Most people think the most important skill and gift for leading a small group are teaching and being able to speak.

I say, nope. I really think two of the most important aspects of small group leadership are learning to ask good and leading questions, and having the spiritual gift of self-control. When we train our leaders, we let them know we want them to teach (yes, teaching is part of it), but we would much rather have them ask a question and then step back and listen.

Students tend to remember things better when they are the ones who discover the answer to the question for themselves. Not when a leader tells them immediately what it is without any discussion.

The goal of small groups is for students to grow, right? We need to have leaders know how to create an environment in which students are not fed facts, but are encouraged to really explore, discuss, and investigate deep truths on their own. From what I have seen, in groups that allow this sort of discussion, more and more people in that group can participate because it is a discussion. More students can have life-transforming insights.

Good leaders ask good questions. There is a huge difference in a group when a leader says, “Nope. That’s wrong, Here is what this really means…” compared to, “Okay, that is an interesting thought, what do the rest of you think?” and then you stop talking and let the students begin to think and process.

If you want to show off to your students about how much you know, I hate to break it you: they don’t care. They care about great discussion and expressing what the Bible says to them. We need to discover what our end goal for groups is. If it’s seeing students grow deeper spiritually, then the art of “shutting up” is key and we really need to evaluate how we run groups:

  • What percentage of the group time is of you/your leaders teaching or talking?
  • How many students know they can open up and talk about how they really feel?
  • How many students feel you actually care?
  • When did someone express something a little controversial?
  • Are they afraid to really express themselves because the leader will immediately jump on them and shut down the conversation with the “right” answer?

Small groups don’t really need talkers. They need good question-askers and listeners. Sometimes a leader needs to NOT answer questions. Who knows? Maybe during the discussions you will learn something that you have been asking God for as well.