Qualities of an Effective Small Group Leader

So, you’re about to lead a small group, maybe for the first time, and you’re sure your pastor made a mistake in asking you to lead this group. You may be feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, and a little anxious at the thought of someone asking a question you don’t know the answer to. How can you, a normal person, lead a small group?

For some reason, we often think Bible study leaders have to be the smartest person in the room, armed with quick, charming, and compelling answers for every question. Good leaders host their small group in a pristine home or know the coolest place in town to chat over coffee. They’re stylish, funny, brilliant, put-together, and BFFs with Jesus. Now, we know small group leaders aren’t all of those things but—for whatever reason—we are sure we have to be that kind of leader. 

The truth is you don’t have to be perfect in order to be effective. You don’t even need to be perfect in order to be a great small group leader. The best small group leaders are actually far from perfect, but they do share some traits in common that you can easily add to your own life. 


Great small group leaders are guides, not gurus.


Take a second to answer this question: What makes small group leaders different than the people they are leading?


Many of us think leaders are gurus—perfect, all-knowing, wise ones who know the Bible inside and out and can answer any question. But gurus make really bad small group leaders. They tend to make group meetings all about themselves, their knowledge, and their insights. It’s pretty hard to focus on Jesus when the leader is making the group about themselves. 

 

The most effective small group leaders are guides. They have a map, know what trail they are on, and know where they are headed. Their leadership is not about getting everyone to focus on them but on avoiding dangers and making progress towards their destination. 


Your small group time is not about you; it’s about Jesus. Your responsibility is to keep people focused on him, becoming more like him, and making him known. 


But what if you don’t have the answer to a tough question? A guru would be threatened because it would challenge their status as the all-knowing leader. But a guide? Guides aren’t threatened because they have the “maps” of God’s Word, the support of church staff, and an abundance of great resources for answering tough questions at their fingertips. Guides actually become more helpful when tough questions come up.


If you don’t know an answer, be honest: “I don’t know, but I will try to find an answer for our meeting next week.” Which brings us to the second quality of effective leaders.


Great small group leaders are prepared.

It’s like legendary basketball coach John Wooden said,

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” 

Being prepared doesn’t mean you have to outline your meeting minute by minute, but you should know what you are going to cover in your group that week. Take time to look over the Bible verses, study questions, and any resources you will be using. Preparation will look different for everyone, so find a method that works best for you.

The most effective small groups aren’t thrown together last second; they are the result of a prepared leader prayerfully thinking through the time they are about to spend in God’s Word. After all, if you are a guide, you need to know your map!


But being prepared does not mean you have to teach your group because… 


Great small group leaders see their groups as communities, not classrooms.


You don’t have to be a seminary professor or pastor to be a great group leader. You simply need to facilitate conversation. Think of your group as a community rather than a classroom. Your goal in the group is to help the church grow in spirit and in truth, not ace a Bible quiz. 


Ask an opening question and wait for people to start talking (it’s okay to endure a little awkwardness). If your group starts running down a rabbit trail, gently point them back to the topic at hand. Ask open-ended questions. Try to get everyone involved in the conversation. At the end of your time, talk about ways to apply what you are learning. 


More often than not, you will learn from the people in your group. They will see things you missed. They will have ideas you wished you’d thought of. But for a great small group leader, being a part of a community headed towards Jesus isn’t about being in front—it’s about leading people to Jesus. 


Starting out as a small group leader can be daunting. But most of our anxiety comes from thinking we have to be spiritual gurus. Once we realize that we are guides, the anxiety to be perfect starts to slip away. When we prepare well, we will build our confidence. Shifting our role from “teacher” to “member of the community” will take away our self-imposed performance pressure. 


Great group leaders are normal people, just like you. No matter your background or leadership experience, if you guide people to Jesus you’ll be doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. 

Are you a first-time small group leader? Check out our series 6 Tips for a Great Small Group with Bill Search or reignite your small group with the Embark series with Robby Angle.


If you are looking for resources to help you lead a small group, we have a library of great studies to help you get started, complete with questions to help you facilitate conversations.

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Friendship is one of the most important and formative features of the human experience, and one of its sweetest pleasures. Because of its significance, literature is filled with moving examples of friendship, from Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings to Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. These stories, and others like them, invite us to make friendship a priority.

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The Bible also speaks of friendship’s important, formative effect on our lives. From the example of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1–5) to the language Paul uses in his epistles to Timothy (1 and 2 Timothy), the witness of Scripture testifies that friendship is a blessed good. Solomon himself reveres friendship, using words like “sweetness” (Proverbs 27:9) to describe its joys and “love” (Proverbs 17:17) to convey its depth and devotion. Friendship is not just a blessed good but a generous gift from God.

Since we’ve been created in the image of the triune God (Genesis 1:27), we are made for community—for friendship. In some ways, it comes natural to us. We gravitate to others, finding common bonds, common interests, and common loves. And yet, because we and the world have been fractured by sin, friendship is hard. We sin against our friends, they sin against us, and relationships suffer and sometimes break.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

 

In Genesis 2 and 3, the Bible implies that life for Adam and Eve was to be marked by fellowship (or friendship) with God. It was apparently normal for them to speak with God and to walk with him. But then, Genesis 3:6–7 happened—the fall—and their fellowship was disrupted. With one fateful bite of fruit, Adam and Eve effectively “unfriended” God. And to this day, we live in the shadow of the fall. Like Adam and Eve, our friendship with God has been disrupted.

How would you respond to being so grievously betrayed? Would you overlook the offense? Would you abandon your friend entirely? How do you think God should react?

The New Testament tells us how God responded to our betrayal: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4,), the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34, emphasis added), and made him “who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) so we might have a right relationship with him once again. Do you hear that? In response to our sin and our ruptured relationship, the Son comes and befriends those who betrayed him.

What’s most shocking about Jesus’s friendship is that he calls us friends. Though we have betrayed him, he “chose” us (John 15:16). By his grace, he has come near to us and, knowing our disloyalty and all our fears, sins, struggles, and anxieties, he has said to us, “my friend.” 

Jesus, the Greatest Friend

 

Knowing ourselves, we may wonder, “Is Jesus truly—I mean, really—my friend? Will he stick by me, even if I betray him again?”

 

We can know Jesus is our friend with certainty because of what he says to us in the Gospel of John: “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, CSB). Jesus is the greatest friend because he laid down his life for us (John 19).

We know from Proverbs that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Since Jesus is our friend, we can be certain that he loves us entirely, perfectly, forever—at all times. And we know that, despite what we have done or have yet to do, he “is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). 

So, we ask: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Romans 8:35), this friend of sinners, this great friend of mine? No one. Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus. 

Go and Do Likewise

 

Knowing that Jesus is a devoted friend should encourage us. It should also inform the way we view and exercise friendship ourselves. Each of us needs good friends in our lives; but if we’re not careful, we might begin to think like the lawyer in Luke 10:25–37 who tested Jesus: “And who is my [friend],” we might ask (emphasis added). 

While that question is not an inappropriate one, what if Jesus first wants us who have experienced his friendship to be the same kind of friend to others? What if, upending our sensibilities as he did with the parable of the good Samaritan, he is calling us to go to our neighbors who are isolated and lonely, and befriend them? Who among us will prove to be a friend to the friendless?

 

Jesus has come and called us friends. Today, he tells us: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Every church operates differently, but we all share one similar charge—to share the love of Christ with people far from God. Since Jesus left the disciples, we have carried the gospel across the globe. But, when we think of how to connect with unchurched people in our community, we can be left scratching our heads.

Was it always this hard? Do we need to make our churches more relevant, more trendy, more comfortable? We feel like we’re doing all the right things but we aren’t seeing results—what are we missing?

It can be disheartening to go through seasons where we aren’t seeing people come to Christ. We can feel stuck or behind. It can be tempting to think that we have to try something drastic to introduce more people to Jesus. But when we think about reaching the unchurched—people who have no experience with or interest in either the church or Christ—we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We simply need to do what Christians have always done with a strategy that best fits our context. 

Context

In Bible study, we all know context is king. If you don’t know the context of a passage, you will probably miss the point. The same holds true for your church. God has place you (a unique pastor) in your church (a unique people) in a unique place. Your position is purposeful and should define everything from the sermons you preach to the sort of programs your church offers. 

To connect with the unchurched, start by thinking through your unique context—the things that make your mission field and position unique. These questions can get you started:

1. What is the personality of your city? Neighborhood? Church?
2. What is your church’s demographic? Are you wanting to reach out to a similar demographic? Why, or why not?
3. Where do non-Christians hang out in your city? Is it different from where Christians live, work, or play? What are some common spaces where people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies overlap?
4. How do people think about Christians in your city? Are people in your city likely to go to a church on Sunday? What do they think about Jesus?

 

No matter how you answer these questions, starting with God’s unique design for your church will give you an idea of his direction for your church. For example, if non-Christians in your community are unlikely to go to church on Sunday, think about how you can empower your people to befriend their neighbors or to make your small groups open to visitors. Or, if your church is downtown but speaks the language of the suburbs, consider how you might adapt to relate to the people next door. 

Face Outward

As you figure out your context, your creativity will spark. You will think of new events, sermon series, or ministries that could help you connect with the unchurched. But, as our culture changes, our posture also needs to adjust. For decades, the church has operated on a “come and see” model. People were willing to go to church or check out weekly ministries because the church was broadly seen as trustworthy and needed. Today, that is not always the case. 

Unlike in year’s past, people today are more likely to think organized religion isn’t important. According to a 2019 Gallup study, only 36% of Americans have a high level of confidence in the church or organized religion, an all-time low. At the same time, 29% of Americans have little or no confidence in the church, an all-time high. In other words, we should assume that the people around us are skeptical of the church, even if they claim Christ. 

So what do we do? A Sunday service may attract a handful of curious unchurched people. But a mobilized congregation of purposeful, Christlike friends can reach dozens of neighborhoods, workplaces, coffee shops, and grocery stores every day. Our congregations can reach more unchurched people in a day than we could with dozens of well-crafted sermons. 

 

The attractional model has passed its prime. It is useful in some areas, but less so every year. To connect with the unchurched, our model for ministry needs to turn outward, shifting from a “come and see” to a “go and tell” mentality. For some of us, we may just need a change in our language, speaking to the specific concerns and questions of our culture. For others, we may need to fundamentally alter the way we do ministry. 

Trusting God

There are many reasons why the unchurched may not be attracted to a church service or event, but there is nothing stopping us from going to them. Everywhere you go, someone needs Jesus: your neighbors, coworkers, bank tellers, and mail carriers. God has placed you in their path; trust him and what he can do in their lives.

 

Connecting with the unchurched is not about marketing strategies, trendier social media accounts, or more relevant sermon illustrations. None of those things redeem sinners. Only God can change a person’s heart. Our responsibility is to faithfully make disciples wherever and whenever God gives us the chance. 

To summarize the Great Commission: go, baptize, teach.   

Connecting with Unchurched People

It feels like church is changing. Well, that isn’t completely the case. Worship styles, Christian culture, and the popular forms of preaching change with every generation. That is as inevitable as the sun setting this evening. But the cultural ground under our feet has shifted. While many Christians are still going to church, committed members feel few and far between. Apathy seems to rule the day. 

 

As pastors, we can often despair over our congregation’s lack of passion. To combat their malaise, we dream up campaigns to build excitement, events to attract people distant from the gospel, or emulate popular teachers to add an extra spark to the pulpit. We run ourselves ragged trying to dispel apathy. But what happens when flashy strategies and catchy anecdotes don’t energize our people; when there are no new volunteers and Back Row Bob still sleeps through your sermons?

 

When our strategies fail, we often feel like failures. Shame, despair, doubt, and self-criticism come knocking on our office doors to remind us of our flaws and shortcomings. If we aren’t careful, we will end up like Elijah, abandoning our calling in frustration, grief, and despair (1 Kings 19:1–10).

 

Our culture is changing. In many ways, the Christian culture of the last thirty years is disappearing as the West evolves into a post-Christian world. The strategies of yesterday aren’t working today like they used to and won’t work in tomorrow’s world. But we don’t need a new strategy. The solution to apathy and the church’s woes is not a better worship set, a more responsible youth pastor, or better elders. Gospel-oriented passion is a God-given gift. 

Revival

 

When we ask God to cure our apathy, we are asking for nothing less than revival—a reorientation of people to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s a tall order, far too much for any one of us. But, to our relief, the enlivening of God’s people and reawakening of the spiritually drowsy is not our responsibility. It is not in our skillset. Any and every pastor-led “revival” will end as soon as that pastor’s humanity is revealed—either through exposure of sin, exhaustion, or weakness. 

 

You are imperfect, but God has called you to lead his people, flawed as you may be. Your call is to be faithful. What you need, what your people need, and what the world needs is for the Spirit to move in our midst. 

 

The first step in combating apathy is to drop to our knees in humble prayer, admitting our limitations, our fears, our frustrations, and hopes. Praise God for what he has done in your church (how often we forget!) and what he is preparing to do. Practice what you preach. Confess your sins. Thank God for his goodness. Weep and rejoice for your flock. Boldly ask that God would awaken you and your people and be glorified in your congregation. 

Worship

 

An expert band, thousands of dollars in lights, and beautiful staging, are nice for Sunday worship. But true worship is neither confined nor defined by staging. True worship is defined by spirit and truth and can happen in every moment of our lives. The profound beauty of worship is not found in your band’s version of “Oceans” or in your expert teaching. The glory of worship is in its object—God himself. Worship is an opportunity for you and your people to wholly turn to God in praise and awe.

 

The second way to combat apathy is to point your people to God—the one who is, was, and ever will be. The Alpha and Omega; beginning and end. The most passionate church in the world is the church who is wholly focused on God. And, again, true worship is a gift from God. The Spirit leads us in truth, prays for us when we do not have the words, and glorifies the Father and Son as he indwells us. 

 

Once again, you are dependent on God to enliven your worship. So keep praying. 

The High Calling

 

It can be easy for lay people to assume that pastors and church staff are the only people with a calling on their life. We know that isn’t true, that every person is called to lay their lives down at the foot of the cross. 

 

We are busy. But our schedules don’t change God’s calling. Often, we try to make church amenable to people’s schedules. To a point, that is totally understandable. But decades of seeker-sensitive models have taught Christians the church is a low-commitment event. It is what we do on Sundays—well, the Sundays we feel like going. Is it really that surprising Christians who see church as an optional program aren’t excited to sacrifice their time, energy, and resources for it?

 

When we minimize commitment to the Body of Christ, we send the message that the church’s need is not so great—that sacrifice is for church staff, volunteering is a hassle, and the mission of God is a side plot to our lives.

 

Do not minimize involvement in the church. Don’t soften the commands of Scripture. When someone shows up to volunteer, don’t give them a minimum requirement—tell them what you need and ask for a commitment. Invest in them. 

He Is With You

 

Apathy has always been a problem for God’s people. We aren’t experiencing anything new, even as our culture slides into a post-Christian perspective. But when the world ignores the church, our hope doesn’t change. 

 

Pastors are like the prophets of old, surrounded by idols and syncretism. Like the prophets, we call people back to God’s Word, to radical repentance, worship, and service. Our world doesn’t need a better event; they need Jesus.

 

Turn to him. Point your people to him. Call them to his standard. 

 

Pastor, he is with you. 

Battling Apathy in the Church

Many aspiring politicians hope to become president of the United States one day. But the vast majority of them, despite countless county fair hot dogs, late nights, and fundraising emails, will never sit in the Oval Office. Their desires and dreams are based on subjective possibilities beyond their control.

 

Across the pond, William, son of England’s Prince Charles, hopes to become king of the United Kingdom one day. As the grandson of the queen, the son of the heir apparent, and second in line to the monarchy, he is counting on over a thousand years of law and tradition to guarantee his eventual accession to the throne. It’s safe to say he confidently expects to be king one day.

 

Whose hope, the politician’s or the prince’s, more closely resembles yours? Like our political candidates, we often use hope to express a desire or wish for a possible outcome. Hope can seem vague and subjective, difficult to pinpoint. It can be a feeling, an impression, a wish—often felt with deep fervency. I really hope my team wins tonight. I sure hope Mom cooks my favorite meal. 

 

Feelings of hope brighten our countenances. But in the end, we’re still waiting for something we can’t guarantee will happen. William’s hope, however, is a confident expectation that his head will one day wear the crown. The law and his family tree are a sure foundation for his hope. 

 

When the writers of Scripture speak of hope in God, they use words of waiting, confidence, and trust. When God is the object of our hope, we wait in confident expectation. Why?

 

God has proven his reliability, trustworthiness, and power; therefore, our hope in him is well-deserved and sure. God’s provision and redemptive acts are fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of biblical hope lies in its object—God’s faithful character and matchless power—rather than the fervency of our feelings.

The Bible speaks of God himself as our hope: 

Jeremiah, praying to God, “Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress” (Jeremiah 14:8) and “LORD, the hope of Israel” (17:13). 

Paul names Jesus: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . .” (1 Timothy 1:1).

 

Jesus’s victorious return: “. . . while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

The church is sometimes called “the hope of the world,” but any hope that we offer to the world comes from our savior. Jesus is the hope of the world, and he calls us to share his message of love, grace, and salvation. Because he is all-powerful and ever-faithful, we can look to the future not with dread but with joyful anticipation. We can endure disasters and conflicts and every disappointment with a sense of purpose. 

 

God’s word is true, and his gospel offers hope for each of us individually, for the church as a body, and for the world which hasn’t yet recognized its savior.

Hope for us.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 

Hope for the church.

“For this reason we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).

 

Hope for the world.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in Christ’s triumphal procession and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place. For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14–15).

As the body of Christ set apart to bear his name, the church reflects the glorious likeness of our savior. He calls us to shine like stars in the world, proclaiming him in word and deed. The risen Jesus is our hope both now and eternally. 

 

Registration for the 2022 RightNow Conference, which serves pastors, staff, and church volunteers, opens soon. This year’s theme, Hope Has a Name, reflects our desire to encourage church leaders to rest upon the solid rock of God’s character and faithfulness. We have every reason to place our hope in God, because his record of living up to his word is absolute, perfect, and complete.  

 

More than even the law and a thousand years of tradition, more than aimless waiting or wishful thinking, we have reason to hope.

 

Hope has a name, and his name is Jesus. 

Hope Has a Name

Have you ever found yourself leaving a Sunday worship service saying to yourself, “The worship was great—I can’t wait for next week”? Or maybe you've had the opposite reaction: “I love this church, but the worship was not my favorite . . .” No matter which situation you have found yourself in, we can all admit that we sometimes equate worship with the music we sing on a Sunday morning. 

Our perspective of worship is often limited to what we experience at church. But Scripture is clear about what worship is—it extends much deeper than the songs that we sing. Worship is an intimate expression of gratitude for the mercies of God that he’s given to his people. And singing is just one aspect of how we worship. True worship happens when we live a life of sacrifice—when we worship as a lifestyle.

A Living Sacrifice


Paul had a strong grasp of what it meant to worship when he wrote to the Roman church. In Romans 12 Paul writes, 

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.”

Paul appealed to the church in Rome with the truth that worship is meant to be a sacrificial offering to God. What do we sacrifice? We sacrifice our lives to God. Sacrificing time by setting aside moments to reach out to those we care about is an expression of worship. Worship is sacrificing our money by giving consistently to the local church or covering a friend’s bill. It’s also offering our gifts and talents to help others. We’re called to live a lifestyle of worship—not setting apart portions of our week for worship but instead living in a constant state of worship knowing that every moment can be an act of service to God. 

So, what does it look like to worship with our lives? 

Sacrificial Worship in Spirit and Truth

First, we worship in Spirit and in truth. In John 4:23, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman who would become the first evangelist of Jesus’s ministry. In this passage, John records Jesus’s words as he taught the woman how we worship. Jesus said, 

“But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Worshiping in Spirit and truth means we are led by the Spirit and grounded in the truth of Scripture. We need the Spirit—he moves in us, teaching us to worship, maturing us, and rooting us in truth. Sacrificial worship begins with our relationship with the Spirit. But how, exactly, does he help us to worship? In Romans 12:2, Paul says,


“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .”

Worship begins with internal transformation. Renewal of the mind does not come from self-improvement or the next great self-help podcast. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us. By his power, we experience transformation in our minds, our desires, and our actions. We worship in Spirit and truth by surrendering to the Holy Spirit and allowing him to work in our hearts. When we do so, we allow him to change us, enabling us to offer ourselves completely to God. 

Holy Worship


Second, our worship is to be holy, or set apart. Paul is not calling us to worship perfectly but rather to offer holistic worship. As Jesus’s followers, how we serve, how we give, how we love—they’re all expressions of our worship.


We can often get distracted by the ways of the world and lose sight of where we orient our worship. One example is how our minds are often slaves to any form of stimulation or entertainment. We can spend countless hours streaming Netflix or scrolling through our smartphones and, before we know it, we’ve devoted half our day to mindless consumption. But Paul reminds us that in our worship we should “not be conformed to this age.” Our devotion to God should be all-encompassing, which means we cannot let sin run rampant in our lives. Instead, we should live in a way that shows our lives belong to God. 

Pleasing Worship


Finally, our worship is to be pleasing to God. He wants us to offer our joys, struggles, successes, and hardships to him. We please him as we move away from self-centeredness toward God-centered lives. As we do so, we begin to see that his ways are much greater than ours. Our desires and aspirations begin to align with his. Paul comments on this transformation in Romans 12:2 by saying, 


“. . . so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”


Paul says when we have a lifestyle of worship, we align with the Holy Spirit, and we know and delight in the will of God. Worship connects us to our creator; it changes us and makes us more like Christ. 


So, how do we worship as a lifestyle? We live a life of sacrifice. We devote every day to God. We worship in Spirit and in truth in a manner that is holy and pleasing to God. The music we sing moves us and allows us to express praise in a unique and creative way. But music isn’t the main avenue of worship—our lives are the ultimate vehicle of worship to our savior. How do you worship? How are you devoting your life in surrender to God?

What would it look like for you to worship as a lifestyle? 

Worship in the Word

Living out our worship begins with a biblical understanding of worship. Gather your family and tune into Worship in the Word. Sing along with Christian artists Shane & Shane as they share ten beautiful, simple songs drawn directly from Scripture, providing a biblical and captivating worship experience. 

Worship As a Lifestyle

Each January, millions of Christians around the world use the start of the new year as a springboard for new spiritual routines. 


But despite our best intentions to engage with God every day, many of us struggle to do so. According to The American Bible Society, 181 million Americans opened a Bible in 2021. Of those 181 million people . . .

  • More than 28 million reported feeling unsure of where to start reading the Bible. 
  • More than 27 million reported not having time to read the Bible regularly. 
  • More than 21 million said the Bible’s “language is difficult to relate to.” 


If you have struggles, doubts, or fears when it comes to engaging with God’s Word, you are not alone. Millions of Christians desire to spend more time with God, but don’t know how.

So, how can we spend daily time with God when obstacles get in our way? To answer that question, we’ll start by digging into what God’s Word says about spending time with him. 

1. God wants to spend time with you. Spending time with God isn’t just something we should do for him—it’s something he wants to do with us. We serve a personal, caring God who invites us to come to him for rest (Matthew 11:28–30). 

2. There isn’t one “right” way to spend time with God. If we approach God with a humble heart, we have freedom in the details of how we engage with him. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” God cares more about our heart posture than our method of relating to him. 

3. God’s grace helps us change and keep new habits. Starting a new habit is overwhelming when we try to do it on our own. However, when we depend on God for help, we are empowered to change by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:1–2 encourages Christians to surrender to God’s renewing sanctification that will help us look more like him. We don’t need self-help; we need to depend on God for true transformation. 

Let’s get practical about how we can spend time with God regularly in 2022. There will be some reflection prompts in the following section, so make sure you have somewhere to record your answers. 


How to Spend More Time with God in 2022:

1. Make a plan. There’s a big difference between saying to yourself, “I’ll spend time with God at some point,” and “I will spend thirty minutes with God at [time] and [place].” The clearer your plan, the more likely you are to make it happen. Take a moment to write down your plan. 

2. Find an accountability partner. Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” One of the best tools we have for habit change is the accountability and support of one another. If you want to spend more time with God, it will be helpful to tell trusted friends so they can keep you accountable. Brainstorm a list of possible accountability partners and plan how you will stay accountable to them. 

3. Invite God into your daily routine. Think of the things you do every single day and ponder how you could integrate God’s Word into those pre-existing routines. For example, if you usually watch TV before bed, try putting your Bible on your bedside table and reading before you go to sleep. If you’re in the habit of listening to the news on your morning commute, try listening to worship music or a sermon. The options are endless. List three things you do every single day and brainstorm ways to invite Jesus into those routines. 

4. Be creative. Spending time with God doesn’t have to be a chore. You don’t have to do the same thing every day. Remember, God cares more about our heart posture than our method of relating to him. You can switch up your routine by listening to a Christian podcast or watching a Bible study video. RightNow Media has a vast library of biblical videos you can use as a starting point for your devotional time. These videos can help you better understand Scripture, live by biblical values, and learn to share your faith with others.

Want to get started with RightNow Media? Here’s a few video recommendations for any life stage: 

  • Are you a young adult searching for direction? Watch Adulting with Jonathan Pokluda. 

You can also browse our Men’s, Women’s, Youth, and Kids libraries to discover video content for everyone. 

It takes time for habits to form and change, and the journey won’t be perfect. Instead of getting discouraged by your struggles and slip-ups, use them as opportunities to grow closer to God. Remember, he wants to spend time with you. Whether you’re reading the Bible, watching a RightNow Media video, or journaling your prayers to God, each interaction with him will sanctify you to think, act, and love more like Jesus. 

Four Ways to Grow Your Faith in the New Year

Can we just skip the first seventeen verses of Matthew? The real story of Jesus starts when Joseph struggles with Mary’s news that she’s expecting a baby that isn’t his. At Christmastime, we want to read about dreams and angels and a baby’s birth, not a long list of “begats.” 


Right?


Actually, no. Biblical authors always write with purpose. During this Advent season, as we anticipate the second coming of Jesus by contemplating his first coming, let’s consider what Matthew is teaching us through the orderly genealogy. 


Including Jesus’s ancestry proves he was born specifically into the family of David. By tracing a direct line from David to Jeconiah to Joseph, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus was a legitimate son of David, qualified to become the future king of Israel. 


The names Matthew includes are also important to understanding Jesus. Readers can go back to the Old Testament to learn more about each ancestor mentioned. Careful readers will notice that among forty-two generations in Matthew’s list, five included the mother along with the father. We are meant to note those breaks in his pattern and explore why their stories might be significant. 


What do the five women in Jesus’s family tree teach us about what God values?


Tamar: Righteousness

“Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar . . .” (Matthew 1:3)

How do you preach a family-friendly sermon about an abandoned daughter-in-law (Tamar) who seduced her father-in-law (Judah) and was declared righteous for doing it? It’s difficult, but knowing the tradition of Levirate Law helps: Judah was morally bound to provide a husband for Tamar after his two oldest sons died, but he refused. Tamar later pursued the justice owed to her by tricking (a very willing) Judah into sleeping with her. Though ready to condemn her apparent immorality, when Judah realized what had happened he admitted, “She is more righteous than I” (Genesis 38:26, NIV). She birthed twin sons, one of whom became a forefather to David and eventually Jesus. The woman often labeled “prostitute” was actually pursuing righteousness—and God blessed Israel through her.


Rahab: Courage

“Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab . . .” (Matthew 1:5)

The Canaanite prostitute had heard about the nation of Israel, and their mighty God, long before they prepared to overrun her city of Jericho (Joshua 2). When she realized Israelite spies were in her inn, she hid them from her own authorities and proclaimed her allegiance to Yahweh, “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Joshua 2:11). Turning her back on her own people and choosing God took guts. Rahab went from the ultimate outsider—an immoral foreigner—to becoming a leading insider, accepted as a faithful member of Judah. She eventually married their leader and became a noteworthy link in the Messianic line. Her courage and faith demonstrate for all of us that God restores the repentant and welcomes all who call on his name. 


Ruth: Loyalty

“Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth” (Matthew 1:5)

Another foreigner grafted into Jesus’s heritage, Ruth came to faith through grief. A Moabite woman, she married an Israelite man who died within ten years, leaving her childless. But her devotion to her grieving mother-in-law, Naomi, reflected the unconditional loving-kindness of Israel’s God whom she pledged to serve. Ruth is, above all, loyal, just as Yahweh is. She, too, married into the leading family of Judah and became a critical link in the long line to the savior.


The Wife of Uriah: Forgiveness and Faithfulness

“David fathered Solomon by Uriah’s wife . . .” (Matthew 1:6)

By avoiding her first name and instead referencing her by her murdered husband’s name (2 Samuel 11), Matthew highlights Bathsheba as a victim. The reference isn’t so much about her as it is about David’s actions toward her. Having abused his power as king and taken her to his bed, then murdering her husband after a failed attempt to cover up the resulting pregnancy, David is the sinner in this story. In his parable to David (2 Samuel 12:1–14), the prophet Nathan confronts him with his guilt, prompting David’s confession that he indeed had sinned. But God chose to fulfill his covenant with David despite David’s evil behavior, because he is a faithful God. Even our worst sins will not discourage him from his purposes. What about Bathsheba? God raised her up through her son Solomon, who became king after David thanks in part to her advocacy (1 Kings 1:15–35). By God’s grace she survived heartbreak and grew into a woman of strength and influence.


Mary, Mother of Jesus: Obedience and Trust 

“. . . Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.” (Matthew 1:16)

The culmination of Jesus’s genealogy centers on his mother, Mary. The rest of chapter one (vv 18–25) assures readers that Mary’s child comes from God himself, that Jesus is the long-promised Emmanuel that Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 7:14). We can explore Mary’s point of view in Luke 2, where we see her willing submission to God’s challenging but amazing call on her life. She was Jesus’s first disciple, believing in him from the very beginning and faithful to stand with him through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. 


The Advent season gives us time to reflect on the first coming of our savior and the longing that God’s people felt as they waited for him. But he did come! Jesus was born—Emmanuel, “God with us”—as part of an extended family whom God worked through to bless the world. As we anticipate his second coming, Jesus’s family line can teach us much about how he wants us to live: faithful, obedient, loyal, courageous, repentant, forgiving.

The Genealogy of Jesus

“No man is an island.”

It’s a trite but true saying, one we would follow closely with God’s warning in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” As church leaders, we know all about the need for Christian community. We preach it, write about it, can cite all the verses imploring and commanding Christians to engage in it . . . but few of us can escape the magnetic pull of isolation. No one is an island, but the calling to ministry often seems like a call to living alone.


Even when surrounded by staff, volunteers, and faithful church members, leaders can feel isolated. Our people don’t understand the weight of spiritual leadership. Our work is often minimized to “just getting coffee with people all day.” In addition, we have unique internal struggles that we don’t know how to deal with. We encourage people through their doubts, but don’t know where to turn with our own. We prepare sermons or lessons on confession and repentance while fearing that if we practiced what we preach, we would lose our jobs. And so, we hide, couch the truth behind Christian platitudes, and pretend to have it all together when the seams of our lives are tearing. 


For a church leader, isolation can feel like the only way to make it when simply trying to stay afloat has led us to feel misunderstood, unappreciated, and unable to be ourselves. It may not be good, but it seems easier to be alone.

Let me tell you something you already know: the reason you are remaining in isolation—no matter your circumstance—is a demonic lie. Isolation will encourage your secret sins to grow, fertilize the roots of your pride, and hasten inevitable emotional and/or physical burnout. It may feel safe, but isolation will destroy you and your ministry. 


Yes, you are in a unique position both professionally and spiritually, but the normal rules of Christian life apply to you in the exact same ways that they do to the people in the pews. More than that, God’s grace and love are equally available to you as they are to the greatest sinner in your Sunday service.  

Take a moment to answer the following questions:

1. You need confession and repentance. Read James 5:13–16. What fears or concerns do you have with confessing and repenting of your sin within your church? What could you gain from turning away from your hidden sin?

2. You do not need to hide your flaws. Read 2 Corinthians 11:28–30 and 12:6–10. What strengths are you tempted to hide behind? What would it look like for you to “boast in your weakness”?

3. You need friends both in and outside of your church. Read Hebrews 3:12–13. In what ways does isolation encourage your sin? Who in and outside of your church could you meet with for regular encouragement and accountability?

You do not have to lead alone. There are countless opportunities for you to connect with other church leaders just like you. Here are three ways RightNow Media can help you form relationships with other leaders:

1. Join thousands of pastors, church staff, and group leaders for RightNow Conference 2021. You can attend the live event near Dallas, TX, or attend virtually with your whole team. 

2. Connect with other pastors who use RightNow Media through the Church Leaders Facebook group. Discover weekly bonus content, best practices, and conversations with others in ministry.

3. Explore the Pastors library—it has great content for pastors and church leaders. Go through a study with other leaders or your staff to grow in Christ together.

The barriers keeping you from being fully known may feel insurmountable, but God is calling you into something far greater than your isolation could ever offer. Ministry can be a burden, but it is never meant to be carried alone. In Christ, you can look at your community and echo the words of David in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”


Overcoming the Loneliness of Leadership

Today’s teens can find their value in how many followers they have on social media instead of in God. They can focus on having influence rather than on what’s influencing them.  

At RightNow Media, our goal is to provide churches and student ministries with access to a library curated with the latest teaching for youth Bible studies from premier teachers. Including series like Not A Fan: Teen Edition by Kyle Idleman and a number of RightNow Media Originals, we have thousands of options for your Bible study. Here are five video Bible studies that are perfect for your youth group or student ministry—plus check out our youth Bible study roadmap to make curriculum planning a breeze.

5 VIDEO BIBLE STUDIES FOR YOUTH GROUPS

Finding Truth with Francis Chan

Christians today face all kinds of challenges when it comes to understanding who they are and what they’re meant to do. There’s no shortage of options that claim to offer “truth.” If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves chasing after popular opinion all the while neglecting the unchanging truth found in Scripture. In this four-session youth Bible study, pastor and author Francis Chan invites students into the power that comes from anchoring their identity in Christ.

Different with Jonathan Evans

Today’s world tells teens to walk around life with a mirror in front of their face. They question their looks, persona, and acceptance nonstop, thinking that one more post on social media might gain people’s attention. But God offers an alternative mirror. When God rules over our lives, he flips everything upside down. In this youth Bible study, Jonathan Evans will walk students through the parables in Luke to teach what it looks like for God to rule our lives.

Jesus Changes Everything with Nick Hall

Teenagers often feel trapped. They’re stuck in the same habits, depression sets in, and they wonder about their purpose. The lie that nothing will ever change pulls teenagers deeper into the rut. But Jesus offers us a way out. In this four-part youth Bible study, Nick Hall talks to students about how a relationship with Jesus changes everything—our identity, relationships, habits, and mission.

This is the Day with Tim Tebow

Have you ever felt stuck? Sometimes life feels rigid—as if nothing could ever really change. Maybe we’re afraid of taking a step of faith. Or maybe we’re too injured from the past to move forward. No matter where you find yourself, you can make the most of today. In this inspirational series, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow shares stories from his life to illustrate what it means to seize each day for God’s glory.

Dream Big with Jennie Allen

What do you want to be when you grow up? It was an easy question to answer when they were little, but life gets complicated for teen girls. When they get stuck in drama, discontentment, sadness, and shame, how can they even begin to look ahead to the future? In this four-part Bible study, Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering, inspires teen girls to throw off everything that holds them back and be energized by God’s dream for them. Dreaming big starts now.

Video Bible Studies for Youth Groups

In a culture that daily redefines masculinity, it’s important for Christian men to look to the Bible as a guide for their lives.

At RightNow Media, our goal is to provide churches and their members with access to a library curated with the latest teaching for men’s Bible studies from popular teachers, including series like Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman and 33 The Series from Authentic Manhood. Below are five video Bible studies that are perfect for your men’s group—and if you're looking for more ways to deepen your faith as a man of God, check out our men's Bible study roadmap and follow along throughout the year.

5 VIDEO BIBLE STUDIES FOR MEN

Be a Godly man with Joby Martin

God has created men to have an incredible strength. But today’s culture has hijacked masculinity, distorting strength into passivity and abuse. In this five-part video Bible study, Joby Martin, pastor of The Church of Eleven22, invites men to embrace God’s definition of masculinity and step into his calling upon their lives.

Stepping Up with Dennis Rainey

Unpack what biblical manhood looks like and what it means to be a godly, courageous man in today’s world in this men’s video Bible series. Featuring teaching from Matt Chandler, Voddie Baucham, Tony Dungy and more, viewers will dig deeper into what it means to step up and live a courageous life.

Shaken with Tim Tebow

Most of us have been on the receiving end of rejection, a broken dream, or heartbreak. And while this is not an easy space to go through, when we are grounded in the truth, we can endure the tough times. In this powerful series, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow passionately shares glimpses of his journey and what he’s learned along the way, building confidence in his identity in God, not the world.

7 Challenges Men Encounter with Vince Miller

Daily it’s getting more challenging to be a man. Our present culture is redefining manhood and confusing men in their pursuit of biblical manhood. Discover how to respond to today’s culture by rejecting passivity and investing in the eternal purpose found in Jesus. Let others see masculinity and manhood through the lens of Christ in your life with these seven characteristics and become a better man, husband, father, and leader.

Play the Man with Mark Batterson

In the church today, many men find themselves confused about what it actually means to be a man. Our culture does little to help. The result is a generation of men who struggle to embrace their responsibilities, roles, and the purpose for which God created them. In this series, Mark Batterson highlights seven virtues of manhood to offer clear insight into what it means to be a faithful man of God.

Video Bible Studies for Men

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