60 Small Group Bible Study Topics, Themes and Tips
A church small group can unite and transform a group of people, reflecting the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:24-25). If you need some small group leader inspiration, look no further than this list.
Teen Small Groups
Themes (these can be done over several weeks or a semester):
- Integrity - It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what does integrity mean? Dig into Proverbs 11:3 (the opposite of integrity is duplicity), Proverbs 12:22 (the role of honesty) and Hebrews 13:18 (having a clear conscience) with your small group. Discuss what integrity looks like in school, at home, through activities and in relationships with others.
- Spiritual Warfare - This theme for study doesn’t need to instill fear, but instead can teach teens to outsmart the father of lies (John 8:44) by reminding them that they have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside them (Romans 8:11). This — along with studying the weapons available to leverage against the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18) — will strengthen your teen small group to fight off temptation and spiritual strongholds.
- Identity in Christ - Our identity as new creations doesn’t mean we need a special tattoo or bumper sticker! It means even better things like undeserved grace, freedom from condemnation and a home with Christ in heaven as part of God’s family.
- Parables - It’s never too late to dust off the old flannel graph lessons that illustrate parables that Jesus taught and look at them again in a teen small group. Lessons can include: what is a parable and why does Jesus use them, and unpack a few like the parable of the sower and the seed in Luke 8 and the 10 bridesmaids in Matthew 25.
- Relationships - This is a great theme for a series of small group discussions that can include not just dating, but investing in healthy, safe friendships and getting along with parents and siblings.
Topics (these can be done in a single week, independent from other topics):
- Recognizing Temptation - You can’t overcome temptation if you don’t know what it is! A great way to study temptation is by dividing tests of faith (which are from God) from temptations (which are not from God), along with knowing when temptation turns into sin (James 1:13-15) and that God gives us the power to resist temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- Money and God - Most teens don’t relate yet to the concept of a budget, but they do like having stuff! What does God say about money (does he say to never have nice things?) and how do we handle it when we do have it? Great verses for this topic are Proverbs 19:17 and 2 Corinthians 9:6.
- Doers of the Word - James 1:22-23 has great applications for the modern teen to not just be a hearer of the word but a doer. They can all relate to looking in the mirror (or at their social media profiles), but what does James mean when he says we then forget what we look like? A great topic for discussion.
- What Does it Mean to Follow Christ? If you look at Jesus’ disciples, their lives were not always an easy path of clear understanding — questions and doubts sometimes came with it, too! A great place to start is a study of Romans 12, which is a practical guide to living like a disciple of Christ.
- Power Over Your Tongue - The tongue in the Bible is compared to a sharpened razor (Psalm 52:2-9) and not easy to control (James 3:6-8). It can pour out blessings and curses, and controlling it is a sign of spiritual maturity (Proverbs 12:18). Discuss with your teens how the power of words includes not just to what is spoken, but also texted, Snapchatted and shared on social media.
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Men’s Small Groups
- Power Tools - Use this theme to show that in the tool belt of faith, it’s imperative to have the tools of prayer (1 John 5:14), daily input from God (Matthew 6:11) and accountability (1 John 4:4-5) to live victoriously over sin.
- Becoming a Vessel of Reconciliation - It’s easy to put forgiveness and reconciliation on a back burner, but as Christ worked to reconcile us to God, we should also take up the challenge to be men of peace and reconciliation in our families and in our world. Unpack 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 as a small group to discover how to be at peace with God and become his ambassadors of peace.
- Manly Mentoring - Younger men need wise influence. Spend several sessions talking about Godly influence, being a consistent witness of God’s love and mentoring others in a Godly lifestyle. Even if you don’t have sons, consider mentoring a younger man through work, coaching or in your neighborhood.
- Great Leaders of the Bible - Through looking at the lives of strong Deborah, obedient Daniel, courageous Esther and restored Peter, a men’s small group can easily mine a wealth of lessons that are found in these Biblical leaders.
- Spiritual Gifts - After studying leaders of the Bible, you can easily transition into how God might be calling the men in your study to use their spiritual gifts. Take several weeks to study 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 8, fleshing out the difference between spiritual and natural gifts. Encourage the men in your group to ask the Lord to reveal what he’s already given them — along with asking him for new gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Help them navigate how to use those gifts for God’s glory. (If you have someone with a teaching gift, you might challenge him to lead or teach a study for your small group.)
- Fighting Isolation - Having other men in your life adds value (Proverbs 27:17) and encouragement (1 Samuel 23:16), plus much-needed tough love (Proverbs 27:5-6). Spend small group time challenging each other to find ways to initiate relationships and/or deepen friendships that are just starting.
- Finances - It’s easy for any man (or woman) to let money become bigger than God. Use your small group time for putting money back in its place by studying Luke 12:15, Romans 13:8 and Hebrews 13:5.
- Dude Do-Overs - Ephesians 2:4-6 explains where we fit with Christ, but many men feel stuck back at “dead in transgressions.” As a group, explore the topic of receiving God’s forgiveness, forgiving yourself and moving forward into the new creation you are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- Biblical Fathering/Leading - Matthew 20:26-27 reminds us that positioning as a father takes great humility (or any position of authority for those without children). A study of Philippians 2:5-8 positions your small group to mine the truths of servant-leadership.
- Discovering the Will of God - Proverbs 2:5 says the key to knowledge is fear of God. When we know God, we have a clearer understanding of his awe-worthiness, and have a deeper insight into his will for us. Reading Proverbs 2 — while highlighting ways you are instructed to search for God and his truth — will help your small group grow in this concept together.
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Women’s Small Groups
- Freedom in Christ - What if you lived in a country that had limited freedoms you weren’t taking advantage of? Often that describes how Christians are living in God’s kingdom — failing to embrace that they are free from death, condemnation (from God, self and the world), the bondage of sin and more.
- Cultivating Perseverance - Hebrews 12 tells us to run with perseverance, but that doesn’t mean just pulling up our big girl panties and doing it all alone! It means fixing our eyes on Christ, finding the joy set before us and enduring tough stuff with Jesus as our example. This theme can be broken down into topics such as work, family, health and spiritual perseverance.
- Biblical Femininity - There doesn’t need to be confusion when it comes to gender roles. The Bible gives guidelines (but also great liberty) for our lives as women. While the Bible doesn’t get specific about who should take out the trash, there are great directives for those who are married (Ephesians 5:22-24) and single (1 Corinthians 7:34) and how to live a godly life.
- Marching Orders - 1 Thessalonians 5 gives us many directives and helpful guidance for how we are to live “as children of the light and children of the day.” These verses are great for mining truth for daily living.
- Discontented Heart - We hate to see a child who isn’t content, but what about us adults? How content are we with the gifts and blessings and even the times we don’t get what we want? You can spend several sessions fleshing out discontentment and see how God wants us to live as modeled in Philippians 4:11-13.
- Bible Journaling - You don’t have to have fancy pens or be an artist to start a journal that you will love coming back to. By writing out favorite quotes/scripture, meaningful devotions or prayers (and answers to prayer), a small group on journaling is sure to spark creativity.
- Getting Back to Grace - We are often preaching to ourselves all day long, but is it words of hope or condemnation? How easy for us is it to give ourselves a break? Revisit the idea of grace (both from God and ourselves), visit verses about grace (John 1:17, Romans 5:17), and take captive the thoughts that are stealing grace from your life and keeping you from pouring it out on others.
- Counting It All Joy - We might be tempted to roll our eyes at the overly optimistic Pollyannas in our lives if we hear one more time to consider it joy when we have trials! But what’s really behind all that? Is James 2:2-4 just a joke or can it be reality? Other verses like Romans 5:3-4 support that there is joy to be found in the struggle.
- Living Intentionally - In the craziness of life, being still, listening and experiencing God’s presence can seem like unattainable aspirations. As a small group, explore how to be more intentional about your day by studying Matthew 11:28-30, incorporating Sabbath back into your week and restoring the concept of rest back into your life.
- Keeping It Simple - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 are three power-packed verses that end with “...for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” If you are searching for how to discover the will of God, these three simple directives are a great challenge for small group study.
Couple’s Small Groups
- Thriving in Marriage - This theme can cover several weeks of study with topics such as lifelong commitment (Genesis 2:24), healthy communication (James 1:19) and sacrifice (Ephesians 5:22-33)
- Speaking to Each Other - Nobody is going to do this perfectly, but make it a goal to respect each other by processing how best to respond when you feel hurt and prioritizing loving communication (Proverbs 15:1).
- Finances, Family, Friends - The “Three Fs” can be approached with great joy, but they can also cause marital strife if circumstances get tough. Have couples work through the hard stuff that they may have buried inside, and use Song of Solomon 2:15 as a prayer — don’t let the “little foxes” (or the “little Fs”) steal joy and spoil the beauty that God gives through marriage.
- Becoming Best Friends - This theme is a great excuse to get out and have a “group date” field trip. Discuss how to cultivate and be intentional about regular dates, intimacy and shared interests.
- Family of Origin - Use Genesis 2:20-25 as a jumping off point for discussing how family of origin can both support and tear apart marital bonds and how to make good boundaries with extended family going forward.
- Being on the Same Team - This topic allows couples to identify practical ways they can uplift and serve their spouse because a strong team requires humility from both members. Study Philippians 2, looking to the example of Jesus as ultimate humility, resting in the assurance that this mindset “is yours in Christ Jesus.”
- Allowing Room for Grace and Growth - As you get further away from the “honeymoon phase” and deeper into comfort and intimacy with your spouse, sin can creep in. Satan hates family and unity, so of course he attacks it with little annoyances and passive aggressiveness! Dig into Ephesians 4:17-32, teaching couples to put on the new, holy identity of Jesus and “give no opportunity to the devil.”
- Roles and Goals in Marriage - Clear communication about expectations (which are not always realistic) is a good starting place for discussing the workload at home and making goals for the future — financial, career or expanding your family. In Ephesians 5:22-33, we see God’s directives for mutually loving and serving in marriage.
- Coping with Change and Crisis - Proverbs 3:5-6, among other verses where God gives us guidance for times of worry and stress, is a great directive for how to lean into crisis in marriage.
- Using Your Gifts to Serve Others - One of the best ways you can encourage your spouse is by identifying and affirming his or her gifts, and then helping him or her to put those gifts to use! Spend some time naming specific gifts in your spouse, and then outline a game plan for your family to practically join in loving others and sharing Jesus through those gifts.
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Parenting Small Groups
- A Home that is a Refuge - Clean the crazy out of your home and give it a makeover of eternal value. Using Psalm 46:1-4, study and discuss how to cultivate a sense of shelter, strength, safety and joy in your family’s home.
- Cultivating Healthy Relationships - Teaching children the way they should go also includes relating to others, dealing with healthy conflict (1 Peter 3:8-12), using words wisely (Ephesians 4:29) and choosing friends wisely (1 Corinthians 15:33).
- Encouraging a Life of Faith - Even though many Christian parents want to “check off” when their children make a confession of faith, a great theme of study is how to encourage different facets of faith (prayer, Bible study, serving, etc.) and what to look for in your child’s life that shows fruit of a relationship with God.
- Bible 101 - Deuteronomy 6:4-9 encourages us to use the Bible all day long, but some of us may feel like rookies in that department. Find a fun way as a small group to do an overview of the Bible, understanding better its story and themes and help make a “quick reference” list of parenting gems from the Bible for everyone to share.
- Handling Parental Anger - Discover a peaceful pathway to handle anger (it doesn’t mean you never get angry again, just more self-controlled). Encourage your group to first examine their hearts and selfish expectations, as James 4:1-2 points out. From there, your group can discuss healthy family rules and consequences to help everyone keep from blowing their tops!
- Banning the “H” Word - God hates sin. That seems like a simple standard, but it’s worth examining how hate subtly slips into your home (especially in reference to other people, behaviors that are not sinful, comments about politics, etc.). As a small group, think of ways to model Proverbs 10:12 in your home.
- The Big Parenting Picture - A small group is a great time to slow down and look at some big picture goals of parenting — what are some traits (both of character and soul) that are important for you to build into your child? Decide now what are “majors” and what are “minors” and be sure to major on the majors to keep your parenting in focus.
- Being Consistent with Discipline - A bigger challenge than making rules is enforcing them with consistency as illustrated in Proverbs 13:24. Take time as a small group to talk about successes and failures with consistency. Challenge each family to find one “target behavior” that they will be more consistent with, and pray for victory!
- Handling Disappointment Together - Have your group explore the lives of Naomi (Ruth 1:20) and David (1 Samuel 30:3-6) — life doesn’t go as hoped for many people in the Bible, too. The key is allowing room to grieve and room to grow after disappointment. A small group is a safe place to work through a parent’s own disappointments so they can better walk through it with their children.
- Raising Responsible Kids - Tear down the trend of entitlement and reinstate thankfulness and responsibility by discussing how to help your kids appreciate and care for the possessions God has given them and the possessions of others. Examine the ways you may be modeling entitlement and ungratefulness to your children, and meditate on the truth of 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Tips for Leading a Small Group
- Day, Time and Space - Be realistic about your group’s timing because once you start, you want to stay consistent. Whether it’s once a month or every week, communicate to your group clearly and consistently with email or text reminders. Genius Tip: If you will be asking members to host in their homes, a sign up can help get everyone coordinate a night that works for them.
- Picking Amenities - Childcare is one amenity that may be worth arranging for your adult small group (consider hiring a teen of one of the group members if you know them to be responsible and capable). Also consider offering food (at least for the kickoff — food makes everyone feel more comfortable!) and beverages. Coffee and small groups seem to go hand-in-hand for most adults!
- Create a Safe Space - Before the group even starts, get with a trusted friend or mentor and ask some hard questions about your leadership style. If you are critical or tend to be sarcastic, it’s time to nip that before your group starts. Creating a safe space in a small group starts with a leader who knows how to navigate conflict in a gently loving manner, and expects the rest of the group to do so also. Genius Tip: Use these top 10 qualities of good Bible study leaders.
- Make Time for Life, but Focus on Learning - Many small groups get derailed by small talk, and while it’s good to listen to each other’s lives, it’s more important to let the lesson be the priority. It will be hard for members to stay motivated if it's always just social time when they have come prepared to learn.
- Pray, Prepare and Share - Don’t just stick to the material, be challenged to bring in devotional materials or supplemental aids that will enhance the learning experience. Show you are committed to your own personal growth (not just answering all the questions and checking off boxes), and your group will be inspired to do the same.
- Delegate Responsibilities - Don’t be afraid to ask one person to take attendance, another person to greet people, another person to collect prayer requests, etc. Giving folks a job makes them feel valued and keeps them coming back! Mentor an apprentice leader in case you are gone. Plus, they’ll be equipped to start their own group!
- Welcome Visitors - If a group gets too cloistered, then newcomers will be an unwelcome intrusion, which is never good for a small group environment. Keep that balance in check by regularly encouraging visitors and including them in the discussion.
- Add in Some Fun - Consider creating a private Facebook group for encouragement and prayer requests, having quarterly “just for fun” social events at parks or restaurants, and never be afraid to mix it up by opening with a fun icebreaker! Genius Tip: Try one of these small group icebreakers and activities.
- Make Prayer a Priority - If you are invested in this group, then the greatest power you will have is the power of God. He is the fixer, he is the healer, he is the changer. Ask him to move in all these ways in your small group.
- Start with the End in Mind - Challenge your group by asking: “When this small group is done, how do you hope your relationship with God will be different?” (If it’s a couples or parenting group, you can also ask how they hope their relationship with their spouse or children will change). Take time to check in along the way by reaching out to group members individually.
As you take on the challenge of leading a small group, remember that even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time “getting it” most of the time! Be patient and prayerful and God will grow the seeds of truth and fellowship you are planning with your small group.
Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She leads a small group of high school girls.
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