The Makings of a Good Discussion Leader

By Katy Kauffman

What sparkling qualities do you remember about the small group leaders you’ve had? I can think about the ones I’ve known and learn from their personalities and styles—they’ve been kind, funny, and sweet. To-the-point, insightful, and encouraging. People-oriented, God-centered, and Bible-based. The leaders that have left some sparkle in my memory are those who saw the individual members of their groups, cared about each person’s contribution, and kept the discussion focused on God, His Word, and related experiences. They spoke from the heart and shared what God had taught them. They knew how long to let a group member share and when to reign in a rabbit bounding down the trail. They asked for prayer requests and wanted the group to eat together after class. They made you feel accepted and wanted, valuable and cherished.

Even with all these qualities, let’s add seven more that are essential for a leader to make their small group experience welcoming, sound, and centered on what matters the most. (These work for men and women, but I’m going to use a she to describe them all, since I’ve been focusing on women’s Bible studies in this blog series.)

7 More Essential Qualities:

1. She is prepared.

A good leader is always prepared. She takes the time to do the lesson herself, researches questions that the group may have, and prays about which points to emphasize. She uses the leader guide if one’s provided, and sees what her group needs to focus on and discuss. She’s ready! It’s so refreshing to see a group leader who puts in the effort to prepare and brings out the depth and sparkling jewels of a lesson.

2. She uses a sound understanding of Scripture.

The Word of God is the plumb line for what anyone says—whether they’re the Bible study author, discussion leader, or group members. A good leader makes sure that the lesson and discussion align with Scripture, and uses what she knows of God’s Word to answer the group’s questions. She doesn’t rely on her own reasoning, but on what God has said in His Word.

3. She is humble.

A good group leader doesn’t have an air of superiority or a Hey, look at me! attitude. She is willing to answer questions with I don’t know or Let me look that up and get back to you. Her attitude is “with”—she’s a team player who uses her authority well, keeping the focus on God and the riches of His Word.

4. She knows how to reign in a run-away conversation.

We love to talk and build on what each other is saying. Someone’s story may remind us of something that happened last week or ten years ago. A good group leader knows when to gently stop a conversation that’s off subject and bring everyone back around to the right topic. She may use humor to do it, but she uses class and kindness in re-focusing the group’s attention.

5. She doesn’t let anyone use prayer requests or story-telling to gossip.

A good leader encourages her group to guard people’s reputations when sharing prayer requests. If group members want to talk about something that seems too personal to share, she asks them to get permission from the person involved, or to just say they have an “unspoken” request. If a story begins to damage someone’s reputation, she calls a halt to the conversation. Of course, we want to empathize with each other and be able to pray for each other well. But gossip isn’t healthy for anyone (Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 5:13), and sharing prayer requests isn’t a time to talk about someone’s private life. A good leader focuses on edifying the group and guarding reputations. It can be enough to know someone is in need. God knows the rest.

6. She maintains respect for each group member.

A good leader values each group member and shows it. She doesn’t use jokes to put anyone down and encourages the group members to respect each other. She guides the discussion like a shepherd, and makes sure each sheep feels welcome and valued. She takes her cue from the Good Shepherd and His compassion, warmth, and firmness (when necessary).

7. Her goal is to point people to God and His Word.

Everything we do in Bible study should lead to drawing closer to God and understanding His Word better. A good leader doesn’t allow a small group to become a social club or an excuse to get out of the house. She uses the Bible study material and discussion to focus the group on knowing God and studying His Word. A passionate love for God, the Bible, and people drives her to unite a group in studying the Word and applying it to everyday life. She remembers how much we all need God and the truths of His Word, and makes sure each lesson has valuable take-away in it. She remembers why she’s leading—to draw people near to God, because He has promised to draw near to us (James 4:8).

This is the last post in my Bible study series! Next Tuesday I will post a summary of the Bible study blitz in September and October. If you missed any posts, you’ll be able to scan all the titles and find the articles easily. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and may God bless you as you study His Word. It’s amazing!


© Copyright 2014 by Katy Kauffman

small group leaders, discussion leaders, Bible teachers, The Makings of a Good Discussion Leader, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies

Comments (2)

  • anon

    Great tips, Katy. I especially think that handling prayer requests and runaway conversations are so important. It takes discernment and wisdom to know when to reframe or redirect the conversation. Sometimes that's such a challenge.

    Oct 03, 2014
  • anon

    Thank you, Ginger! I agree that it takes wisdom and discernment to know how to redirect a conversation! We have to be connected to God at all times when we teach, so His power and wisdom enable us to lead well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 

    Oct 03, 2014

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Winning the Victory: A Blog by Katy Kauffman

Award-Winning Author, Editor, Bible Teacher

As co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies, Katy is a Bible study author and editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine. Follow Katy's blog to receive posts sharing practical strategies for winning life's spiritual battles. 


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