How to Lead Small Group Bible Studies by The Navigators is a small, straightforward book that is easily read. It is made up of 16 chapters, and sets out to do exactly what its cover says in just 71 pages. It has no introduction, no preface, and simply guides the reader through leading small group Bible studies.
I use the word “guides” on purpose, for that is what The Navigators encourage the reader to be. They take pains to explain that the goal of a study is not to be a teacher or lecturer. Instead, the authors provide guidance on asking good questions. In fact, this focus seemed to take up almost a third of the book. Three of the chapters explicitly mention it in their titles. Most sections touched on the subject. Sometimes I tired of it. Thankfully, this isn’t too much of a problem because the book is so short and it contains a lot of practical tips within its pages.
It is geared toward men who have never led a small group before. One of its most motivating aspects is its encouragement for men to lead a class even if he has never done so before. They do a good job of walking the reader through how to invite people to the group. In that part, much of its advice is designed to alleviate stressful situations that may arise from asking friends to join. Some of the other topics discussed include conducting the first meeting, preparing a lesson plan, and constructive group tension.
You may have noticed that when I used some male-specific words in the prior paragraph I omitted “women” and “she.” That was on purpose. The reason is because the book is dated in that regard. I don’t remember it ever using female pronouns with male ones. This dated nature is also observed in other ways, which isn’t surprising since it is from 1982. In the section on aids in creativity the authors mention slides and overhead transparencies (pg. 51). I doubt those are very useful today!
The chapter on leading studies for non-Christians is particularly awkward. It makes no mention of moral relativism or the rejection of absolute truth. One of the worst parts is where the book encourages the study group to temporarily accept two assumptions. The first is that there is a God, and the second is that the Bible’s teachings are true and authoritative (pg. 67).
Of course, I agree with those two statements, but I don’t see how asking non-Christians to agree to such things would be very useful. Not addressing conflicting viewpoints just delays the inevitable debates about them until later. Sweeping issues under the rug doesn’t solve anything. If you ask me, doing so smacks of laziness on the part of the group leader. There should be studies and/or dialog on these topics before participating in a Bible study.
The awkwardness continues a couple of pages later. At one point the book says, “If you have created a relaxed and open atmosphere in the study group, made each person feel that you are a friend, and communicated the gospel clearly, then confronting them about receiving Christ as Savior can occur without causing tension or frustration. It will come naturally and comfortably” (pg. 69). Perhaps the above is possible, but deciding to obey the Gospel is surely a stressful period for many people. To pretend that confronting someone without tension is a common occurrence is ridiculous. After all, the use of the word “confronting” implies stress and conflict! I found it to be the most absurd statement in the book.
As the text continues, recommended questions speak of people’s reactions, interest, helpfulness, and feelings. Members of the study are again encouraged to talk freely about how they feel. This may not be the most effective for those who think that people become Christians largely because of their emotional reactions without involving logic. These statements are further examples of just how dated the book is at times. Sadly, I consider this last chapter to be the worst. That is a real shame because the Gospel is of such eternal importance!
Despite this, I cannot help but be relatively pleased with the book. Its tone is calm and welcoming, and a lot of its advice is still applicable today. I intend to reread some portions of it prior to future Bible classes. Asking questions of class members is not my strong suite, so I hope it helps me. One of the best things about it is that it really did encourage me to lead a small group more often. It does contain good advice on a number of subjects. It’s just a shame that the last chapter of How to Lead Small Group Bible Studies seemed so out of touch with today’s society. I guess that is just one of the drawbacks of reading dated material.
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Image UsedHolding Hands Over a Bible by Godsgirl_madi from Pixabay.
Book LinksHow to Lead Small Group Bible Studies: A Navigator Guide at Goodreads.com.
How to Lead Small Group Bible Studies: A Navigator Guide at Amazon.com.
2 thoughts on “A Book Review of How to Lead Small Group Bible Studies by The Navigators”
I’d like to take a peak at this book! As you know I am a part of several small group Ladies Bible studies. We take turns “facilitating” our classes so the “guides” perspective is relevant!!! Would it be helpful for Guides who are studying together with BELIEVERS?
Hey Kathleen, that is a good question! Yes, the book would be helpful for leaders who are having a study with Christians. As I wrote in my review, it has a lot of good material, especially in relation to asking questions that promote positive discussion. I only stressed the section on studies with non-believers because it was the last chapter and it seemed so dated. Even though the book is old, and hard to get on Amazon, I was able to check it out from a library easily. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!
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