When Your Bible Study Goes Off the Rails

“Here she goes again, monopolizing the Bible Study discussion with another one of her stories. I just wish she would give others a turn so we could actually ‘discuss’ and not just listen to her long answers …”

Have you ever thought this about someone in your small group Bible study? Perhaps you and some neighbors, friends or members of your church get together weekly and the above issue, or others, is holding up the discussion?

Here are three of the common issues hindering small group discussion and how you, as a leader, can direct the group to get back on the tracks.

Long Winded Sally

When you have a person in your group who loves to talk, answer all the questions with lengthy stories, and does not really have an awareness of the others in the group, it can really affect the group discussion.

Try this:

After stating the question that you want the group to discuss, say, “I would like to hear from the people who have not shared yet.”

Pull Sally aside after the group is over and ask if she would help you encourage the quieter members of the group by asking more questions.

Use your body language. After the person has answered the question but is continuing to talk on and on, I break eye contact with her and look down at my notes, even lifting my sheet of questions.

Off Track Tracy

“Do I have a guardian angel?” “Is there life on other planets?” “Are dogs in heaven?” “Will Prince William and Kate have another baby?”

It can be tough to reel a group back in when a subject that is not really on the docket for that day begins to take over the discussion time.

Try this:

Say, “I know politics, pop culture and even questions about the Bible are fun things to chat about, but the lesson I have prepared for us today will help us in many aspects of our lives. It is important to say on track here. If we have time after we are done, we can explore it some more!”

If the question is a Biblical question say, “That is an important question. Before answering, I’d like to do some research to find verses and information to answer that question well.”

Wrong Answer Rena

It can be tricky correcting a gal who blurts out a wrong answer to a question. You don’t want her to be embarrassed but you need to correct the answer for the sake of the others in the group.

Try this:

When a wrong answer is stated, you can say, “OK, what other thoughts are there?”

You can direct her to find the right answer in a kind way by saying, “I can see where that might have been confusing to you. Let’s read the verse again.”

If she is still confused, say, “I have some helpful resources I can send your way this week and we can talk more about this, just you and I.”

These are only a few of the many issues that can take a group off track. I applaud you for leading a Bible study if you are new, dealing with some of these issues, or even if you planned for a great discussion and no one showed up! Leading a Bible study or a small group of any kind can be a roller coaster but it’s worth the ride! Hang in there!

Lori Joiner is an author, speaker and discipleship coach in Katy, Texas. When not writing, you can find her teaching group fitness classes at the YMCA, walking their chocolate lab with her husband Alan or playing board games with her two sons. You can reach out to her at LoriJoinerMinistries.org.

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Lori Joiner


Lori Joiner is an author, speaker and discipleship coach in Katy, Texas. To invite her to speak at your next event and to browse her full list of Bible studies and resources, visit LoriJoinerMinistries.org. You can also find her podcast, Your Discipleship Coach, on Apple podcast and Spotify.