7 Types of Questions to Ask in Group, Part 1

By Mark Shull, Director of Men's Groups at Buckhead Church

The following two-part article is from the Group Leader Blog of North Point Ministriesand it's all about the different ways that we can use questions to help our group members think about, process, and own their faith journeys.

The idea of asking questions instead of always offering answers seems simple, right? It’s easy to understand, but challenging to practice . . . especially when something difficult or controversial comes up in group. Asking good questions takes practice as well as an understanding of what makes a question good and what type of question to ask depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Over the next two weeks “leader tips” we’ll look at the seven types of questions you can use in your Small Group discussion. We’ll also break down when and why to use them. Here are the first three:

1. Launching
These are open questions used to kick off a discussion. They’re particularly helpful in setting the tone of a conversation and drawing all of your group members into the discussion.

Example: What are some ways other people’s words have hurt you?

2. Clarifying
These questions help guide your group toward accumulated facts by urging them to define, clarify, explain, or compare and contrast. Clarifying questions are particularly useful for bringing the group back on topic when they’ve begun to stray. They do so by prompting group members to think about the main topic in a new way.

Example: Can we back up for a second? What was going through your mind when he said that to you?

3. Follow-Up
These questions draw the entire group into a discussion after a single member has answered a question or expressed an opinion. Follow-up questions are great for helping group members connect through shared experiences or emotions.

Example: That’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing. Has anyone else ever experienced something like that?

Using launching, clarifying, and following-up questions require intentionality and a little practice. But making the effort can free your group discussions from routine and help the people you lead to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Next week we’ll look at four more types of questions to ask in your Small Group discussion time.

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4 Strategies for Improving Group Attendance


By Sue Bates

One of your top challenges may be encouraging convincing begging group members to show up each week. There is no shortage of reasons for people to not show up. It begins with a single text: “I can’t make it.” And then the dominoes begin to fall: “I can’t make it either,” “I’ve got a ton to do.” Suddenly, it’s you and one other person staring awkwardly at each other. The frustration of last minute cancellations creates a weight on your leadership. You begin to ask yourself what you’re doing wrong, and how you can prevent cancellations. 

Don’t beat yourself up or, worse, send out a scathing email about attendance (admit it, you’ve done it or you’ve been tempted to do it). Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’re not responsible for making someone else responsible for their commitments.  Instead, focus on these four strategies for improving group attendance:

1. Create an engaging group environment.
Think about environments that you like.  What stands out?  Is it the warm, welcoming host?  One of the things that engages me most is knowing that the leader wants me to be there.   A text from a leader during the week or on the day of the meeting  is often enough to convince a person show up.

2. Communicate clear expectations.
How do you communicate attendance expectations to your group without sounding like you’re scolding them? Acknowledge the obvious: Poor attendance will undermine your group dynamic.  No one has trouble filling up his or her nights.  No one shows up at group each week because they have nothing better to do. We show up because we’ve decided group is necessary for our spiritual growth.  Encourage and challenge your group to resist allowing the urgent to crowd out the important.

3. Hold your group members to a standard.
Don’t apologize for holding group members to a standard.  At the same time, make your expectations clear. Holding them to a standard you’ve never communicated isn’t fair.  Keep in mind that holding people to a standard you to be flexible sometimes, too.

4. Plan out 2 or 3 months at a time.
Look at your calendars together and plan out your weekly meetings in advance. This communicates that “Tuesdays” are spoken for, unless a clear exception comes up.  People appreciate it when a leader has a plan for a meeting, whether that meeting is at work, a neighborhood association, or a small group.  Having a plan communicates respect for people’s time. There may be some weeks where everyone is gone. Planning ahead allows you to cancel group in advance.

Finally, remember that you’ll probably need to have the attendance conversation more than once. It may not be easy, but it can make the difference between having an okay or a great group experience.

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When Only a Few People Show Up for Your Small Group Meeting​

By Rick Howerton

There are going to be those weeks when only a few Small Group members show up for the Small Group meeting. Maybe an illness hits a household, a child’s ballgame happens to be rescheduled forcing group members to miss the meeting, a business traveler is out of town, or maybe some fanatical football fan calls in sick. Small Group members start calling you an hour or so before the meeting. You anticipated ten of your closest friends hanging out in your living room, but only four or so show up.

You may not realize it, but how an Small Group leader handles this situation can greatly enhance or detract from the leader’s level of influence. A few do’s and don’ts

  • Don’t cancel the meeting.
  • Don’t apologize for the number of people who are in attendance.
  • Don’t speak negatively of those who aren’t there.
  • Don’t make statements that negatively impact the conversation like, “I sure wish John was here. He would really have some important input right now.” or “If Sue was here, she could speak to this issue,” etc…
  • Don’t allow the enemy to lead you to believe group members didn’t show up due to your leadership or because they don’t appreciate the group.
  • Don’t feel an obligation to fill the entire meeting time. If you finish early due to the fact that fewer people are involved in the conversation, that’s okay. Spend the rest of the time just enjoying one another’s company. This will pay off in the long run.
  • Do start on time (don’t wait to see if more people are going to show up).
  • Do go ahead with every aspect of the small group meeting.
  • Do give your whole heart to those who are in attendance. In fact, realize that the smaller number of attendees gives you the opportunity to connect with these group members at a much more intimate level.
  • Do pray for the needs of those who aren’t at the meeting. Be careful that you don’t pray that they’ll show up next week.

Consider a smaller than normal group meeting an opportunity to build deeper relationships and prove every individual is important to you.

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3 Reason to Value Conversational Settings

By Andrew Mason

In a content-driven information age culture, people can miss the value of sitting in a circle for the purpose of discussion. Most people don’t want to talk to a group of people or listen attentively to a handful of individuals. Others don’t care for either.

Acts 2:42 informs us that the early church was not only devoted to the Word (Apostles’ doctrine), prayer and breaking of bread; they were also devoted to fellowship or koinonia. Koinonia means, “to share.” I believe this forms the Biblical framework for group discussion. Scriptural fellowship is deeper than just a picnic or barbeque (however, informal gatherings like these can be some of the initial stepping stones towards achieving koinonia). I’ll explain this more towards the end of this post.

In order to appreciate the value of group discussion you have to understand how God uniquely blesses a dialogue in an interactive circle differently than He does a monologue in a large gathering. In light of this kingdom opportunity, conversational settings should be intimate (no more than 15 people), they should be in a fellowship-friendly environment (no loud noises or distractions) and they should always happen in the context of scripture, spiritual growth and love.

Here are 3 Reasons To Value Conversational Settings:

1. More oxygen for relationships to breathe. A conversational setting creates the opportunity for me to learn more about each person in the group. I love preaching, but I’ve always become more acquainted with someone else’s life and journey in a small group. Instead of a 30-40 minute teaching, a small group is engaged with questions. People are stretched to open up and listen attentively.

In a day of too much technology and crowded loneliness, people have placed a premium on being known. Conversational settings can make someone who is lonely into someone who is loved. In these times, to be known is to be transformed

2. Evangelism muscles are exercised. In Transformational Groups by Stetzer and Geiger, their research concluded that people who attended groups shared their faith more than people who did not attend groups. They stated the following, “…those involved in groups tend to spend more time thinking and discussing biblical and spiritual matters.”

Think about this: In a typical church service, an attendee is listening 100% of the time during the message. In a conversational setting, a participant is listening AND contributing.

The more a person engages in discussion, the more they will cultivate their language of faith. The more their faith language is exercised, the more natural it is for them to share their faith with unbelievers!

People need to be talking more about what they believe. They need to hear themselves as well as other believers who aren’t necessarily pastors or preachers.

3. Transparency is increased. Another finding from Transformational Groups was that regular group attendees are more diligent in confessing sins and wrongdoings. To put it another way, living in community with other believers brightens the light of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.

This shouldn’t be surprising because this is exactly what the Bible describes as fellowship: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Conversational settings not only create the conditions for vulnerability, I believe they unveil more light into a believer’s soul. Listening to the faith, the testimonies, the struggles and the perseverance of other Christians, allows areas of darkness to be exposed at a very close and personal level.

Obviously, there are many other benefits to conversational settings that I have not listed here, but I feel strongly that the three mentioned above – relationships, evangelism and transparency – are foundational to our motivations in group life.

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6 Digital Tools to Build Community in Small Groups

6 digital tools to build community in Small Groups

By Eric Seiberling

Small groups can be key to the spiritual development of individuals and growth for churches. However, hectic schedules can make it difficult for individuals to meet regularly.

Social media and digital tools provide new ways for members to build community, which is exactly why small groups exist. Many of these tools are free and make it easy for members to connect outside regular meetings or to share life even when apart.

Here are six ways to connect small groups digitally:

1. Stay connected with Facebook groups.

Create a private group where members can participate. You can continue the conversations that began in meetings, share new insights and prayer requests, or post materials that will add to the discussion.

2. Use Instagram to share life and prayers.

Instagram now offers Instagram Direct where you can send photos and videos to an individual or the group. Send a picture of a page in a small-group study book that you have highlighted. Make a video prayer request to your group. You can use Instagram Direct from your smartphone, so you always feel connected to your group. When someone asks for prayer, take a private video of your prayer. This can encourage other members to pray for one another, even when they cannot get together in person.

3. Share ideas and insights using Pinterest.

Pinterest allows you to “pin” (upload) pictures to your bulletin board. Capture ideas for your small group, find inspirational quotes or Bible verses or take a photo of your small group. Then, pin them on your Pinterest board. Others will see your “board” and comment and add their own ideas. This is a great way to publicize what your group is doing. Make sure you do not post anything that is sensitive or might be considered confidential.

4. Collaborate using Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Both Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive let small-group members work on documents or lists – everyone at the same time. You can create forms where people sign up for food or make prayer requests. 

5. Meet virtually in a Google Hangout on Google+.

Create a video conference for your group using Google+ Hangout. Plan a meeting, a service project or a new study – without needing to gather everyone in the same place at the same time. Set a specific time for everyone to join. You can even hold a virtual meeting.

6. Use Skype or Facetime to include someone who is out of town.

Encourage members who travel to join a meeting via Skype, instead of missing it altogether. All you need is an iPad, smartphone or laptop with a camera, and -- voila! -- your absent member is present via video.


Confidentiality is vital for a small group’s success. Digital tools can help groups grow closer, but they can also create issues if not used carefully.  Make sure everyone understands what they can share publicly and what should stay within the group’s face-to-face conversations.

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