I’ve led the Sunday School and small-group ministries at two churches, and today I am a leader of an adult Bible study group at my church. In over 20 years of education ministry leadership, what have I learned about the habits of successful group leaders when it comes to leading group members to study the Bible? In a nutshell, it boils down to doing the “3 E’s” consistently.
E #1: Early – successful group leaders never begin their study efforts within a day or two of the group’s Bible study. As soon as one session is over, the savvy group leader will begin preparing for the next Bible study session. For most group leaders who teach weekly, this gives them almost a week to carefully craft their group’s study. Reading the biblical text in multiple translations, digging deeper to understand key words and phrases, and consulting commentaries, atlases, Bible dictionaries, and other study tools pay big dividends. Too many “Saturday night specials” have given Sunday School and other types of groups a bad reputation. Great curriculum cannot overcome the shallow preparation of a group leader. The leader’s commitment to beginning the preparation process early is a key ingredient for consistent Bible studies that are meaningful, rich, and practical. A commitment to teach is first a commitment to prepare.
E #2: Extra – Experienced group leaders know that unexpected things can happen during a study. These group leaders are always prepared for unforeseen events by having extra things to say, or extra things for the group to discuss or do. Yes, sometimes these extra efforts won’t be needed. But when they are, the group leader can lead his group with confidence, knowing he is ready for almost any contingency. An extra illustration, story, current event tie-in, activity, or complimentary passage that can be searched for additional insights can all be effective in teaching the group members.
E #3: Engaging – Dr. Howard Hendricks once said, “Christian education today is entirely too passive.” I couldn’t agree more. Too many groups have forced adults to sit and listen, rather than to be engaged in active learning. I do not advocate activity for the sake of activity, but research clearly shows that engaged learners learn more and remember more of what they are taught. As a general rule, I follow Dr. Hendricks admonition to “Never tell a learner anything he can discover for himself.” This means that as a teacher, I leave time in my group’s schedule for the members to look up passages, discuss key issues in smaller groups, and to put the pieces together for themselves.