The best Bible study groups are ones in which people experience spiritual transformation, and spiritual transformation is made possible when people have the freedom and privilege of talking and discussing during the Bible study.
If your Bible study group needs some help jump-starting conversations, here are three ways that you as the group leader can encourage them to speak up:
- Sit among your people. If you are accustomed to standing when you teach, learn to sit down. Standing over your group members keeps you in a position of authority. If you want them to talk, simply join them in sitting and become their equal. Keep a chair by your teaching podium, or better yet, lose the podium and sit in a circle with your group members. Sitting with your people says that you are one of them, and that will encourage them to respond more freely to the questions you ask.
- Ask open-ended questions. Not all questions are created equal. Questions that are made up on the spot tend to be bad questions. As you prepare your teaching procedures, pay attention to the development of discussion questions and give plenty of time to their creation. Open-ended questions won’t have a right answer, necessarily. A question like, “What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received?” gives plenty of room for people to share their stories and respond without fear of responding with a wrong answer. A closed question has only one right answer, and when people aren’t sure of the answer, they won’t respond even with a good guess. No one likes to be wrong. Closed questions are like one-way streets, and open-ended questions are like major intersections that provide many routes a person might take.
- Don’t act like a question is an interruption. If you send subtle messages you are annoyed or displeased when people ask questions, discussion will stop (I once knew a teacher who would not allow the people in his group to pose questions because he had so much content to deliver each week). Learn to view questions as opportunities to sharpen people’s understanding of the biblical text. Encourage people to ask questions by affirming them. “You raise a good point,” or “Thanks for helping us think about that differently” can inspire your people to continue vocalizing their questions. “That’s a great insight” is another way to affirm a person for asking a thoughtful question. Always find something to affirm when a person risks answering a question. Never sigh, never ignore a question, and never give the person a funny look – watch those facial expressions carefully!
Asking good questions draws people into the Bible study. Asking great questions encourages discussion and spiritual transformation.