Small Group Monday: Facilitating a Small Group Discussion

road map

By Brian Daniel

Based on my own personal experience leading groups and learning from other group leaders, we have taken a different approach to the leader’s guide of the short-term releases in the Bible Studies for Life (BSFL) series. Due to teaching styles, levels of experience, and personal preferences, many group leaders prefer study material that is less “prescriptive” and more “narrative.” The short-term leader content attempts to take the best of both.

Prescriptive vs. Narrative

A step-by-step prescriptive approach to leading a group tends to be more mindful of time management, works well for the leader who is more thorough in preparation, and provides a roadmap of sorts for moving the group from point A to point B.

A narrative approach requires less preparation, requires the leader to be responsible for managing time, and provides a compass instead of a map for creating catalytic conversations.

Just like previous releases, the next 6-week studies in the BSFL series— Productive by Ronnie and Nick Floyd and Let Hope In by Pete Wilson— will include leader material in the back of each small-group member book that is more narrative in nature. Like any leader’s guide, these small-group Bible study experiences include some general instructions, an explanation of different aspects of the study, and summaries of the videos.

Session-by-session content for the leader includes the objective of each group meeting, the setting of the biblical text, and an optional activity to use as a follow-up to the Icebreaker. A verse-by-verse commentary is included on the DVD-ROM that is in every Leader Kit.

The most important departure in the short-term leader material is the explanations we provide for each question. Instead of creating an “answer key,” we’ve instead provided explanations that help the group leader

  1. follow the intended progression of the group time
  2. understand the basis for the question
  3. identify the question type
  4. give instruction as to how best guide the discussion.

These explanations are by no means exhaustive and are crafted so that the leader can get a better sense of where the study is designed to go and how to get there. Also helpful are the optional activities for kinetic learners and optional follow-up questions to several of the discussion questions.

The difference between a roadmap and a compass is that the compass doesn’t give you definitive landmarks; rather, it keeps you going in the right direction even if you find yourself “off route.” In my own experience exploring the Colorado wilderness, it is during those times that I find myself “off route” that the journey is most unexpectedly breathtaking. While both prescriptive and narrative approaches to the leader material have elements consistent with maps and compasses, they definitely have their leanings one way or the other. Our hope is that the leader material will cover all the bases, of course, and contribute to a strong group dynamic with discussion that is transformational.

brianBrian Daniel leads the work on the short-term BSFL Bible studies as well as many other short term Bible studies produced by LifeWay. He is a freelance writer, a member of Grace Church in Hendersonville TN, and posts occasionally at and his wife Karen have two daughters: Ashton and Schuyler.

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