Enliven Your Small Groups

Bible study groups attract all types of people who have different gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. Capable facilitation means finding ways to accommodate growth for people that begin where they are. Here are some suggestions that have worked for groups that I have facilitated.

Simple Supports

When I lead a Bible study, I usually ask participants to share their testimonies. This allows everyone to get to know one another in a relatively short period of time. But many of the women in my studies were uncomfortable speaking in front of a group, so I looked for a solution for them. 

One day, I put out crayons, markers, and paints in the center of the room—simple supports. I gave each participant a large piece of paper from a Post-it easel pad, because the self-stick pages easily adhere to the wall and stay in place during presentations.

I instructed participants to draw their testimonies, depicting four stages in their spiritual journey: life before Christ, how they met Christ, life since they accepted Christ, and how God is working in their lives now.

Some people divided their paper into four quadrants; others mapped the stages on a timeline. Those who had difficulty drawing used simple symbols, such as a cross for a specific church, or a pair of rings or a dove to represent marriage, or crossed out these symbols to represent divorce. I drew a tombstone to represent my father’s death.

I did not set a time limit, because I wanted people to work at their own pace and have time to think about God’s work in their lives. Yet everyone finished within a half hour.

We decided to share one testimony per week. I presented mine the first week. Then we progressed in alphabetical order until everyone had a turn. We allowed five minutes per testimony followed by 15 minutes for questions, discussion, and prayer. You can adjust the timings according to your participants’ personalities and needs.

When new Bible students join our group, we show them the drawings, and a couple of us explain a portion of our stories. After a few weeks, we invite the newcomers to draw their testimonies at home, and present them at the group meeting.

Depending on the expertise and sophistication of group members, other simple supports could be enabling for participants to develop and present a PowerPoint presentation, to develop and present a mime, a collage, a readers’ theater script, or other artistic means of sharing.

Act It Out

If your small group’s Bible study has grown mundane, try acting out the passages you’re discussing. Here are some ideas that have worked for our group. 

Act as you read. Ask for volunteers to portray, in a monologue, the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the people in the passage you’re studying as a group. Actors could read directly from the Bible during their presentation, or a narrator could read the passage while others silently act it out. Encourage less outgoing members of your group to participate by offering them non-speaking roles, such as portraying members of the crowd or reading a prepared script.

Invite those in your group to present a section of Scripture they have memorized or to give dramatic readings that they have memorized. Invite others to read a passage dramatically.

Acting out Scripture added flair to our small-group time, especially for the visual learners. Initially, some members were reluctant to participate. But after watching others perform, most were willing to join in—in their own way, once they understood that we weren’t looking for Broadway-caliber performances or Picasso-level art; we just wanted to allow the Word of God to dwell in us more richly.

Angela Dion
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists