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Facilitator Tip #17 – Begin and End on Time

John Calvin was a Swiss reformer and contemporary to the well-known Martin Luther (Calvin is twenty-six years younger than Martin Luther).

In the city of Geneva, jewelers and goldsmiths made crucifixes, chalices, and other items that people were reverent to and sometimes even worshipped. When John Calvin had political influence in the city of Geneva, one thing he instituted was a Consistoire, or “ecclesiastical court.” This “court” got rid of jewelers and goldsmiths making crucifixes, chalices, and other instruments serving papacy and idolatry. However, John Calvin allowed the clockmakers to stay.

In John Calvin’s mind, timeliness was a virtue because a Christian was not supposed to let minutes go unused for the Lord. In Calvin’s theology, every Christian would have to give an account to God for every moment of his life, and the personal clock was a way to help Christians make the most of the time they had.[ref]Jennifer McNutt, and David Lauber, The People’s Book, p. 100.[/ref]

Similar to John Calvin and his reverence for time, you too, as a small group facilitator, need to make the most of the time you have in your group meetings. However, be sure to begin and end on time.


Starting and Ending on Time Is Your Responsibility as the Facilitator

As the small group facilitator, you are the leader of your group. The king of Israel, David, reminds us about the limited time we have and how we must make the most of it,

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Facilitator Tip #16 – Don’t Answer Your Own Questions

If you have led a small group for any length of time you know that sometimes you ask a question and no one responds. And, let’s be honest: it is awkward, embarrassing, and discouraging. But as a small group facilitator, you don’t want to answer your own questions.

Facilitator Tip 16 - Don't Answer Your Own Questions


Why Not Answer Your Own Questions?

If you as the facilitator ask a question—then jump in and answer it before others talk—it discourages the group from sharing their thoughts. The group recognizes you as the leader, so if you share your answer before others share, then it tells the group that you have all the answers, and that you have shared the right answers. As a result, others will be scared to share their answers because they might differ with yours. You only want to share your answer to a question after others have already had a chance to share.

The Goal Is Get Others to Talk

While it is tempting to answer your own questions when people want to talk, it is important that you focus on getting others to talk and share their thoughts. Your goal is to get people to talk about the Bible (while using a tool like the Wiersbe Bible study guides or Chip Ingram study guides), what’s going on in their lives, and how they can apply what they are learning.

How to Not Answer Your Own Questions

Here are three basic tips to help you not answer your own questions.

  • First, let the group sit in silence for a bit. A little bit of silence is okay.
  • Second, ask the question again. You might want to read the question slower or maybe rephrase it slightly to help people understand it.
  • Third, just move on to the next question.

If the group struggles to understand what a question is asking or is not sure how to answer, just move on to the next question.

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Facilitator Tip #15 – Silence Is Okay

You’ve spent time throughout the week preparing for your group, praying for the people in it, and now it is time to facilitate a discussion. You are excited to get the group to talk about Scripture and see how they are applying what they are learning to their lives.

Then you show up to the group, ask a question and no one says anything! It is awkward and embarrassing and discouraging.

So, what do you do?

I would like to explain to you why silence is okay in your small group, what not to do with silence, and what to do with the silence.

Facilitator Tip 15 - Silence Is Okay


Why Silence Is Okay in Your Small Group

It is easy to think that silence in your small group is bad. However, there are various reasons that people might not speak up and answer when you ask them questions.

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How to Organize Meals for Someone in Difficult Times

“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. . . When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
 (Matthew 25:35, 40, NLT)

Providing meals to someone going through difficult times is one of the best ways that Christians can love one another. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT). Organizing, cooking, and delivering meals for people going through difficult times is an important element of every small group. Meals can be organized for a specific member of the group, a family member of someone in your group, or even a friend that might not have a connection to your church or any church at all. There are three basic steps for showing love through meals: organize, cook, and deliver.

How to Organize Meals for Someone in Difficult Times

 How to Organize Meals for Someone in Difficult Times

25 Small Group Facilitator Tips Small Groups

Facilitator Tip #14 – Delegate Your Busy Weeks or Seasons

Facilitating a small group discussion each week is not the only thing you are responsible to do in your life. Most people have at least one job, a family, volunteer with service organizations, and have other things to do. When you know that you have a busy season of your life approaching, you might want to delegate your facilitator responsibilities.[ref]


But, is delegation a biblical idea? Let’s take a look at some examples of delegation in the Bible.


Moses was in the wilderness with the nation of Israel and was listening to the people’s disputes against each other from “morning till evening” (Exod 18:13). He was a busy guy and likely had little time for anything else. Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, saw what he was doing and told him,

21But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace. (Exod 18:21-23, NLT)

Jethro tells Moses to find some good leaders, to appoint them to a leadership position, and that those men could help Moses with his work.


Paul was writing about spiritual gifts to the believers in the city of Ephesus when he told them,

11Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Eph 4:11-12, emphasis added)

Here Paul instructs us that the job of pastors and teachers is not to do ministry. Instead, their job is to equip people to do ministry.

2 Timothy

Paul was writing the last of all of his letters we have in the New Testament when he told his disciple Timothy.

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Tim 2:2, emphasis added)

Delegation is at the heart of Paul’s words here. Paul is asking Timothy to teach to others what Paul has already taught to Timothy.


Paul told another of his disciples, Titus a similar message.

I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. (Titus 1:5)

Titus was left on the island of Crete by Paul to do ministry. But the time has come now for Titus to delegate that ministry to the elders.


The apostle John was told,

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star. (Rev 22:16, emphasis added)

There are a few levels of delegation here. Jesus gives the message to an angel, and that angel gives the message to John, and John is supposed to give the message to the seven churches.[/ref]


Facilitator Tip 14 - Delegate Your Busy Weeks or Seasons

Four Practical Aspects to a Healthy Small Group

You need to have four elements in place in your small group to maintain a healthy and strong group. For the sake of review, let’s take a look at those.

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Facilitator Tip #13 – Encourage the Group to Work Through the Lesson Before Coming to the Meeting

One of the principles I regularly teach our small group leaders is to encourage the people in their small group to work through the lesson before coming to the small group meeting. Often it is easy for Christians to become lazy and not want to dedicate time and effort to growing in their Christian faith (see Proverbs 6). As a result sometimes people come to their small group and they haven’t read the passage assigned for that week, they have not prayed about their study, nor have they looked at the questions assigned for discussion for that week. This means that the people part of the group lose out on the growth and insights they would have experienced if they spent some time reading the passage assigned for that week, prayed about what they were learning, and taken some time to answer the questions. In this blog post facilitator tip, I want to show you how and why to encourage your group to work through the lesson before coming to the group.

Facilitator Tip 13 - Encourage the Group to Work Through the Lesson Before Coming to the Meeting


Just as you as the facilitator need to spend some time preparing for the small group discussion, the members of your small group should spend some time in preparation too. Here’s why.

Why Encourage Them to Work Through the Lesson Before Coming to the Group

The people in your group will get more out of the study if they invest time in the study before talking about it in the group. Here’s why.


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Facilitator Tip #12 – Put the Chairs and Couches in a Circle

The goal of facilitating a small group discussion is to get the group to talk together. The best way to foster a discussion-based environment is to put the chairs and couches in a circle. While this might seem simple, I have seen some small group facilitators overlook this simple step. Let me explain more. 

Facilitator Tip 12 - Put the Chairs and Couches in a Circle


Nothing says “let’s talk” like a bunch of people in a circle looking at each other.

Circles versus Rows

When people are in rows, it encourages them to listen to a teacher. When people are in a circle, it encourages them to listen to each other and talk. A circle fosters a discussion environment which is what the LIFEGroups at our church are all about (a facilitator should talk less than 25 percent of the time).

If Using a DVD, Move the Chairs

If your group is using a DVD-based curriculum such as the studies produced by Chip Ingram and Living on the Edge, you might want to place a half circle facing the TV. Then after the DVD is done, you as the facilitator can move your chair to the position where the TV is. This saves room in the space you are using and allows you to easily see everyone in the group.

Ensure New People Have a Good Seat in the Circle

One of the elements of our LIFEGroups at Rocky Hill Community Church is for each group to have an “empty chair.” This is a literal “empty chair” that each group should have as a reminder for the group to pray for the unsaved people in their lives. And, it is a reminder that when someone shows up for the group, there should be an empty chair for the person to sit in. However, new people visiting your group most likely will be a little shy and take a seat that might be on the outside or not within the circle. Make sure the new person feels welcome to the group and that he has a good seat within the circle of the group next to everyone else.

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Facilitator Tip #11 – Watch the Study How-to Videos on YouTube

Today’s post is about helping small group facilitators prepare to facilitate a good discussion and lead a healthy small group study.

Facilitator Tip 11 - Watch the Study How-to Videos on YouTube


I do my best to create a brief video for each small group study that our church. Here are a few of my recent ones:

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Facilitator Tip #10 – Watch the Leader Coaching Videos

In this book on Bible study Warren Wiersbe writes, “Preparation for labor is as important as the labor itself” (The Delights and Disciplines of Bible Studyp. 80). As you facilitate a small group you need to do everything you can to prepare to facilitate a discussion of the people in your group. 

Facilitator Tip 10 - Watch the Leader Coaching Videos


If your group is using a DVD study, often there are some coaching videos on the DVDs (or available online).

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Facilitator Tip #9 – Read the Notes in the Back of Your Discussion Guide

I am continuing my series of blog posts giving tips for small group facilitators. 

Facilitator Tip 9 - Read the Notes in the Back of the Discussion Guide


Most small group discussion guides will have some “leader notes” in the back of the guide to help the facilitator know what to expect during the discussion each week and how to prepare for the discussion. Be sure to read those notes during your preparation time for your small group (it is best to look at these notes after you have already worked through the lesson on your own).