If you’ve ever heard that sound in your Bible study group, then you’ll want to know more about how to get your group members to talk. Encouraging people to speak up is both an art and a science. Talking during a Bible study is not a waste of time, as some teachers might believe. Talking actually helps group members process the concepts they are learning. Ed Stetzer, in the book Transformational Groups, said “A small group or class Bible study should be a ‘groupalogue’…Your effectiveness goes up incredibly as does learning when everyone is talking…” (p.24).
Here are three ways to encourage your people speak up:
- Use a Bible study curriculum that has great discussion questions – Crafting great discussion questions takes time and experience. Expertise is required. Most Bible study leaders have difficulty creating questions that generate conversation. I know of several people online who offer help by providing questions they’ve generated, but when you examine the questions they’ve created, you quickly realize they don’t know what they’re doing. Just because a person can write a question and put the appropriate punctuation at the end of it doesn’t mean it’s a good question. Sam O’ Neal, in his book Field Guide For Small Group Leaders, wrote about several kinds of poor questions he frequently sees people write. Some of those questions include:
- Idiot questions – the answer is so obvious, people won’t answer.
- Leading the witness questions – the group leader wants you to give him a specific answer.
- Long-winded questions – these are just too wordy.
- Compound questions – composed of multiple questions asked at the same time, group members tend to answer the last question asked, not the first or middle questions.
- Don’t ask a question on the fly – One of the worst ways to ask a question is to make one up on the spot and blurt it out. Great questions require time to think. If you make up a question in the heat of the moment, chances are it’s going to be a poor question. It would be better to write out your questions in advance, review them, alter them if needed, then present them during the group’s Bible study.
- Wait for your group members to answer a question – In the book Basics of Teaching for Christians, author Robert Pazmino presents research that informs us of a basic truth: if you want people to talk, you must wait at least 20 seconds for them to respond. That means you, the teacher, cannot answer your own questions when no one else does initially. For more on this, click here to see an earlier blog post where I more fully presented this subject.
Remember this admonition: The Yakety-Yak Principle states that people learn better when they discuss what they are learning (Teaching the Bible Creatively, p.61). Ask questions. Wait for answers. This will change your group!
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