Preparing To Lead
Preparing To Lead
Effective Bible study leadership demands preparation and this can be greatly reduced when using a guide.
How to lead a Lifebuilder Study

When I was growing up, my Dad would sometimes teach Sunday school for a quarter. He would spend most of the day Saturday studying the Bible and commentaries and maps and such. On Sunday morning he was really ready to bring the lesson to life. I remember his careful preparation with respect and even awe.

Effective Bible study leadership demands preparation. But the difference between teaching a class and leading from a guide is that, with questions already provided for you, the time needed to do your best job is greatly reduced when you are using a guide. The preparation time needed to lead a LifeBuilder Bible Study (though this will vary from person to person) is thirty minutes to an hour. This time should be devoted to prayer and Bible study. If you keep to it faithfully, you will be confident and competent every time you lead a study.


In John 15 Jesus gave us this warning: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Of course you can do something. You can carefully prepare and even lead an apparently effective study. But apart from the Lord, it will have no spiritual value. And most likely, lives will not be changed. Of course, God sometimes chooses to work through us despite our sin. But greater investment will bring greater growth. The Lord’s presence with us will transform our efforts from mere activity into life-changing ministry.

Pray for yourself. Ask God to help you to understand the passage and apply it to your own life. Unless this happens, you will not be prepared to lead others. Ask God to help you understand both the passage and the study questions so you will be able to concentrate on helping the group members learn from Scripture. Ask him to fill you anew with his Spirit so you will be free from the self-consciousness that can so easily interfere with the work of God’s Spirit in the group.

Pray for the members of the group. Think of them individually: their strengths, weaknesses, needs, interests and knowledge of Scripture. Pray that God will enable them to discover something of the richness and challenge of the passage. Let Paul’s prayer be your model: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you will be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:9–10).

Bible Study

Having immersed yourself and the group in prayer, you are ready to begin studying. Martin Luther compared Bible study to gathering apples. “First I shake the whole tree, that the ripest may fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.” Here’s how you can follow his advice

  1. Read the introduction to the study guide. Then, if you are studying a Bible book, start by reading it from beginning to end. This overview will help you grasp the theme of the book. Ask yourself how each chapter contributes to that theme. Pay special attention to the context of the passage your group will be studying. If the book is too long to read in one sitting, scan its contents, paying special attention to paragraph and chapter headings.
  2. Next, read and reread the passage for the study you will be leading. At this point your primary goal is to understand what the author was saying to the original readers and why.
  3. While you study, have a dictionary and a Bible dictionary handy. Use them to look up any unfamiliar words, names or places.
  4. Carefully work through each question in the study guide. Spend time in meditation and reflection as you formulate your responses. Philip Henry wrote, “A garment that is double dyed, dipped again and again, will retain the colour a great while; so a truth which is the subject of meditation.”
  5. Give particular attention to how this passage applies to your life. What encouragement, counsel, commands or promises does it offer? Remember that the group members will not share any more deeply from their own lives than you do. So be prepared to talk about what you are learning at a couple of key points.
  6. Write your responses in the space provided in the study guide. Writing has an amazing effect on the mind. It forces us to think and to clearly express our understanding of the passage. It also helps us to remember what we have studied.
  7. Familiarize yourself with the leader’s notes written for the study you are leading. Such notes are usually designed to help you in several ways. First, they tell you the purpose the study guide author had in mind while writing the study. Take time to think through how the study questions work together to accomplish that purpose. Second, the notes provide you with additional background information or comments on some of the questions. This information can be useful if people have difficulty answering or understanding a question. Third, the leader’s notes can alert you to potential problems you may encounter during the discussion. If you wish to remind yourself of anything mentioned in the leader’s notes, make a note to yourself below that question in the study.

The Benefits of Preparation

The questions are designed to flow naturally out of the passage. You may feel that these studies lead themselves. But don’t be fooled. It will feel easy and natural only when you have carefully prepared. When you feel confident and ready, you will be able to get your nose out of the guide and be attentive to the group members, encouraging everyone to interact and respond.

I would sometimes ask my Dad how he felt about doing all that work for one Sunday school class, and he would always respond in the same way. He would tell me that it was a great opportunity for him to spend time studying the Bible. For him, teaching wasn’t about receiving accolades for Bible knowledge or increasing Sunday school attendance with fascinating lesson plans; it was about the time with God. And the same benefit is available to us as we lead Bible studies.