This often seems like an overwhelming task that needs expert biblical knowledge, a degree in teaching and group interaction. So let’s shed a few myths about this before we look at how to lead this section.
What you are not doing
So what am I doing?
You are leading people from the theoretical understanding of a message or scripture, to practical application, usually through a time of ministry. This will often be based out of what was preached on Sunday and is about the application of this to individuals’ lives. As James puts it in James 1 v 22-25:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says, Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but going it – they will be blessed in what they do”James 1:22-25
There are several stages that we can consider to help us to achieve this and to act as an outline for us to use in the group. These stages are best expressed like this:
Stage 1. What is God saying?
Stage 2. Connecting with experience
Stage 3. Ministry time
Let’s look at each one in turn.
As Christians we believe in a God who reveals himself to us, and His primary vehicle for this is His word given to us through scripture. We should therefore have an anticipation that God will speak as we engage with scripture together.
So we start by reviewing what was in the message from Sunday and read the main passage of scripture that was used.
What seems to be the main point of this passage or what does this passage say to us today?
You need to give time for people to respond and you may want to ask the same question again in a slightly different way if a response is slow in coming.
What stands out to you in this passage?
It is important that you acknowledge people’s answers with a thank you or head nod. As one person finishes look around expectantly for the next contribution.
Again, give time and encourage responses. Keep a mental note of key points so you can summarise.
These first two questions get us connecting with the scripture itself and what the preacher brought on Sunday. We now want to move to the application of what has come up. It is good to summarise at this point and draw together a common truth from what has been shared. You will probably have an idea of what this might be as you will have spent time preparing beforehand, but go with what God is highlighting in the group rather than bringing your preformed answers.
To move to application, ask:
Can you illustrate this truth from an experience in your own life? This draws people in and helps them see how a particular truth can be lived out in practice. You may need to ask clarifying questions as people share. If something is not clear to you it probably isn’t clear to the rest of the group. You may have to start things moving here with an illustration from your own life, but don’t be too quick to jump in as you want to encourage participation by the group.
As stories are shared, a sense of reality is created and we begin to see how God has grown us and applied His truth to our lives.
The climax of our word time should be seeing God move among us as He ministers to us through those in the group. Sounds great, doesn’t it! But how do we encourage it to happen! This is where the faith dynamic kicks in. We need to ask a question that leads to ministry and allows people to respond to what God has been stirring in them through the last two stages. It needs to be something like:
What is God saying to you right now? Or Who needs help?
It may be that you will need your small group leader to ask this question for you, if you feel it requires more leadership than you are able to bring to the group. If so, then make sure you talk to your group leader beforehand and ask them to do this for you. I would really encourage you to go with this final question and expect God to move through you as you ask it and lead the group to pray and minister to those who respond.
Some tips to encourage a ministry response
Pray, pray, pray!
Pray that God will give you a specific word for someone in the group that will lead to ministry.
Activity aids response. Asking the group to stand as you ask the ’who needs help?’ question encourages people to be active spiritually as they are active physically. This also means that you are all on your feet as you start to pray and can gather round an individual where appropriate.
You may also want to move a chair into the centre of the room in anticipation of someone sitting in it and the group gathering around to pray.
Encourage people to bring scriptures, pictures, prophecy and words of knowledge as you pray together. Even if they themselves cannot see the relevance of what they are sharing, someone else in the group often brings understanding and interpretations. Encourage people to lay hands on the individuals being ministered to appropriately if they are comfortable with that.
Start by praying that God will move through you all as you pray. Be aware of any response from the person being prayed for and act accordingly, for example are they moved emotionally with tears, and do they need a tissue?
Don’t rush things to a conclusion. It is often helpful as the ministry comes to an end to ask if anyone has anything from God that they have not yet shared or prayed out.
We want to see people edified, as outlined in Ephesians 4 v 11-16:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.Ephesians 4:11-16
Our objective is to encourage each other to grow in maturity as we share our lives together and minister to one another as God leads us in response to His word.
We can think of this as a bit like building a house. We start with an idea which is in the form of plans drawn on paper. This is the theory part, we imagine what it can look like and how it will take shape. We then apply these plans and start building from them and see a house come into being. The plans on their own are not much use, you can’t live in a set of plans, they need to be used! So it is with the word of God, we need to use it to shape our lives, not just have it as a theoretical idea.