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Big Results...


Community Building

Adoration of God

Learning God's Word

Mission and Outreach







Cooper Mountain Presbyterian Fellowship

Getting BIG Results with Small Groups

a Small Group Leaders Training Manual Web Sample by Rev. David Weidlich, Pastor, Cooper Mountain Presbyterian Fellowship

3. Learning God's Word for Today's Living: Effective Teaching


Acts 2:42: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching

There is an alarming increase of people in California and the U.S. who believe things like reincarnation, "god is within you," everyone will get to heaven as long as they're decent and try. Some Christians carry along misconceptions of God: that God doesn't really like me, that we must burn ourselves out for God to win his approval.

George Barna (What Effective Churches Have Learned Seminar at Capital Christian Center, 1996)

What's the most widely quoted verse in America?

In a nation-wide poll, Barna asked whether the quote "God helps those who help themselves" is directly from the Bible. 82% said yes.

Name the Four Gospels. 63% could not.

Who preached the Sermon on the Mount? 58% said someone other than Jesus. (42% said Jesus, 38% said Billy Graham)

58% could not name more than five of the ten commandments

Are these just trivia questions? This one is important...

Presbyterian Church (USA) Survey (Presbyterian Panel Summary--Feb. 1996)

True/False Question: "To receive salvation, a person must do good for others"

46% of PCUSA church members answered "true," suggesting that faith alone is not enough

44% of elders, 18% of pastors, 22% of specialized clergy answered "true."

God takes a harsh view on wrong thinking, probably because wrong thinking leads to wrong behavior and general misery.

So, God gave us his written Word-to test our beliefs and our behavior.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17

And, God gave the church teachers and empowered them to effectively understand and communicate God's Word.

When most people think of teaching, they picture someone standing in front of several rows of people sitting in chairs. But do you picture Jesus that way? Is that how your parents taught you some of life's most important lessons?

In Small Groups, we use teaching methods that are most effective for adult learning. In a Small Group, you'll find an appropriate time for short monologues, discussions around questions, story-telling, case studies, role plays and more. As you develop relationships with the people in your group, you'll find more opportunities-usually outside of the group time-to provide practical nurture (teaching) for people through times of transition and crisis.

The teaching method we use most is the discussion method. (If you're looking for a place to provide brilliant Bible lectures, we have a place for you, but not in Small Groups.)

The discussion method uses three types of questions which group members answer. "Open" questions help group members get to know each other better and warm up to the topics that will be explored in the Bible study. "Dig" questions direct group members to observe and interpret the Scripture passage being studied. The method of Bible study used is sometimes called the "Inductive Method." That simply means we read the Scripture first, then we form conclusions. We want the selected passage of Scripture to speak for itself. Group members are challenged to discover the historical and literary context of the passage and try to understand the passage as the first readers would understand it. Once we have a firm grasp of what this section of Scripture says and means, "Reflect" questions challenge group members to make specific applications to their own situations. ("Open", "Dig" and "Reflect" are terms used for questions in Serendipity guides. However, all the approved guides for Small Groups have these three types of questions, though they may not be identified as such.)

Why the Discussion Method?

  • Discussion promotes openness.
  • Discussion inspires.
  • Discussion provides reinforcement and clarification.
  • Discussion develops new insight.
  • Discussion develops self-esteem.
  • Discussion develops boldness to witness and explain their faith.
  • Discussion promotes action.
  • Discussion provides the leader with clues as to how he/she should minister.
  • Discussion honors the fact that each believer has the Holy Spirit in them.
  • People listen better when they have been listened to.
  • People process new ideas better when they can discuss them.

Learning God's Word...Effective Teaching (cont.)

Key Question: How do we learn? How do we grow?

We must not think that because we've taught something, our group members have learned it. In other words, I may have taught the book of Ephesians from start to finish. But that does not necessarily mean my group members learned Ephesians. And it may be that some did learn all the necessary facts of Ephesians, but may not have implemented the principles for living contained in that book.

So, teaching is not good enough. We must not rest until they have learned--learned to implement God's principles into daily living.

For Reflection

What have you learned recently? How did you learn it? (ex.: re: small groups)

Did you learn most of what you know about leading small groups- from books, seminars and classes- or from experience?

Our Primary Assumption: Learning and Growth begins at birth and ends with death.

Assumptions Behind The Small Group Discussion Method of Learning

(from The Adult Learner-A Neglected Species, by Malcolm Knowles, Gulf Publishing, 1990.)

1. Adults need to know WHY they need to learn something BEFORE undertaking to learn it.

Therefore, the first task of the facilitator/teacher is to help learners become aware of their "need to know." (One purpose of the "Open" questions is to help learners identify needs that the lesson may address. Example: Re: Romans 7:7- "In what ways is your spirit willing, but your flesh weak?")

Show group members how they will use what they're learning in real life situations.

Help group members discover for themselves the gaps between where they are now and where they want to be.

2. Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own decisions, for their own lives.

They need to be seen by others and treated by others as being capable of self-direction.

They resent and resist situations in which they feel others are imposing their wills on them. They flee these situations.

3. Experience plays a vital role in Adult Learning.

By virtue of having lived longer, adults have accumulated more experience than youths- quantity and quality.

Adults are more heterogeneous- a wider range of individual differences (background, learning style, motivation, needs, interests, goals...)

Therefore, there needs to be an emphasis on individualization of teaching and learning strategies.

Use "experiential techniques" (that rely on learners' experience): group discussion, problem- solving activities, role-play, case method, peer helping, laboratory...over "transmittal techniques:" lecture, assigned reading...

4. Adults become ready to learn those things they need to know and be able to do in order to cope effectively with their real-life situations.

The importance of timing: an especially rich source of "readiness to learn" is the developmental tasks associated with moving from one developmental stage to the next.

Examples: Youth Ministry for those going through adolescence, Parenting Seminars for young couples who have suddenly been thrust into parenthood, Engaged Couples ministry, professional growth for those who have gone through job loss or change, Divorce Recovery, spiritual new-birth, other crisis or transitional experiences.

Note: Every other Tuesday night at 7:30 PM may not be the most effective time to introduce life change. (But, don't let that stop you.) Just be aware and ready for those opportunities that arise outside of the structured setting to bring your point home.

What are some ways Small Group Leaders can take advantage of "readiness to learn" situations?

Ways of inducing readiness to learn: exposure to models of superior performance, career counseling, simulation exercises...

5. Adults are life-centered in their orientation to learning.

(or task-centered, problem-centered, but not "subject-centered.")

We learn new knowledge, skills, values, attitudes most effectively when presented in the context of application to real-life situations.

Example: Learning computer software. You can start learning bits, bytes, commands... or you can start with learning "how to type a business letter" (tutorials).

We'll also find more people interested in a small group that is investigating "Keys to Joyful Living" (life-centered) than studying "Ephesians" (subject-centered). So, in teaching Ephesians, look for and emphasize these "life principles."

6. Internal pressures are the most potent motivators.

External motivators are: a degree, grades, pre-requisites (Engaged Couples: wanting to have a wedding in our church)

Internal motivators are: desires for better job, promotion, salary, happiness.

(Tough, 1969) "All normal adults are motivated to keep growing and developing, but this motivation is frequently blocked by such barriers as negative self-concept as a student (dependent), inaccessibility of opportunities or resources, time constraints, and programs that violate principles of adult learning."


  • when the subject area is totally foreign (as the Bible may be for a new Christian)
  • when learners have no previous experience with the subject area
  • no internal need to learn the content (drunk drivers required to go to AA)

Still- the goal should be to help learners take increasing responsibility for their own learning.


It's as if Malcolm Knowles studied the teaching method of Jesus! This is how the Master Teacher taught. We could add the biblical assumptions that every human is created in the image of God and thus has some spark of good in them. Furthermore, every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit, motivating them and guiding them into truth. Every group member can be responsible to discover truth. Teaching must be learning-centered.

Four Goals of a Small Group: Learning God's Word...(cont.)

Refining the Art of Leading Bible Discussions

(from Good Things Come In Small Groups, chapter 8)

Our primary teaching method is the discussion method. So, our leaders' guides provide more questions than answers. Because the answers to the questions are in the biblical text. Your group members are capable of answering these questions as they search the Scriptures. Other questions ask for their life story, opinion, or creative thinking on how they will apply certain principles to their own life.

Here are some good principles for using questions creatively, so that your group members effectively learn the Scriptures.

1. Ask good questions.

Good questions...

  • ..are clear
  • ..contribute to the purpose of your study
  • ..are open-ended (generate discussion)
  • ..encourage group members to search God's Word and discover for themselves
  • ..move the group through the passage in a logical sequence
  • ..draw out and apply the main points of the passage

Re-word questions in your discussion guide when necessary.

(for more on questions, read Good Things Come In Small Groups, chapter 6:Leading Bible Discussions)

2. Let more than one person answer a question.

"What else do the rest of you see?"

"What can others add to that?"

3. Acknowledge answers.

Verbally (eye contact, smiling, nodding) and/or nonverbally- affirm a good answer: "Yes" "Right" "That's a good point, Roger."

4. Include everyone.

One reason for studying in a group is to get input from the group. Be sure everyone understands this. You can encourage quieter group members by having them read Scripture and by establishing eye contact with them as you ask a question. Eye contact says, "I'm listening- or ready to listen- to you."

5. Keep everyone on task.

Now and then, provide a summary statement that reminds people of what has been said in regard to the question at hand.

When someone veers off the path, gently guide them back:

Repeat the question and say, "Does anyone have anything to say about this question?"

6. Pace the questions.

There's never enough time for everyone to give an adequate answer to all questions. That's where your guidance comes in. Don't spend too much time on one question. Make a note, ahead of time, which questions are most important. Skip other questions when time runs short. Yes, you're allowed to do that!

But, where does my lecture come in?

Lecture is still a good teaching method. Some group leaders will provide a prepared lecture at the beginning of the Bible discussion in order to bring the group up to date with what has been studied in past meetings as well as the historical and theological context of the passage for current study. Another time for lecture is at the end of the discussion time for the purpose of summarizing the main points of the passage and some ideas for application.


We teach in church worship services. We have good teaching in Adult Education Classes. People hear great teaching on Christian radio. So, what advantage does small group teaching have over other ways of teaching?

There's more! To order the full 70+ page manual (hard-copy notebook--English only). The notebook also includes a disk with several powerpont presentations that can be used to present this information. Click HERE to Order this Training Manual now.

This document maintained by David Weidlich. Material Copyright ©2001 David Weidlich

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