Leaders must lead the charge.
Bible study is most effective when there's a call to action—when we consider how we'll immediately apply what we're learning. Leaders not only ask this of their group members, but also go first by applying Scripture to their own life in practical ways.
When you hand over leadership, you give others a chance to think about practical application in new ways. It's a chance for them to set the example and go first in application.
How to Hand Over the Reins
Even if you're convinced of the benefits of sharing the leadership of your group, you may have questions about how to do that effectively. You don't want to overwhelm your group members, but you also want to give them enough to challenge them.
Set up a consistent rotation.
How often you delegate leadership is totally up to you. But generally, allowing each group member to lead twice a year is a good place to start. This rhythm is uncommon enough to keep it feeling significant, yet regular enough for familiarity and the ability to learn and implement changes along the way.
Teach them how to lead a group.
When you're ready to have someone else lead, it's necessary to show them the ropes. Imagine you're training an employee on how to do a job. Bring out the training you've received: notes from training events, videos you've watched, or books you've read. Then think: What tricks have you picked up along the way? What do you wish someone would have told you when you started leading?
Explain how to ask questions that facilitate discussion as opposed to questions that yield one-word answers. Go over what to do when silence enters the room and how to pick conversation back up. Teach them how to start a meeting and end it. Go over what happens if a discussion gets derailed and how to bring it back. Set up your group members for success by giving them what they need to lead well. If you need help with this, ask your coach or director for tips.
Help them come up with a goal.
Learning how to come up with a goal for the group meeting is really important, so you don't want to do this for them. But it is a good idea to guide them. Let them brainstorm the needs of your group on their own. Get them on the right track by asking exploratory questions: "Where do you see room for growth in our group?" "What topics or studies would our group benefit from the most?" "What questions or activities will spark thought-provoking discussion and life-change?" The more they're thinking pastorally, the more they'll grow. Help them determine the best-suited goals and productive ways to meet them.
Let them lead.
Take the backseat and let them run the show. Be there for guidance and support during the actual small-group meeting, but only jump in if you're truly needed. You've helped them plan. Now it's their moment to take ownership as a leader.
Review the experience.
After the meeting, discuss what went well and what didn't. I like to do this outside the group time but within a week of the meeting. Explore their strengths were and make note things they can work on. Ask them what they plan to do differently next time and what they'd like to continue to do in the future. Encourage them in their growth.
Spark Growth in Your Group Members
Having group members lead is one of the most effective ways to spark spiritual growth. We grow when we open ourselves up to experiences we haven't had before. Leading a group invites us to rely on God as we enter unknown territory. Through the experience, your group members might even be inspired to break off and lead a group of their own—which would be a huge win. The possibilities for growth are endless. All you have to do is give them the chance to thrive. Handing over leadership will jump start growth in your group in profound ways.
—Justin Marr is a small-group leader and blogs at TheSocialHunger.com.