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Leading Effective Discussion

Two misconceptions get in our way in trying to understand who will be effective in leading a small group Bible discussion.  Most of us tend to think those with strong, charismatic personalities will be the most effective discussion leaders.  Actually these types often are the worst leaders, because they tend to dominate discussions.  Others think that a good discussion leader must have an in-depth knowledge of scripture to be effective.  Although we should constantly be getting better equipped with God's Word, the person who is the "scholar" often has the hardest time leading a discussion because others hesitate to share their insights with such a knowledgeable person present.  The group will tend to always look to the answer man.  What then is the key to leading an effective discussion?


No matter how old you happen to be as a Christian, you can be effective in leading a Bible discussion if you learn to ask good questions.  The uniqueness of a LifeGroup discussion is that the group learns from each other.  The key to the group will be the leader's ability to draw people into the discussion.

So, are you shy and timid? GREAT! Then you will probably let others share freely.

Are you definitely not a Bible scholar? SUPER! Then the other group members will feel free to share their insights.

Good questions are the key.

There are three types of questions that lead to effective Bible discussion:

Discovery Questions

Understanding Questions Application Questions Discovery questions answer the question, "What does it say?"  Discovery is simply looking at the scriptures to see what they say.  That sounds simple enough, but it is often the one thing we neglect to do.  The key to discovery is looking at the passage with an open mind. Discovery questions are questions that can be answered directly from the passage.  Remember this, if you ask a question that cannot be answered from the passage the group is studying, it is not a discovery question.  The purpose of the discovery question is to initiate discussion.  They will always be followed by other types of questions. Key words for discovery questions:  Observe; see; discover; impress; what. Examples of Discovery Questions:  What are some of the exhortations Paul makes in these verses? From this passage, what new insights have your seen on prayer?

How is Jesus described in this passage?

What impressed you as you read this passage?

What does this passage say about rejoicing?

Discovery questions launch discussions.

Understanding Questions

Understanding is the second step of Bible study.  Understanding answers the question "What does it mean?" and helps deepen your grasp of the Scripture being studied.

 Understanding questions are the heart and soul of the Bible discussion.  They are based on a previous discovery.  Understanding questions should be stated briefly and clearly.  They should be questions that cannot be answered with "yes" or "no" or a single pat answer.

 Key words for understanding questions are: why; how; feel; think; mean; respond; relate and differ.  Examples and Types of Understanding Questions: Synonym - What are some synonyms for anger that come to mind?

 Definition - In a sentence or two, what do you think peace really means?

 Difference - What do you think is the difference between joy and happiness?

 Similarity - In what ways would you say that praise and thanksgiving are alike?

 Opposites - What do you think is the opposite of faith?

 Relationships - What do you think is the relationship between faith and love?

 Examples - What are some examples of serving that you have seen in every day life?

Why - Why are trials so important?

Explain - How would you explain the change of attitude that Paul had in this passage?

How - How is conflicting counsel of any value to us?

Application Questions

Application is answering the question, "What does God want me to do?"  Since God is concerned with our attitudes and obedience more than He is with our knowledge, application is the key part of Bible discussion.  As one said, "Acquisition (of Bible knowledge) without application is an abomination."  Whenever we come to the Bible our key question must be, "God, what do you want me to apply from this passage?"

Application questions cover the bottom line of a Bible discussion and will almost always come at the close of a study.  They should always require a specific personal response.  Because most of us struggle with applying what we already know, there should generally be only one application question per study.  Remember, to emphasize everything is to emphasize nothing.

Key words in application questions are: can; will; you; do; apply.

Examples of Application Questions:  What can you do to allow the light of Jesus to shine in your life this week?

In what area of your life do you need Jesus to turn "the water into wine?"

From our study, what is God telling you to apply?

What is something about which you have been anxious for which God is telling you to pray? There are certain things that a leader must do in order to be effective.  Here are six "do's" for leading a group discussion. 

1.  Acknowledge all contributions.  Never refuse an answer or put someone down for being "wrong."

2.  Encourage the beginner or shy member by asking direct, simple questions.  Give special encouragement to these persons.  Give everyone a chance, but never force.  Some people love to talk, but others are reticent.

3.  Welcome pauses.  Minutes of silence quite often are followed by deep times of sharing.

4.  Focus on spiritual growth and action, not on just answering questions.

5.  Be flexible.  While staying on the format and within the time schedule are important, don't let form override the moving of the Holy Spirit in your group.

6.  Learn to listen.  Listening to someone is one of the highest compliments that you can pay to them.

Listen attentively.  Use your eyes to look at a person.

Don't glance off because he doesn't seem eager to respond.

Be observant of what people say and use their statements to formulate other questions.  It was said that President Kennedy made you think that he had nothing else to do except ask you questions and listen, with extraordinary concentration to your answer.  You felt that for the time being he had blotted out both the past and the future.

Be prepared to wait for an answer.  Waiting demonstrates your real interest and concern.  Give a person time to think. You may want to re-state the question.  Also be attentive to second thoughts.  Often a person will think of more to say on an issue or be able to clarify his position after he makes his first statement.  It is common for people to think of what they should have said.  If you sense this, be alert enough to come back for more information.  "Do you have any more thoughts on that?" or "Would you like to add anything else?"

©Stan Lubeck www.stanlubeck.com Email