To lead a Bible study, you do not need years of training, a seminary degree, or a library full of Bible commentaries. All you need is a Bible, Joy of Living study guides for each of your group members, and the willingness to facilitate discussion. Joy of Living was founded on the idea that each person needs to open the Bible and let God speak to them by His Holy Spirit, applying the Scripture’s message to their life. Remember, your role as a facilitator is not to teach, but to guide discussion and encourage members to share what God has taught them as they have studied his Word and worked through the study questions.
Because your role is to encourage your group to share from their own personal experience in God’s Word, it’s inevitable that some of them will give answers to the study questions that depart from generally-accepted interpretations of Scripture, and are either of questionable merit or are just plain wrong. It’s important in these cases to give guidance to the correct answer without shaming group members. Simply saying, “No, you’re wrong,” discourages open discussion and exploration. It may also make other group members afraid to share their thoughts in the future for fear of embarrassment.
Here are some strategies you can use instead to gently guide your discussion away from incorrect answers and toward God’s truth:
- Ask if anyone else in the group has something they would like to contribute to the answer, providing the group the opportunity to discuss the answer that member has offered and offer other viewpoints.
- If you meet with your leaders weekly to discuss that week’s lesson, you can say “It seemed to be generally thought in the leaders’ meeting that this was the meaning of the Scripture passage…”
- Say, “In the commentary for this passage in the next lesson…” then give a short summary of the answer presented in the commentary.
- Don’t let a compulsive talker take over the class. Say, “Thank you for your contribution. Now (another name), do you have something to add?”
- Avoid spending too much time on “extra” questions that are not in the study. If a class member raises a doctrinal question or any other question that distracts from the lesson, tell them you will discuss it after class or by phone or email later that day.
- If you are asked a question and don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to admit it. Say something like, “That’s a good question. I don’t know, but I’ll do some research and get back to you next week” (or whenever you believe you’ll have obtained the answer). Check with the teacher or your pastor to obtain an answer. Be certain to get back to the person who asked the question.
- Be sure to remain in control of your group and do not let controversial issues dominate the discussion. Just say, “You know there is a difference of opinion here among Christians. Let’s just leave this subject and go on to the next question.”
For even more tips on leading a discussion group or handling difficult questions, you can download our Leadership Training Guide for free or order a printed version. This guide contains step by step guidelines to help you start, administer, and teach a class, as well as lead a discussion group, and can be reproduced for leader training.