The key to leading a good small group discussion

As a youth worker, I've attended and led my fair share of small group Bible studies. Some have been really good and others have simply tanked.  More often than not, the ones that have tanked are the ones in which the leader fails to ask good questions.

For example, I once found myself in an adult Bible study where, for the first half of the study, the leader didn't ask a single question. People talked but the conversation was scattered, essentially changing subjects every time someone different talked.

Such conversations are really hard for people to participate in and probably even more so for me since I'm extremely introverted. As a result, I said nothing.

The leader eventually noticed this. (And seriously, props to her for noticing!) Once she did, she tried to engage me in the conversation by asking, “Jen?”

Unfortunately, I had nothing to add. So I said as much.  “I've got nothing.”

This unwanted attention in a moment when I had nothing to contribute left me feeling extremely uncomfortable, making it difficult for me to participate in the remainder of the conversation.

I left the Bible study with a bad taste in my mouth.

Now, if I, as a 30-something adult felt this way as a result of a Bible study, how much more uncomfortable do our junior high and high school teens feel when we put them in that same position in our small group discussions?

That's why the quality of our questions is so important in small groups – especially ones for junior high and high school students.

By encouraging reflection and input on a particular topic, good questions invite people – even introverts – to participate in the conversation. They make it far easier for different types of people to contribute than simply letting the conversation run amuck.

So, if you want to lead a good Bible study or small group discussion do this one thing: Ask good questions.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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