • A list of church members and past visitors. If your small group is part of a ministry within your church (like the Women’s Ministry), this shouldn’t be a problem. Try to get as narrow a list as possible. For example, if your study is for single women, try to get a list with only single women. Just don’t let your single guy friends get a hold of it. 😉
  • Referrals from friends and acquaintances. Ask everyone you talk to if they know of anyone that may be interested in joining your group, or at least visiting. If they say yes, get the name and phone number of the person being referred. But ask your friend/acquaintance to get permission for you to call them, and be sure to follow-up. The person being referred will be more likely to come if you get permission to call them yourself and extend an invitation.

Now you have your List. You may be tempted to send out an email blast or to use online social networking tools (like Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, etc.) to extend invitations, but nothing beats true social interaction. Call the people on your List and extend a personal invitation to join your group.

Before calling, be sure to have the following information on hand:

  • The location of your next meeting and simple directions.
  • Child care information, if child care is provided.

Now you’re ready to start making calls!

  1. Pick a time to call the people on your List.  I usually made calls during my lunch hour, but it may be helpful to know a few things:
    • Many seniors are home during the day and would welcome a phone call and conversation.
    • Single professionals will most likely be at work during the day, so the best time to reach them may be in the evening.
    • Mothers with small children may be home during the day, but not have much time to talk. Keep it short and sweet because trying to have a lengthy phone conversation while your kids are screaming in your ear is no fun.
  2. When you’re ready to dial, smile!  The smile will come across in your voice.
  3. Follow a “script” for how you’ll begin the call.  Nothing too salesman-like, but nothing over-familiar either.  Here’s a possible script:  “Hi, my name is Jane Doe and I’m with the XYZ Bible study group.  So-and-so told me that you might be interested in joining us, so I thought I’d call to tell you about our next meeting.  Do you have a minute?”
  4. After introducing yourself and stating the reason for your call, you may get one of the following reactions:
    • Irritation and a hangup.  (Yes, I have had a hangup.) This shouldn’t happen if you received permission to call, but you never know.
    • A polite “No, thank you.”
    • An expression of interest.
  5. Don’t get your feelings hurt if someone hangs up on you or if they’re not interested.  You fulfilled your responsibility by reaching out to them.
  6. If they do express interest, give them details about your group and ask them if they would like to come to the next meeting. And don’t forget to ask them if they know if anyone else that might be interested.
  7. Offer to answer any questions they may have.  If you don’t know the answer, tell them that you’ll get the answer for them.  And then follow-up.
  8. If you feel comfortable in doing so, give them your contact information so that they can call back or email with additional questions.
  9. Keep the tone conversational and friendly. Try not to sound bored, even if it’s the 758th call you’ve made that day.

If the prospective group member agrees to visit your group, great!  But be aware that they may still not come.  Again, don’t get your feelings hurt.  That’s just how it goes sometimes.  For those that do come – be ready to make a new friend!

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