18 March

5 Studies from Jennie Allen

Jennie is the founder and visionary of IF:Gathering as well as the bestselling author of Get Out of Your Head, Made for This, Anything, and Nothing to Prove. A frequent speaker at national events and conferences, she is a passionate leader, following God’s call on her life to catalyze a generation to live what they believe. Jennie earned a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Zac, have four children.

Here are 5 studies from Jennie:

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12 February

5 Tips to Dealing with Difficult Small Group Members by Margaret Feinberg

Now maybe like me, you’ve been part of a small group where one or two people make it, ahem, challenging to stay focused on the Scripture and spiritual growth. 

Maybe you’ve got a talker who takes so long to tell a story there’s no time for anyone else. Or maybe you’ve got a member that pipes up with the “right answer’ so quickly that there’s no space for anyone else to wrestling through the question. Or maybe you’ve got a member that never says a word.

What do you do? 

Of course, you love them, respond in gentleness, redirect with humor (when appropriate), and celebrate that they’re made in God’s image.  

But what else? 

Continue reading “5 Tips to Dealing with Difficult Small Group Members by Margaret Feinberg”
07 November

How to Choose a Small Group Bible Study by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

If you have tried to find small group materials online, you have probably noticed that there is no shortage of materials. How do you wade into the sea of information to choose the topic and materials for your group?

1. Choosing Your Topic

People’s needs come first not only in determining your group’s purpose and design, but also in choosing your topic.

People come first. When choosing the topic, look first at people’s needs for growth. What do they struggle with, desire, or have interest in? People give up other things to make room for the groups they sign up for. Ask your pastor(s) about the needs they sense. Get feedback from members themselves. Talking with members new to small groups will help you understand their needs, while experience may give you perspective on what can help meet those needs.

Topics change as people change. You are not locked forever into a topic. If the attachments are good and people are getting something out of the group, the topics may change as lives change. My group has studied several different topics, depending on what was going on in our lives — relating to God, reading classic Christian mystics, marriage principles, and so forth. We have also had topic-less seasons in which we just wanted to be in each other’s presence and open up our lives to each other.

You will also want to figure out how long to stay on a topic. Some studies last four to six weeks, which is probably a minimum for effectiveness. Some, like Believe or The Story, go on for months. Make sure everyone is on the same page in this regard, because some people like to try lots of things to find out where they should land, while others are ready to commit to an in-depth, long-term study.

Broader may be better. The broader the topic, the more room people must delve into other aspects of their lives and integrate them into the group meeting. For example, topics on spiritual and personal growth would tend to invite anything a person deals with, more than parenting topics would. If, however, the specific topic is where the need is, defer to that.

Your relationship to the content. Determine whether the topic is a good fit for you and where you are as a leader. Has the topic touched your life, and have you seen God’s grace change you in that area? Is it still a new and raw topic, one you may not yet be ready to facilitate? Is it one you just can’t feel any interest or passion about? The best fits are those the facilitator has enough experience with to have gained some wisdom and victory in the process.

2. Selecting Materials

The following seven guidelines will help you select appropriate material to meet your group’s needs.

Biblical and sane. Technically, these terms are redundant because God is the author of sanity. However, just because study materials include Bible verses does not mean they are conveying God’s meaning. Cults have been built on the strategy of using Scripture the wrong way. So check out the materials yourself and have experienced people look them over, too.

Recommended. Find people who have successfully led groups for a long time and ask them about materials. Their experiences will have taught them a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

Created by those in the know. Look at the credentials of the publisher and authors of the materials. If the study guides involve process and group interaction, what is their training in group dynamics? If it is biblical content, are they qualified in their training and experience? Some people may not have much formal training, but the school of experience and a good track record have qualified them. Others may have both.

Has substance. It is important that the material go beyond the obvious solution of “do what you’re supposed to do.” Good and growing groups do more than just read the Ten Commandments and stop. Choose substantive study guides that deal with the underlying causes, motives, injuries, values, misunderstandings, sins, failures, and weaknesses that impede growth. Look for materials that offer real hope and solutions.

Treats members as adults. Make sure the study materials take positions where the Bible takes positions—as on divorce or ethics—yet leave the same room and freedom that the Bible leaves for people to make choices. For example, you may choose several ways of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to your teen: tone of voice, environment and setting, the topics you bring up. Avoid materials that instruct you to use their exact words or rigid rules to convey something to your kid.

Practical. Concepts and principles need to be easily translated into application. Many study materials have homework or thought questions. These help to put flesh on the skeleton ideas being taught.

Fitting for the group nature. The type of people in your group may help you decide on materials. Often, if a group settles into itself over time, the members will want to venture out beyond formal group study guides. They may want to go over a topic or book they like and will undertake creating the study structure themselves. This great exercise in ownership can really motivate group members. Pray and keep an open mind as you search out topics and materials. It is an exciting part of the process.


Leading a small group Bible study is important to people’s spiritual growth but doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Choosing a study can be made simpler with the above tips.

The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi Bible Study Guide plus Streaming Video: Come to the Land Where It All Began

A great Bible study to consider for your group, whether it is a new group or a more established one, is The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi Jason Sobel. In this six-session video Bible study (now with video streaming code included!), join Kathie Lee as she visits sites in Israel that have impacted her faith and understanding of Scripture. As she shares her story, Rabbi Jason—a messianic Jewish rabbi—provides fascinating background details that make the story of the New Testament come alive.

As Kathie Lee and Rabbi Jason reveal in this study, Jesus (the Rock) came into this world and walked the lands of Israel (the Road) to show us the way to God. And when we are introduced to the mysteries of God’s Word (the Rabbi) and understand it in the context in which it was written, radical transformation begins to renew our hearts and minds.

Learn more about The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi here.

05 September

5 Tips for Leading Small Groups by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

To be a good facilitator you need to do things that are in themselves very simple but take time to learn. It is a big temptation for a leader just to start teaching or explaining, and sometimes that is a good thing to do. But if the group is merely a school class, not much bonding and healing will occur. Be aware that some of the best things in life are learned on a walk as much as in reading a book. You can hear a lecture on trees, or you can go experience them. Life is about both. You can read about divorce recovery, or you can experience recovery. The process group leader helps the members do both.

1. Notice and Share What You Observe

Notice what is going on in the group, and from time-to-time share what you see. Very simple, very powerful. Here are examples of how these observations may work in your group:

  • “I notice that we have drifted away from the sadness. What happened?”
  • “I notice that it seems a little sluggish in here tonight. Why do you think that is?”
  • “It seems like we were really connecting, and things changed. Why is that?”
  • You might aim a well-timed, helpful process statement to an individual. “Joe, I notice that when you talked about that, you seemed to really be feeling some things. Can you tell us what they are?”
  • Notice when the group is stuck and address the situation. “It feels dead in here for the past few weeks. Does anyone else notice that?” If you do not address it, people might drop out. If you address it, the group may reinvent itself.

2. Be the Guardian of the Process

Do something about people who interrupt, dominate, or keep process from occurring. Different levels of intervention may be appropriate, depending on the particulars, but do something! You cannot allow a person to kill the group process. If the group is not oriented toward going deep on feedback, just interrupt the interrupter or over-spiritualizer. Say, “Hold on, Joe. I want to hear more from Susie.” The group will feel protected by you. Joe will get the message, and the process will be saved.

3. Hold Members to Their Covenant

In a deeper group orientation, where members have covenanted to receive feedback, the process goes a step farther. After the initial exchange, suggested above, say to Joe, “Joe, I notice that when people talk about feelings, you often interrupt and give a Bible verse. Are you aware that you do that?” Then, if the group operates on an even deeper level, you might say, “What do some of you experience when Joe does that?” Deepest of all, when Joe interrupts, say, “Did anyone just notice what happened?” Then the group will guard the process and help Joe.

Remember, what is a suitable intervention level depends on what the group has agreed to do with each other and depends on the facilitator’s skill level. It’s up to you as facilitator to make sure these structures remain intact. Otherwise, deep process statements can turn into chaos or discord. No matter what intervention level you need in order to guard the process, guard it. Even if it just means interrupting the interrupter and saying, “Hold on. Susie was talking.”

4. Ask Open-ended Questions

Remember that process orientation does not have to be deep or threatening. To process is to experience and to do things that further the experience. Asking open-ended questions often furthers the process:

  • “What are some of your responses to the passage we just read?”
  • “What is going on with some of you this week?”
  • “Can you tell us more about that?”
  • “Does anyone have anything they would like to share or to add?”
  • “What does this bring up for you?”
  • “Where do you have difficulty applying what we just read or talked about?”

Avoid questions that do not further discovery or process, such as questions with yes or no or factual answers. Process is not a geometry class where there is a right answer. It is a walk in the park. “What stands out for you?” and “What do you see?” are questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer.

5. Ask for Group Feedback

Ask the members from time to time how they think the process is going. “What is getting us there? What is keeping us from there?” Even more powerful at times is to see whether they can notice and describe the process. “How would some of you describe what we have been doing, what the process is? What has that been like? How would you want it to be different?” Certainly, teaching and information are important to your group purpose and to life. But it’s just as important to experience that truth, particularly in relational contexts like a group. Your job as a facilitator is not to “be the experience,” but to facilitate it. You are the shepherd of the experience. Then the group will take on a life of its own, growing in richer ways than it ever could simply through lectures.


Leading a small group Bible study is important to people’s spiritual growth but doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Following the above tips will help your group take the next step in your journey of faith.

Most studies from HarperChristian Resources include a Leader’s Guide in the back of the study guide. These guides provide help as you prepare for each session, assistance in structuring your discussion time, and further guide you to understand different group dynamics.

A great Bible study to consider for your group, whether it is a new group or a more established one, is Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. In the six-session of this study, Brant teaches that giving up our right to be offended is one of the most freeing, healthy, relaxing, refreshing, stress-relieving, and encouraging things we can do. It allows us to recognize that people are broken and stop being scandalized by their actions. It enables us to accept people and stop judging them. It creates a way for us to not just love others but to actually like them.

Learn more about Unoffendable here.