The power of encouragement

How to unlock potential in your small group Bible study.

Hilary Foye · 4 min read

“…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…” (Heb 10:24)

Think back to when you first took the brave step to start your own group Bible study. Did you feel unsure of yourself? Who or what encouraged you to take the plunge? Perhaps it was a promise from Scripture, guidance from a church leader, or affirmation from a trusted friend that made all the difference.

Encouragement is a wonderful way to draw out the strengths of those around us. And now that you have some valuable experience of initiating a Bible study, you can play a part in unlocking your small group’s potential!

Here are four ways you can encourage well:

1. Call out what you see in them

...“Therefore encourage each other and build one another up…” (1 Thess 5:11)

Often, people think of leadership as a formal position, rather than a natural outworking of what God has already placed in them. So, whether you’re approaching someone about co-facilitating gatherings, or even starting their own Bible study group, tell them why you think they’ll be great at it. Maybe you admire their consistency and integrity. Perhaps you’ve noticed their willingness to help out, or how well they facilitate conversation. Don’t hold back; call out the qualities you see!

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2. Tell them what they do well

...."I commend to you our sister Phoebe … she has been a great help to many people, including me.” (Rom 16:1-2)

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We cannot underestimate the impact of commending someone when they do something well. Positive feedback inspires enthusiasm and an encouraged person will always aim higher than a discouraged one.

Remember that genuine, direct expressions of praise always carry more weight than a vague, ‘Good job’:

“‘I loved the sensitive way in which you led the prayer time,’ or, ‘I appreciated how gracious you were in dealing with that controversial moment,’ or, ‘I was impressed by how you included everyone in the discussion.”

Get specific!

3. Show them what they could do (even) better

..."May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (Rom 15:5)

People who are cut down will shut down. If you can learn how to give feedback in a Christlike way that is reflective of your cultural communication norms, everyone in the process will grow together.

In Western contexts, the ‘feedback sandwich’ technique - or inserting a challenge between two positives - can be a helpful way to identify room for improvement without discouraging someone.

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For example, if you want to help a discussion leader become better at integrating shy group members, you might comment:

“Your insightful question at the start tonight really got the group chatting. I noticed Jerry and Jessica hold back though; I wonder, how we could draw them out next time? It was great to see that everyone felt comfortable to pray together by the end.”

Where you are in the world will impact where your emphasis lies in giving feedback. For instance, in Asian cultures, it might be more appropriate to focus on how to encourage participation without making people feel ‘put on the spot,’ rather than the goal being simply to ‘get people talking.’

Wherever you are in the world, be as Christlike, and as culturally aware as you can!

4. Remind them why they should keep going

“… give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Cor 15:58)

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There will be times when every Group Guide feels like giving up. In these moments, encouragement becomes all the more vital. Assure those serving with you or around you that you are thankful for who they are and what they bring. Share what evidence you see of God’s grace in their life. Remind them of the eternal difference their efforts are making. Bring biblical exhortations about perseverance. Offer to pray for them and reassure them that the Holy Spirit is present to give them all the wisdom. strength and endurance they need. Encourage them every chance you have!

Call out what you see in them

Tell them what did they do well

Show them what they could do (even) better

Remind them why they should keep going

Want to learn more?

Want to make your WordGo Gathering a great place for identifying and growing God-given abilities in others? Or perhaps you’d love someone to come alongside and facilitate with you? In this blog series, we’ll explore strategies for developing and discipling one another. Join us!

... How to identify new guides

How to set clear expectations

How to guide by example

How to empower one another

How to equip others

How to aim for expansion

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