Leader Tips & Tools

Leader Tips & Tools

How to Effectively Lead Your Neighborhood Bible Study

Leading an effective Neighborhood Bible Study (NBS) depends on three primary factors: the leader, the group, and the study materials. By understanding how each of these functions best, you can be confident in leading a lively, life-changing NBS.

As the leader, the success of the NBS starts with you. Effective leaders do not serve as teachers or lecturers. Instead, they should see themselves as facilitators who lead their group into good discussions and encourage people to interact with each other. Knowing this should be good news to many leaders. Not all of us are gifted as teachers, but most anyone can facilitate effective discussion by following these guidelines:

1. Prepare your heart before the study: Pray for God to help you understand the study material and apply its teachings to your own heart and life. When the study material has challenged your own life, then you are prepared to help others learn and apply the teachings to their lives.

2. Pray for the members of your NBS: For the Bible to have a life-changing impact on your group, the Holy Spirit must be working in the members’ hearts and minds before, during, and after the study. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “You cannot do anything without me.” The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit makes your NBS different from any other type of discussion. Pray for the members of your group each week, by name preferably, asking the Holy Spirit to use the study material to speak into their lives.

3. Begin and end the study on time: Let your group know that you value their time and will begin and end the study on schedule. If they know you begin on time, they will make an effort to be there. If you wait on those who run late, they will assume you begin when they arrive. Try to conclude the study 10 minutes early, to leave time for prayers, announcements, etc. If you consistently run late, the group can become frustrated when time commitments are not honored.

4. At your first meeting, explain the importance of group discussion: According to a research report by The William Glasser Institute, we retain:

10 percent of what we read
20 percent of what we hear
30 percent of what we see
50 percent of what we see and hear
70 percent of what we discuss with others
80 percent of what we experience personally
95 percent of what we teach to others

Effective Bible Study material will provide questions for group discussion. As your women share their answers and insights, God’s Word becomes real and practical in their lives, they learn from each other, and can encourage one another to grow in knowledge and understanding.

5. Encourage several members to share answers to each question: Good questions should prompt more than one possible answer, and each person will have their own perspective. To stimulate and motivate sharing, ask questions like, “What do the rest of you think,” or “Anyone else want to share?” until several people have had a chance to respond.

6. Try to affirm answers when possible: People will respond to questions more easily when they know you hear them and appreciate their insights. Simple affirmations such as, “That’s great insight,” “Excellent idea,” “Thanks for sharing your heart” or “I had not thought of that before,” will show people you value their comments.

7. Don’t be afraid of silence: When you ask a question and the response is slow, sometimes people may need more time to think before they share. And the silence usually seems longer to you than to others. Try asking the question in another way, to make sure they understand and to give them more time to think.

8. Resist answering the question yourself: If you break the silence yourself by answering the question, even a talkative group can become passive if they think you will do much of the talking. After everyone has had a chance to respond to a question, you may share your own thoughts if you like, but be careful not to dominate the discussion.

9. Never reject an answer: If you reject an answer, even if it is wrong, people may not risk giving their opinion again. To make sure responses reflect the truth of the Bible, you may ask, “Which verse led you to that conclusion?” Or let the group help bring the comment in-line with scripture by asking them what they think about the question.

10. Avoid tangents that take you off topic: If people wander off course, gently bring them back to the passage and question being studied. If a question leads a person into sharing a difficult problem that could take you off topic, stop and pray for the person’s struggle, and move back into the study material.

11. Guide the pace of the study: Try not to be so focused on the material that you become rushed to get through it, or spend too much time on one question. Most studies are designed to be completed in one session, rather than just ending and completing a lesson at the next meeting. This gives your group a sense of completion and closure, especially for members who may miss the next meeting. It is best to try and complete the lesson, even if you have to skip some questions to focus on key questions.


Handling Prayer

Although you definitely want to encourage your women to pray for one another, you are leading an NBS, not a prayer group. Your NBS members may likely represent a variety of different religious backgrounds or may possibly be un-churched. We find it is better not to openly share prayer requests or have members pray out loud in order to avoid intimidation, gossip, and/or any unintended offense. We recommend one or more of the following options:

1. Leader begins and closes NBS in prayer.

2. Women record personal prayer requests on a 3×5 card.

a. Leader collects cards and prays at the end.
b. Women exchange cards and pray for one another throughout the week.

3. Circulate a “prayer journal” for women to record their personal requests.

a. Leader prays over those requests at the end of the study.
b. Enlist a volunteer to distribute prayer journal entries via email.

We have found that a great benefit of keeping an NBS prayer journal is the ability to look back and reflect on God’s faithfulness in answering prayer over time.

Prioritizing Your Personal Spiritual Growth

As important as prayer is to the foundation and beginning of your NBS, your personal spiritual growth is just as important to sustaining your NBS.

In his acclaimed book on communication, Dallas Seminary Professor Dr. Howard Hendricks says it best: “The effective teacher always teaches from the overflow of a full life. If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow.” Mother Theresa reflects the same message: “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil into it.”

Our spiritual growth as leaders and facilitators of our NBS allows God to use us to model and encourage our members to pursue a relationship with Christ more intentionally.

To be effective in encouraging our women to grow, we must be challenging ourselves by practicing spiritual disciplines beyond studying our NBS material – spiritual disciplines such as daily Bible and devotional reading and spending time with God in prayer and listening.

“You see, effective teaching comes only through a changed person,” says Hendricks. “The more you change, the more you become an instrument of change in the lives of others.”

Creating Biblical Community in Your Neighborhood Bible Study

A new community was formed on the Day of Pentecost – a community of Christ-followers who were mutually accountable as they reflected the loving character of God. Our Neighborhood Bible Studies also can become Biblical communities where ministry takes place, members provide fellowship and support, and God’s truth is taught and lived out.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47 NIV)

This vibrant, life-changing community of neighbors is the outcome of focusing on three goals for your NBS:

  • Creating a comfortable, safe environment where women can grow spiritually in Christ-likeness as they study the Bible together;
  • Building a loving community that encourages the development of trusting and caring relationships with one another;
  • Encouraging members to multiply this life-changing experience by reaching out and sharing the grace they have received with other neighbors.

When your NBS members meet for the first time, they may not know each other well or at all. As they build relationships and friendships over time, the group becomes a caring community where women share and process what they are learning. They also help each other understand how to apply God’s Word to their lives.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV)

This dynamic takes time. Some groups take longer than others, but as you pray and implement a few ideas listed below, you will help create a Biblical community of neighbors. Feel free to choose from among these 4 categories as they best apply to your group’s needs. Don’t try to accomplish all of them!


1. Ideas for Creating a Safe, Comfortable Environment:

  • Cast your vision: Let your NBS members know from the first meeting that your desire is to create a comfortable environment to study the Bible, build meaningful relationships, and encourage growth by inviting others.
  • Explain the value of confidentiality: Talking about confidentiality at the beginning of your NBS allows the women to feel comfortable to share. We encourage you to also cover this in your Mission Statement.
  •  The ABCD’s of Discussion also helps establish your environment of safety, trust, and comfort.

A- Audible (be loud enough for all to hear)
B- Brief (statements not stories)
C- Christ and Content Centered (stay focused)
D- Discuss without Division (don’t talk about politics, denominations, or controversial issues)


2. Ideas for Encouraging Lively Discussion and Participation:

As the facilitator, you set the pace and tone for discussion and sharing. Even though your role is to encourage group discussion, in the initial meetings you may need to answer some questions yourself to get the group to open up. Be transparent; share what God is teaching you, admit your faults, and be honest. When you share openly and briefly, you model good discussion for your group. As trust and friendships grow, your women will be become eager to participate.

Begin your study with relationship-building exercises:

  • 15 minutes of coffee and visiting at the start of each study allows members to connect and form friendships.
  • At the beginning of your meetings, you may want to use one or more Short Answer Questions to begin the relationship building process.
  • Divide into pairs or small groups of three to four women. Allow them to discuss a question and report back to the group. Many women who are reluctant to share in the larger group will learn to share in a smaller group.


3. Ideas for Creating a Caring Community inside your NBS:

To help women grow in Christ-likeness, they should be encouraged to care for one another within the NBS.

  • Meet physical, tangible needs of members by providing meals during an illness, etc.
  • Spend time with the women outside of study time. You may periodically plan a group lunch or coffee, or connect with women personally to get to know one another better. This can be as simple as a phone call, text, email or note.
  • Host a couple’s potluck dinner.
  • Plan special gathering at Christmas and other times during the year.
  • Create activities for children, so mothers can visit.


4. Ideas for Outreach to Others Outside of your NBS As women grow in Christ-likeness, encourage them to reflect Christ’s heart for their neighbors:

  • Most new NBS members come because a friend invites them. A good visual reminder is to place an “empty chair” in the room. Challenge the women to pray that God will lead them to invite neighbors to fill the empty chair.
  • Encourage your members to invest in the lives of neighborhood women and invite them to NBS.
  • Each year as you begin a new study, send invitations or flyers out to all neighbors.
  • As an NBS, host an outreach gathering for your neighborhood such as a Christmas coffee and encourage the women to invite one friend.

Continue to encourage your members to pray, care for, and build bridges of friendship with neighbors not attending the study. The desire of NBS2GO is that the door would always be open and the women would be inviting their neighbors to come, throughout the year.



Teaching to Change Lives, Dr. Howard Hendricks
Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Bill Donahue
How to Lead Small Groups, Neal F. McBride
Why Pray?, John DeVries




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