Skip to content

Small Groups: What to Do When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing



POV: Your youth pastor has just offered you an opportunity to lead a small group session. You’ve searched your heart, prayed, and have made the decision to say yes. Congratulations, this is a great place to be and a big step of faith in your walk with the Lord!

The problem? You have no idea what you’re doing.




There is a first time for everything, and when you visit a small group or attend a great Bible study, it’s highly unlikely that it was the leader’s “first rodeo.” To be able to lead anything is a skill that can and needs to be learned and developed over time. So don’t be discouraged if you are just starting out, you will be able to become more effective as you continue to practice.

You might be feeling insecure or doubt your ability, but there is a reason your youth pastor or leader has asked you to step up. They’ve witnessed the work that God is doing in your life and want to give you an opportunity to share what the Lord has been teaching you. Keep in mind that in the Bible, God uses even a donkey to speak (Numbers 22:21-39) and even the rocks could have the ability “to cry out” (Luke 19:40). Don’t be overwhelmed, but rather get into the Word and reflect and allow it to speak to you.



Getting prepared for a study for the first time can be a stressful task and can take a lot of energy. You might be flipping through your Bible and reading random passages, none of which seem to apply, and all your great ideas are somehow non-existent. No matter what the parameters are for the group that you are preparing to lead, here are a few basic tools to help you get ready:

1. Pray and ask for God’s wisdom. Then ask yourself a few questions: 
  • What has God been teaching me? 
  • What topics would be relevant to the group I’m leading? 
  • Has there been anything on my mind that I’ve been feeling passionate about lately? 

Jot down your answers to these questions to keep your ideas clear.


2. Let Scripture impact you first, before reading commentaries or alternative sources. Once you have your brainstorming ideas down, find a passage that you can dig into deeper. Read over it and meditate on it. 

I like to use the S.O.A.P. Method.

Scripture: Pick a passage of Scripture.

Observation: Write down 3-5 main observations or points that stood out to you.

Application: In what ways does this passage apply to our lives? What principles can we draw from it?

Prayer: Devote intentional time to pray over the passage, your observations, and applications.

It’s also important that you teach what Scripture is stating, and not just your own ideas.

You can use the personal content you’ve developed from the S.O.A.P. Method to expand it for your small group. Walk through the same passage with your group, and ask them for their observations and application. Add in additional reflection questions.


3. Make it personal. If there are principles or concepts in the passage, think about analogies or stories that would help everyone understand them better. Add in your personal experiences, failures, successes, and lessons learned. Ask your group to contribute their own. Don’t be afraid to try different activities, games, or formats of teaching because they can be a great way to help people engage with Scripture on a deeper level.



Try to shift your perspective from how you feel, and toward the purpose you’re trying to accomplish, which is serving others.

I have often been nervous before any opportunity to speak or lead. This is a completely normal reaction for anyone who is taking up public speaking. Here are a few things that I have found helpful:

  1. Think about the audience: they are rooting for you. Remember when you were in the youth group, sitting around a table, and having a talk. You probably weren't thinking about what the leader was feeling or if he/she was nervous, instead, you were thinking about what answer you’d give if they were going to call on you. Your leader was likely nervous, but as a student, that never crossed your mind. You saw them as an authority figure and wanted to hear what they had to say. The people in your group would feel the same way about you.
  2. Shift your perspective: You're getting closer to your time to teach and are still nervous. I can even feel this way before giving announcements at my church. What I normally do in that situation is simplify my thoughts and approach it from the most basic terms. First, I am here for the people, it's not about me, and all I am doing is giving them the information that they need. If I was sitting in their seat, what would be the relevant things I need to hear? Really, it’s just a conversation that we’re having with people, but somewhere along the line our emotions get jumbled up and we forget that.
  3. Consider it as an opportunity to make a positive impact. Think about the people, because they’re the most important component of this. They are going through life, have needs, and are seeking spiritual direction. In 2 Samuel 5:12 it says that David knew the Lord had established him and exalted him for the sake of His people Israel. God has shepherds to take care of his sheep. If there are no sheep, a shepherd is nothing. Don’t take that lightly. You have a responsibility with the people entrusted to you, but have confidence that if the Lord calls you, He’ll provide you with everything you need to be a good shepherd!



When leading a group, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. People are looking for direction. It is comforting to the group to know someone is leading, keeping the conversation structured, and moving the discussion along. Keep the structure in balance by allowing beneficial conversations to take place even if they weren’t planned. 
  2. Don’t take all the weight upon yourself. We often do not have, because we do not ask (James 4:2). God has created us as members of the body and we need to function as one. Ask others to help with tasks, brainstorm ideas, or provide feedback that will help you grow as a group and as a leader to better serve those around you.
  3. People want Jesus, not just a social club. Members of your group want to encounter Jesus Christ and the most impactful thing for them is to see that you are following Him with all your heart. There are other social gatherings that people can go to, but here is where they will find spiritual food. People are hungry for Jesus because He alone has the words of life. Have fun and enjoy your time together, but don’t just create a social group. People may forget many of the things that you say, but they’ll remember being challenged by your love and cared for. After some time, you’ll look back and see the significant changes the Lord has made in their lives.

So go for it! Take a leap of faith, and you will learn along the way. Don’t “despise the day of small things,” (Zechariah 4:10) as Scripture says. Jesus changed the world by pouring into twelve people. That’s a small youth group by today's standards, but yet it did amazing things. So be encouraged to be faithful with the few the Lord has put in your life, and let Him do remarkable works through your group!


Challenge: Roulette Preaching


What you will need is a Bible, a timer and some friends. This is a great challenge to do with some friends. With your eyes closed, take a Bible and open it to a random spot and place your finger on the page. When you open your eyes you have set a 1 minute timer to read the few verses that you pointed to on the page and prepare a short message in your head. After the minute is up, set a 2 minute timer and preach what you prepared to your friends. After you're done, let your friends give you feedback and pass it onto the next person to give it a try. This is a great challenge to practice talking in front of a group and developing an argument on the fly.