Note: This article is excerpted from Are We Building Accountability?
Small-group leaders often believe they have to possess the gift of teaching in order to produce a great lesson. This is far from accurate. The reality is that biblical truth is more caught than taught. The group leader's role is not to be the teacher. Rather, the leader is to be a guide. The leader should facilitate discussion, helping people discover biblical truth for themselves.
Ask Application Questions
Asking icebreaker and observation questions is easy. However, making the transition to interpretation and application questions is more difficult. I have been part of small groups where the leader launched the lesson well, followed the discussion plan, but ended just before the group got to discuss application because they ran out of time. Due to this experience, I always tell leaders never to skip over application questions. The leader needs to plan the lesson so that there is always time to ask application questions, even if adjustments need to be made during the lesson itself. Without application questions, group members may leave with some new information filling their heads but without any practical ways of applying that information to real life.
Don't Forget to Follow Up
It's tempting for small-group leaders to focus solely on each week's lesson and not go back to review what was discussed the session before—it can seem like "one more thing to do." But when a leader follows up with group members and asks how they have applied information from previous discussions, that leader is keeping the group accountable to what was taught and learned. And over time, that makes a huge difference in spiritual growth and life-change.
Application that sticks doesn't happen in just one meeting. Real change will only happen over time. This practice doesn't have to take much time on a week-to-week basis, though. It can take as little as two or three minutes to ask a few follow-up queries. But the group quickly learns they need to do the application steps during the week, because they know they will be held accountable to those steps at the next meeting. This is a simple practice, but one that provides both accountability and continuity.
Use the following scale to rate each statement.
At each meeting, we discuss possible application points from the discussion.
At each meeting, I allow plenty of time for group members to consider possible personal application.
At each meeting, group members share specifically how they will apply what they've learned.
Group members' personal application is concrete, measurable, realistic, and for a specific time frame.
At each meeting, we pray that God will allow us to apply what we've learned.
At each meeting, we take time to follow up on the application steps from the previous meeting.
—Mark Ingmire is the Small Groups and Adult Education Pastor at Savannah Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia; copyright 2011 by Christianity Today.