Six awkward situations and how to deal with them
We know many of you will be getting ready to lead on one of our series as the new term looms. We'll be posting a number of blogs over the coming weeks to help you prepare.
We've all been there. That sinking feeling midway through leading a Bible study when you feel completely out of your depth. A long pause, the completely wrong answer, a difficult question.
To help you from being caught off guard next time, here are our suggestions for what to do if...
If a question is met with silence, don’t be too quick to speak. Allow people time to think. They might be considering how to phrase their answer. Remember that in some cultures it is considered rude to speak immediately after the previous person; therefore a short silence (even up to 30 seconds) is the polite norm.
If you sense that someone knows the answer but is shy about giving it, ask them by name. Often they will be happy to be asked.
It may help to divide people into smaller groups to work through questions and then have them feed their answers back to the whole group. If possible, try to include a leader in each small group to help direct discussions.
One person answers all the questions
Thank them for their answer, then ask: “What do other people think?”
Direct a few questions at the other group members by name. (But if it seems awkward, open up the question to the rest of the group.)
Sit beside the talkative person the following week. That will make it harder for them to catch your eye and answer the questions.
If the issue continues, talk to the person after the study and ask them to give others time to answer, eg: “Thank you so much for all you’re contributing. I wonder if you can help me with the quieter people in the group...”
Someone asks a question you can't answer
Lead honestly. You won’t be able to answer every question. Some questions can be easily addressed, but others will be difficult. If you don’t know the answer, say so – but tell them that you’ll try to find out for the next time.
There are lists of common questions and answers in the leader's guides which you can consult. Also check christianityexplored.org/toughquestions
and direct your guests here if helpful.
Someone gives the wrong answer
Do not immediately correct them. Give the person the opportunity to correct themselves. Ask them, for example: “What does verse 4 tell us about that?” If they are still unable to answer correctly, give others the chance, eg: “Does anyone disagree or want to add anything?”.
Graciously correct. If necessary, don’t be afraid graciously to correct a wrong answer that may mislead others. Say something like: “Thank you, that’s an interesting point, but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here”.
Ask further questions. Eg: “What do you mean by that?” or “Where does it say that?” or “What does everyone else think?” If no one can answer, give the correct answer, showing from the Bible passage why it is right.
People don't come back
Don’t pursue them. In Mark 4, Jesus taught us to expect negative as well as positive responses to the gospel message. However, if you’ve already established a good relationship with that person, contact him or her once to say you missed them and that it would be great to see them next week, but don’t put pressure on them.
Group members miss a week or more
Welcome them back and during the meal/coffee time try and summarise what they have missed.
Leading can be daunting, whether you've been doing it for years or for the first time. As well as the printed leader's guides, our Leader's Area is full of handy explanatory videos and resources to help you feel equipped.
If appropriate, encourage them to make time later to read the passages they’ve missed and to go through the questions in the Handbook. Let them know they can come back to you with anything they do not understand.
If someone misses most of the series, encourage them to do it again. This could be with another group, or you may be able to do the material with them one to one.
You just need to register your series or sign up as a table leader to get access if you don't have a log in already.
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Let us know by commenting below if there are other questions you have about leading that you'd like to see us blog about.