Abide Together: How To Navigate Small Group Discussions

Today’s post is part of a six week series on how to start and facilitate a women’s Bible study group. We’ll cover the basics like what and why, as well as the more difficult parts, like who and how. Our hope is to encourage you to study God’s word with fellow believers, equipping you with practical how-tos for starting a study in your local church or community. If you’re just joining us, you can start at the beginning of the series here or jump to the second, third, fourth, and sixth posts. 

If you are planning to lead a Bible study group, this post might be a great one to share with your members prior to the first meeting, so that everyone can consider how to maximize the discussion time, and the next post is just for you!


Have you ever enjoyed a great conversation with a friend that you wish could go on for hours longer than your little ones (and their sleep habits) would allow? Maybe you were savoring a warm cup of coffee, your friend was listening, you were both tracking on the same topic, and at the end, you walked away mutually encouraged and refreshed. Although we shouldn’t be romantic or unrealistic about our Bible study groups, it is possible for them to mirror a memorable conversation with a close friend. Our Bible study groups should challenge us, refresh us, and connect us closer to others who love God.

But this doesn’t always come naturally. When we aren’t intentional, conversations with small groups of women can be lopsided and off-topic. Instead of discussing the Bible and all of the wonderful things we’re learning about God, it can turn into one person’s venting session or well-meaning conversations about things that aren’t about the Bible at all. Of course, get-to-know-each-other conversations are good, but remember, the point of taking time away from your families and your otherwise busy schedules is to glorify God and learn about him together!

How can you, either as a leader or a group member, love others well and maximize the discussion time? Here are a few ideas!:

Recognize the value of everyone’s contributions.

It’s both wise and loving for us to listen, and helpful and edifying for us to share what we’re learning. If we do either of those things to an extreme degree (always staying silent or answering every single question), we’re going to miss out on some of the blessings of abiding together. One way to guard against this is to love the women in your group and genuinely care about what they have to say, no matter their Bible knowledge, personality, or background.

When you’re in a Bible study discussion, resolve to participate and love others by reaching out to include them in the discussion too. You might be blown away by the truth you learn from one another! And if you’re a little less comfortable talking in a group, resolve to answer one or two questions (maybe one you’ve already thought about beforehand) and bless others by sharing what you’re learning about God. Instead of keeping those treasures buried inside, be a vessel of God’s grace to others.

Recognize the value of discussing the Bible.

As much as you might want to share all the details about the latest conflict with your mother-in-law or the dramatic story from your recent potty training experiences, prayerfully remember the purpose of the Bible study time. There might be space before and after the discussion to fellowship with each other (enjoying friendly communication with those who share common interests), but when it’s time to get down to the discussion of scripture itself, try to stay focused. The word of God has the power to teach, encourage, comfort, rebuke, and build everyone up in love. It will be more than sufficient as the topic of conversation.

Give concise answers, tell stories that are relevant to what you’re learning from God’s word, share things that make God look wonderful and big (Because he is!), and be ready to hear from others too. As you stay on-topic during the Bible study discussion time, you will affirm the value of God’s word and learn more as a group.

Recognize the value of making connections based on authenticity.

It’s easy to get self-conscious when you’re sharing about “Bible stuff” in a group of women, especially when you’re sure some of them know more than you. It’s normal to want to sound polished like you have-it-all-together or stay silent because you’re worried you might give an answer others are not impressed by. But resist that temptation. Just as a great conversation with a good friend over hot coffee is built on authenticity and humble sharing, so is a group discussion.

It’s amazing to watch the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of women when we’re willing to be venerable, share areas where we’re failing, and open up about our hard questions. When you root your identity in Christ, being willing to talk about an area of weakness because you know it doesn’t define you, Jesus shines brightly before everyone. You show off God’s strength, and others who might be afraid of examining their hearts have an opportunity to see the comfort of the gospel.

Finally, remember that this group isn’t about you. You’re coming together with other women from your local church or community to learn about and glorify God. The goal of your meeting isn’t to become best friends (although you might make some), to be heard by other women, or even to stay completely silent and let others talk. The goal is for everyone to grow in their knowledge and love for the Lord, based on truth from the word. So get down to business, be excited about the discussion, share from an honest heart, and watch the amazing things that God does in the lives of those in your group.