Sometimes others express a thought so well, the best we can do is quote them. Used sparingly, quotes can inspire your small group and give your members something to ponder.
As you prepare for your next small group meeting, here are some best practices to keep in mind as you gather the inspiring words of others.
Consider the source
The internet has made research easy, but not all sources are reliable. Social media sites like Twitter, Goodreads, and blogs are great for finding statements from famous authors and teachers. However, before I quote anyone, I always make sure I’m familiar with his/her ministry. I don’t want to accidentally point my small group members to authors whose writings contain false doctrine. An inspirational phrase on Twitter may have been plucked out of a larger body of writing published by someone whose worldview is completely contrary to what I hoped to teach. Such quotes are better left untouched.
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If you use the words of others, then give them credit.
Keep it short
In school, we were taught to avoid reading to an audience when giving a speech. That’s still good practice. Every now and then, however, it’s OK to read a quote to your small group, provided you keep it short. While you may have found several pages of writing that really inspire you, remember that people lose focus if you read to them for too long. Consider paraphrasing most of the passage, then select one or two sentences to quote for impact.
People can’t listen as quickly as we can speak. I’ve had to learn to slow down and enunciate (my daughter calls it my “teacher voice”). If the quote involves several long words, I may repeat the quote. I watch my small group for cues, and sometimes I’ll repeat the quote immediately. Other times I may say a few words of explanation, give my class an opportunity to digest what I just said, and then repeat the quote so they know what to listen for.
Use visual aids
Your group members will have an easier time following your words if you allow them to read with you. Try writing the quote in advance on a white board or chalk board before the group arrives. Use a single PowerPoint slide to show at just the right time. Prepare a flip chart or poster board with the quote to display at the end of your session.
Make it memorable
If you find a quote that is particularly inspiring and represents the topic of your Bible study perfectly, perhaps print it on card stock and cut into bookmarks for your group members to tuck into their Bibles or workbooks. In today’s electronic world, you might want to follow up with a group email or text message as a reminder from the prior small group session.
Use them sparingly
I started this article with this thought, and it bears repeating. Too much of a good thing can cause small group members to get lost in a sea of words. Rather than inspire, a jumble of quotes can be confusing or cause listeners to stop listening altogether. Better to sprinkle them like seasoning across the lesson; they’ll have more impact that way.
Let me end with this thought. To lead a small group Bible study, the Bible is really all you need. However, researching and learning from the teachings of Bible scholars who have come before us is praiseworthy. Jesus did it. Remember in Luke 2 when Jesus came to Jerusalem with His family but stayed behind when His family returned home?
After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. Luke 2:46-47.
Let’s study and share what we’ve learned, but let’s do it wisely.
In the comments below, please share your tips for using quotes in Bible study. What advice can you offer other small group leaders?