Archive for the ‘Sunday School’ category

Essential Practices for the Small Group Leader #4: Take Charge

January 20, 2009

“I have the airplane.”

With those words, a pilot or co-pilot acknowledge they have primary control over an airliner. It is an acceptance of responsibility and an announcement to the rest of the crew that they are guiding the plane’s flight to its destination until they relinquish the controls back to another qualified aviator. Others on the flight crew continue on with their responsibilities, but the primary responsibility of guiding the plane and passengers to a safe landing is now in the hands of the one who “has the airplane.”

In a similar way, a Bible study leader must take control of the class during the appointed time of meeting. That’s not to say that the leader has to be abrasive or bossy – far from it! But it is the responsibility of the leader to utilize the class time wisely and guide the class through the lesson and discussion to a satisfactory conclusion. Here are the key areas where the Bible study leader must take charge:

Time management
Most small-group Bible studies have a set time to begin and end. If the group is scheduled to meet as part of a church’s Sunday morning schedule, these times do not allow much flexibility (unless you wish to be habitually late to the worship service!) The leader sets the tone by beginning on time. This may be after a time of fellowship or prayer or announcements, etc. but the leader must anticipate the time needed to complete the presentation of the Bible study. It may require some editing of content but the leader needs to satisfactorily conclude the lesson (with relevant application) within the allotted time-frame. I know, I know – not everyone in your group shows up on-time. That’s no reason to penalize those who do arrive on-time! If you get things rolling at the appointed time, those who tend to run late might be motivated to arrive earlier.

Give teaching your best effort
Josh Hunt puts it this way, “If you teach a half-way decent Bible study lesson on a consistent basis, people will come.” Howard Hendricks put it in a more blunt manner, “Whatever you do, don’t bore people with the Word of God!” Your presentation is based largely on the preparation you put in during the week. My professor of preaching in seminary said, “The more sweat you put into preparation during the week means the less sweat you’ll experience on Sunday morning!” Very few of us are “expert” teachers. The good news is that is not a requirement to be an effective Bible study leader. We’re all fellow learners when we come to God’s Word.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Guiding the discussion
Like an airplane pilot who guides his airplane from point A to point B, the Bible study leader must also have a place of beginning (the introduction), the time of transit (the body of the lesson with discussion), and the safe landing at the point of destination (application and conclusion). All too many Bible study leaders do very well with the first two parts, only to find themselves “circling the field, looking for a place to land” as time runs out.

It takes wisdom and discernment to guide a Bible study lesson. It’s important to discern between questions or comments that add to the lesson or address a need as opposed to comments that serve only to distract from the point of the study. The wise leader will allow for meaningful discussion while graciously acknowledging but deflecting the chronic rabbit-chasers (who sometimes talk because they enjoy the sound of their own voice). It’s a delicate balance, but important for the good of all the participants. Some deeper questions may need to be addressed privately, when more time is available.

Delegation of duties
Just as an airliner has crew members to assist the pilot (flight engineer, co-pilot, flight attendants, etc.), the wise small-group leader should delegate some tasks to others in the group. Job-one for the leader during the appointed meeting time is teaching the Bible study lesson. When that leader also has to make the coffee, greet and register guests, share pertinent announcements, and field prayer requests, the leader may find that he or she is distracted and even fatigued before ever beginning the lesson. It’s better to delegate these other responsibilities to others in the group. This takes much of the burden off the Bible study leader and has the added bonus of involving others. As a rule, involvement = “buy-in.” People who have a specific task feel a sense of responsibility and greater connection with a group. It’s also a great way to develop leaders and discover those who might become Bible study leaders in the future. The main advantage for the small-group leader is that it allows them to focus on the task of teaching.

To summarize . . .
. . . the Bible study leader is the one who sets the tone for the group meeting time. If the leader doesn’t take charge, someone else will – probably in a way that won’t facilitate learning by the group members! The leader can take charge in a kind, friendly, even humorous manner – but he or she MUST take the lead or the group faces the real possibility of losing its way. When that happens, people may become frustrated and discouraged and give up on the group entirely.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Phillipians 4:13 (NIV)