How Do I Lead a Women’s Small Group? (5 Strategies)
Have you been there? While there is no right way to lead a women’s small group or bible study, since they each have their own set of dynamics and needs, there are some simple strategies that can greatly help! Over the years of leading various groups in the church I have come up with 5 strategies that have helped me facilitate them in a way that leads to greater vulnerability with each other and the Lord.
While I could write an entirely separate list of things to prepare your heart and mind to lead, this article’s focus is the basics of women’s small group leading 101.
Strategy #1: Star Questions
Before I even arrive at bible study I have already put my first group leading strategy, the Star Questions, in place. As I am preparing my lesson I decide what questions I will ask during group time. If the bible study I am using already has a set of questions, I write a star by 50-70% of the questions that get to the main theme and heart of that week’s lesson.
So often it is hard to get to all the questions. But if I know which ones draw out the point of the text before-hand, then I am not scrambling during group time to decide which question to ask next. If there are no questions provided in the study I am doing, I write out at least 5 questions that I feel would help the group get to the heart of the study.
Strategy #2: Highs and Lows
No matter what type of small group you are leading, in a church context the need for people to feel connected and known is crucial to build safety with each other and the Lord. I know sometimes it can feel hard to know how to get a group to do that in a way that doesn’t feel awkward.
One way that I have found extremely effective is called “Highs and Lows”. This strategy is used in the first 15 minutes of group time where each person sitting in the group circle shares one high and one low from their week. They can be as surface or as deep as they want. All participants must limit the length of their sharing to about 3 minutes so that everyone gets a chance to share and it does not take up too much precious study time. But this practice greatly changes how study time tends to go!
I have been amazed over the years how this has built a great depth and closeness in a group. People often become more honest and vulnerable, allowing others in to help them carry their everyday stuff as well as major suffering. Often during this time there can be laughter, tears, and lots of “I can relate” comments. This depth of vulnerability leads to greater openness and honesty before the Lord as we transition to study the text.
Strategy #3: 2-3
The 2-3 strategy is one I rarely see group leaders do, but can greatly increase the sharing that happens in a group as well as keep a group from shutting down. Often in these groups we are not only leading, but are also members or participants that are learning right along with other group members about the topic or text. This is a hard tension because we often want to share and contribute to the group while juggling the role of leader.
The 2-3 strategy helps me do both. I ask a question and then wait for 2-3 members to answer it before I share my answer. That way I don’t ask and answer the question right away and leave the rest of the group sitting there silent and not engaging. Often when group leaders do not do this, they end up answering the question and talking for an extended time with no one to get them back on track. I have watched countless groups shutdown as the group leader goes on and on, giving their answer but not stopping to ask the other group members their thoughts.
With the 2-3 strategy in place, it immediately changes this dynamic.
Strategy #4: Loud and Quiet People
Every group has them. The people who never say a word and can sit through bible study or small group week after week and not talk. At all. Then there are those who talk every week, a lot, and can sometimes take up most of the group discussion time. Both are important group members. Here is what I do to help bring balance to the group.
I love talkative people; I am sure it is because I am one. But for the group leader, I know this can be a stressful dynamic. These people usually learn by verbally processing and find the group setting a helpful place to do that. While these people often have wonderful things to say, their lengthy sharing leaves the rest of the group silent and not participating, resulting in others checking out. It is our job as the group leaders to help balance this out.
When this happens, I usually find a way to gently interrupt the talkative person on their second comment and briefly summarize what they said. Then I say, “Did anyone else have this same thought as Susan? If so why?”. If the member is really dominating I will kindly interrupt, summarize, and then directly ask someone across the room from the talkative person if they had that same shared thought. This usually shifts the intensity, helps the other side of the room get in on the conversation, and helps the loud person pause and listen.
For every loud group member with wonderful insight, there are usually a few quiet group members that have great thoughts, but will sit silently for the whole meeting. There are a range of reasons for this. They might be more introverted, or internal processors, or just like to listen. Regardless of the reason, when possible I intentionally call on every group member every time we meet.
I will just ask them directly, “So Becky, what did you think of this question?”. I often find they have thoughts and will share them right away. If they look like a deer in headlights, I give them a minute and then say, “You don’t have to share if you would rather not.” The majority of the time they do. Or they will then say, “I don’t have any thoughts on this one, but I do on the other question.” Either way using this Loud and Quiet People strategy helps engage the whole group by keeping it more balanced.
Strategy #5: Silence
Silence… wait for it. We often hate the quiet and want to rush through it because it can feel so awkward. People start to shift in their seats or stare a hole in the ground. But if we wait, it gives people a second to get their thoughts together and engage. So often people need a few minutes to think internally about the questions. When we are quick to fill the silence we can miss that, which in the end can actually lead to more group members disengaging.
Over these years, in various types of groups I have found these strategies helpful for me. However there is no one size fits all strategy when it comes to group leading. As a group leader it would be important for you to try these strategies and see which ones really fit for your people.
Praying for Your Women’s Small Group
Since the focus of this article was about the basics of group leading, we didn’t even touch on the important role that prayer and the Holy Spirit plays each and every time you meet. Prayer during prep time, group time, and for individual members is the “boat” that carries these groups to where the Lord wants them to go. We have to rest in that, not in strategies. We must pray all along that He will use our feeble attempts and strategies to ultimately bring glory to Himself through us, His church.
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