(Back to step one… why.)
This step is all about preparing you to be the best LSS leader you can be! While it’s primarily intended for those using the small group/seminar formats, anyone running a one-on-one group will also find lots of helpful material here.
1. how lss teaches
LSS has a basic four-fold education structure where explorers move from personally gathering information, collectively interacting with the information and then ‘banking’ the information at the end of the group time.
2. how to value what’s most important
The Holy Spirit
Salvation is God’s business. The Father planned our salvation. The Son obtained our salvation by dying on the cross. But, it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to salvation (Titus 3:5).
Evangelism is our business (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 1:8). We must befriend, reach out, pray and witness. But even if we do all that, unless the Holy Spirit is at work, no one would ever be convicted of their need for Christ, receive Christ or be born again (John 3:5; 16:8; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4–6). Only the Spirit can move someone to personally and willingly trust Christ. This is the Spirit’s gracious work! Jesus said that, during his absence, the Holy Spirit’s role would be to bring conviction to the world (John 16:8). This means we are not alone in the process of evangelism—the Spirit is working too!
It is by praying that we acknowledge our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is crucial to pray for people before, during and after the group. Jesus said that “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). James highlighted the importance of prayer when he wrote, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Therefore, we strongly encourage you to ask as many people as possible to pray, and to commit yourself to praying for each individual who comes to your group every week.
Because everyone bears the image of God, each person is incredibly significant and loved by God—more than we could ever imagine! If people are vitally important to God, they need to be important to us too. We always want to be personable, genuine, loving and respectful towards others. While salvation is the Holy Spirit’s work, it’s our job to love people, as we clearly communicate the message about Christ, remembering that ‘people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care’.
One way of showing that we care about people is to remember their names and use them often. While it can be hard to remember new names, it’s so important that we do this and show that we value them.
LSS is about ‘process evangelism’ as distinct from ‘crisis evangelism’.
In ‘crisis evangelism’ people are urged to trust the Lord in response to a personal crisis. The crisis might be financial, relational or medical. It’s the ‘in this immediate situation, you really need to hand your life over to the Lord’ approach. And for some people, like the Philippian jailer (Acts 16), salvation comes out of an ‘earthquake’ situation.
‘Process evangelism’ is different. Process evangelism is about joining people on an enjoyable journey of understanding, where they can slowly learn and gradually grow in their understanding of the gospel. It might be called ‘discipleship evangelism’—the kind Jesus did as people followed him, from place to place, listening to what he had to say. Whatever the label, it’s about process.
‘Process evangelism’ is about working evangelistically over the longer term… taking the necessary time, making the necessary commitment and having the necessary information from the Bible ready to share. All this spells process. But it’s not an endless process. It has a goal in view—it is all about seeing people come to faith in Christ.
3. how to invite people
When you invite people, it is important to be open and honest, explaining to them exactly what LSS is, what will happen and who will be there. Be sure that, when people are invited, they understand it is not a forum for debate—it is an opportunity for a positive learning adventure in which we discover the story of the Bible. The group is all about exploring this question: How does the Bible tell its own story?
If people decide not to come, stay connected and keep praying for them because they might change their minds at some point in the future.
If you’re running a small-group…
The ratio of ‘believer’ to ‘enquirer’ should be approximately one to one. Keep this in mind when inviting people. Too many believers in a group can make enquirers feel ‘outnumbered’ and it can become too easy for ‘in-house’ conversations, behaviour and jargon to dominate. Many Christians do not realise how alienating this can be.
Make the purpose of the group clear when you invite people. When inviting Christians to the group, make it clear that the purpose of the group is for believers and enquirers to be on an even playing field. Both are there to learn. Both are ‘explorers’! It is not the place for the Christians to answer all the questions for the enquirers. Answering questions is to be respectfully facilitated by you, the group leader.
The maximum number of people in a small group is about ten. Keep this in mind when you are inviting people to your group. With more than ten people, the dynamics of a group change—it becomes difficult to maintain good group communication. If you have more than ten people, you might consider running two small groups or arranging a seminar.
(There are a number of free downloads available to help you invite people in step 3—begin.)
4. how to develop small-group skills
How to have the right attitude
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
We all know it’s possible for us to do the right thing the wrong way. That’s also true when it comes to evangelism. It is vitally important that we are under the Lord’s control so that we not only have the right answer but the right attitude. We want to conduct all our discussions with gentleness and respect. This not only pleases the Lord, but it also makes the truth palatable.
How to understand why people ask questions
Not everyone asks a question for the same reason. Some questions are:
- Quizzing questions—they’re asked simply to test us, to see if we know what we are talking about. Some are testing us to see what we’re really like and how we handle ourselves.
- Genuine discovery questions—for the people asking these questions, the material is new and they are genuinely looking for answers to increase their understanding.
- Probing questions—the people asking these questions are looking for clarification; they genuinely don’t understand or, maybe, they’re trying to see if what is being said makes sense.
- Derailing questions—they’re asked in order to sidetrack the group members.
How to understand why people don’t ask questions
Some people are simply shy—they might prefer to write down their questions or they might just need a little more time to feel comfortable. Some people may not feel safe—they’re afraid of appearing foolish. Some people simply don’t have a question—at least it isn’t immediately coming to mind. If no one has anything to discuss, then feel at ease in continuing the session. Pressuring people to ask questions will not create a welcoming and friendly environment.
How to create a safe and question-friendly environment
People must feel safe to ask questions. This can be done in one or two ways:
- By making it clear at the outset (and periodically through the series) that questions are important and welcomed. Perhaps you can assure your group that there is no such thing as a silly question—apart from the one that is never asked. Unasked questions are like splinters in a finger—if they are not addressed, they will cause problems later on.
- By modelling a safe, ‘question-friendly’ environment, respecting every question, thanking the questioner for the question, being gracious and courteous, and avoiding put-downs (even funny ones) at all costs.
How to manage questions in the group
Engaging the group in discussion and answering questions are important. The following can be helpful:
- If a contribution is a little ‘wide of the mark’, don’t try to correct it immediately—open the contribution to the members of the group and ask what they think.
- Ask open-ended questions that don’t have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, like, “What effect might the confusion of language at Babel have had on humanity?”, or “What might the Bible means when it says…?” Questions that have only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are conversation stoppers.
- When someone offers an answer, you might like to generate further discussion by asking the person or someone else to restate or reword the answer in a different way. Look for opportunities to build on answers offered in a group situation.
- When you do not know the answer to a question, say so! The group knows that you won’t have answers to everything and this is normal. They are not looking for a leader who knows everything. They are not looking for a leader who always presents Christianity as being perfect. If the question can’t be answered, it is fine to say, “Thanks for that great question—it seems like we don’t have an answer for that tonight, but let me see what I can find for you this week and we will raise the question at our next session.”
- Don’t ask a question and answer it yourself—this demotivates others and makes them less eager to participate.
- It’s great to let your group discover the answer for themselves. If you know a Bible passage that contains the answer, invite the group to turn to it and have someone (or the whole group) read the passage and then ask the group, “What do you think that verse is saying about this?”
How to work with dominant and shy personalities
Dominant personalities can prevent others from contributing to the group equally. There are different ways to work with a dominant personality. The suggestions below can be useful:
- You can say, “Thanks for that question, Johnny. I wonder what others in the group think about this interesting topic”.
- To bring others into the conversation, you can ask, “We haven’t heard as much from this side of the room. I’d like to know if you have any thoughts or questions to contribute”.
- If the dominant person continues to overpower others in the group, you may need to speak to that individual privately after the group session, thank them for their interest and contribution, and ask if they would help you to encourage the rest of the group to contribute more as well.
Shy personalities can sometimes prevent the group from obtaining the most out of LSS. If they remain quiet and ‘hidden’, the group can miss out on their unique contribution to group discussion. There are different ways of working with shy personalities, such as the following:
- You could ask, “Is there anyone who hasn’t asked many questions that would like to ask one?”
- If you know that the shy person won’t feel ‘singled out’, you can ask, “Fred, is there anything that you would like to add to our discussion? If there is, we would love to hear what you have to say. Your questions are very important to the group.”
5. how to use the bible
LSS is all about unfolding story of the Bible. This means the Bible is at the centre of LSS and the message of the Bible becomes the reason for and the foundation of faith. The Bible itself teaches that faith is built on knowledge (Romans 10:14–15). This means ‘enquirers’ will never find faith in a vacuum, nor should they. Christianity is not about some undefined, religious experience or ‘taking a leap into the dark’. It is about personally and intelligently trusting the Christ of the Bible. Because of this, the Bible has a central place in the LSS programme.
LSS is based on and uses the 2011 NIV version of the Bible. Having everyone in the group using an identical Bible will eliminate ‘version’ confusion and allow the Bible to be referenced by page numbers (or if using the app, also use book names and chapter references—but remember to explain what ‘book’, ‘chapter’ and ‘verse’ mean and how to change this on the LSS app!). In this way, newcomers are comfortable and are not made to feel like novices. Christians should not bring their own Bibles—give identical Bibles to everyone in the group. This will place everyone on an ‘even playing field’.
(We’ll discuss ways of resourcing your group with Bibles in step 3—begin.)
last step: begin
Now that you’re all prepared to be a LSS leader, find out how you to plan your group in step three… begin.