Tips for Trainers

After our daughter and son moved out, they started calling their mom asking for recipes of their favorites dishes she cooks. Eventually she decided to give them each a set of recipes. But she began to realize that they need more than a list of the ingredients; she will also need to become aware of what they don’t know (e.g., one recently asked what could be used as a replacement for corn starch).

One of the church planters that I am coaching recently asked me to write out the things I intuitively do when I am training groups to facilitate Discovery Bible Studies (DBSs). It is a great request, but the challenge is me becoming aware of what I do intuitively. Thankfully I had another meeting right after the one where this request was made where I was able to process it more fully with another team member.

Here is the “Tips for Trainers” list that I prepared in response to the request. Maybe it will be helpful to someone else. If so, please comment below so I might learn more about what I do intuitively.

Tips for Trainers:

  1. Keep the groups small. (Five is the ideal number, but 4-6 is okay.)
    • Prevents the meeting from taking too long (45 minutes is ideal).
    • Draws quiet or shy people into the discussion.
    • Models the most readily available settings (e.g., a few people at work over lunch, a few soccer moms at the practice fields, or a handful of friends after a meal).
  2. Divide larger groups into sub-groups and have them work through the questions simultaneously.
    • You get to model how to handle a bigger group.
    • Involves more people in the facilitation role.
  3. Remind the facilitators of their responsibilities:
    • Keep the discussion moving and involve everyone.
    • Use the “Where is that in this passage?” question to keep the group on track.
    • Be sure to save time for questions 6, 7, and 8.
    • Make sure someone takes notes when the “top three” are selected.
  4. After they answer the questions, facilitate a debriefing exercise by having sub-groups list their “top three” insights into God and their “top three” ways to obey the passage.
    • The goal is to enable people to hear from God. The larger group review confirms the things each group heard and exposes them to something they might have missed that another sub-group heard.
    • Provides an interesting review process (the three “Rs” of education are “repetition, repetition, repetition,” but that cannot be boring or you lose them).
    • Exercises the participants in healthy group functions (your long-term goal is to disciple them in functioning as a healthy church).
    • You can “accentuate the positive” by highlighting the healthiest responses. (Rather than causing those with weak responses to lose face, you get to spotlight the ones that are strong and worthy of being imitated.)

What actually sparked the request for me to write out what I do intuitively was me sharing the training that I recently did with a women’s discipleship group. I told how I handled the fact that the group was so large that I had to create sub-groups. This disciple has experienced that kind of setting, but all of his earliest training was with a small group that was never subdivided. Though he is working with a larger group, he had kept them all together and now he anticipated there might be other things I needed to make more explicit.

If you are like me, you will probably need a new trainee to help you realize what you do intuitively. As they ask questions about things that you assume are givens, make notes. These “givens” are likely what you do intuitively.


  1. When we write out “I wills”, I was warned by one trainer (Paul Watson) that Americans are incredibly vague and nebulous. He suggested writing out things that I could actually try to begin implementing personally in 24-72 hours. Instead of saying, for instance, “I will love God more”, he suggested writing “I will love God more by _________” with the understanding that it would begin to be worked out in real life soon. When I do this I find my list of “I wills” shrinks pretty quickly and that sometimes I don’t have three “I wills”…. Though I may have one really painful and daunting “I will” ahead of me. Thoughts?


    1. Paul’s assessment is accurate. I now use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to get people to write out “painful” I Will… Statements:
      T-time sensitive

      One of these is about all you can focus on at any give time. Also, the longer you delay in starting it, the less likely you ever do. I have space for three because a passage may contain more than one. I encourage those who raise your question to circle the one you know you most need to work on first. The goal is to hear God and open my walk to Jesus’ Lordship in what I hear.


      1. It will probably take them some time to open themselves up to being obedient. Most of us have spent a long time deeply engraining a pattern of gaining knowledge with no real expectation that we should obey.

      2. Like the 12 Steps, acknowledging we have a problem is the fist step to real change. The Holy Spirit is quite persistent in producing the character of Jesus in the hearts of the Father’s children.

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