Your church’s worship service is where you hear great teaching from the pulpit, but you’ll miss deep relationships with others if you never get to know one another outside of Sunday morning. Small group Bible studies are a way to develop connections with others and grow together.

Successful small groups create a safe environment for members to share what God is doing in our lives. But beware—sharing gets easier as we get to know one another, and then the conversation can easily take a turn for the worse. Here’s what NOT to do in your next small group discussion:


Do not confuse a small group Bible study with group therapy.

Though small groups are often safe places to share, sometimes professional help is needed. The wise leader recognizes when the person sharing her history, heartbreaks, or losses needs more than what your small group can provide. At times like these, I prefer to ask to speak with the group member privately and invite her to speak with a pastor or a trained counselor. Many well-trained counselors are available to help. Recognize when you’re not one of them.


Do not allow group members to tear down their spouses or family.

It’s easy to pick on our spouses or parents or in-laws or children when we’re with friends. This can be lighthearted and good-natured, but beware when the teasing turns toxic and cute turns cutting. I’ve heard it said that anyone who helps you trash your mate is not your friend. If you suspect that your family member would be wounded by the conversation, then don’t speak it in the small group.


Do not gossip in the name of “prayer requests.”

Not everyone wants his or her private struggles announced publicly at your next Bible study meeting. Use caution when mentioning anything that involves the names of others. If someone told you something in confidence, do not share it with your small group without your friend’s permission.


Do not air complaints about your church.

Complaining is easy to do, especially if all the members of your small group have known each other for a long time. And it’s particularly easy when something at church is changing. If you don’t like the addition to the worship service or the style of the music or the timing of special announcements or the color of the new carpet, don’t air your grievances in the small group. Think about what a visitor would experience if he or she would attend for the first time and hear your conversation.


Do not trash other churches or other denominations.

As much as we all try to follow the Bible and do what we understand God wants us to do, we probably don’t get everything 100% correct. Allow for the fact that God has a remnant of believers in many churches, including your own, even if they don’t practice as you do. Please don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that any organization that calls itself a “church” is actually following the teachings of Christ. While there are many false teachers and non-believers, we should not make the mistake of thinking that Christians are found no where other than in our home church.


Small groups give us a home in the midst of a large community. They allow us the freedom to be transparent, but they can also give us an excuse to let our words run away from us. As we build our small groups, let’s be sure our words build others up.