Many Christian leaders are interested in using Lectio Divina in their small group, class, or church service.
But if you do this without being spiritually trained and mentored, it’s likely to be a tough experience for you and the people you shepherd. That’s because many people need help to benefit from silent prayer and vulnerable self-disclosure in a small group setting.
This Soul Shepherding article introduces Lectio Divina groups, outlines 12 steps for guiding others in Lectio Divina, gives the best questions for leading Lectio Divina groups, and suggests tips for small group leaders.
Ready? Let’s dig in…
What is a Lectio Divina Group?
A Lectio Divina group is a small group that opens a Scripture passage to read, meditate, pray, and quietly rest in God’s loving presence. It’s a spiritual formation group that facilitates listening to God and spiritual conversation.
A Lectio Divina group is not a Bible study, which focuses on cognitive learning and people sharing their ideas and opinions about Scripture.
Instead, the learning comes through the experience of quiet Scripture meditation in the community. We’re seeking to be formed more into the image of Christ, not accumulating intellectual knowledge.
Ironically, if small group members resist analyzing Scripture and abandon pursuing insights to focus simply on being in God’s presence together and listening to the Word, then surprising and wonderful revelations from God are likely to come.
The success of Lectio Divina groups illustrates that people learn more from personal and relational experiences than from being taught principles or discussing opinions.
Also, a Lectio Divina Group is not a support group that focuses on people sharing their personal needs and caring for each other. It’s best if it includes vulnerable self-disclosure, but this happens in response to reflecting on and praying through the Bible passage.
It’s essential that a Lectio Divina group is a safe place where members don’t judge, advise, or reassure each other, but listen with empathy and prayerfulness. In this way, group members are not only drawn closer to one another, but also to the Lord who is present in the meeting.
Best Lectio Divina Questions
There are three main Lectio Divina questions that guide the group experience of Scripture meditation, quiet prayer, and personal sharing.
Soul Shepherding has guided thousands of people through Lectio Divina Groups. We’ve tried different focus questions to guide Scripture meditation, quiet prayer, and group sharing and landed on three that are the most helpful:
- 1st Reading: What is one word or phrase the Holy Spirit impresses on you?
- 2nd Reading: What do you feel? What specific situation in your life today relates?
- 3rd Reading: What is Christ’s personal invitation to you from the Scripture?
Notice that these are open questions that invite listening to God, personal prayer or sharing with others.
Leading Others in Lectio Divina
It is challenging to lead a Lectio Divina group with people who are used to sharing their opinions in a Bible study or doing lots of talking in a support group. But it fosters deep and lasting spiritual growth when groups practice meditating on Scripture with silent prayer and personal sharing.
The best way to learn to lead a Lectio Divina group is to experience a trained spiritual director leading you and then practice using Lectio Divina in your own personal devotions. As you absorb the quiet spirit, heart-felt experience, and listening posture of Lectio, then you can naturally share with others.
The two most important skills for leading a great Lectio Divina group are guiding people in silent prayer and personal sharing.
In Lectio Divina groups, sharing in silent prayer can be a bonding experience. It’s an opportunity for group members to hold one another in Christ’s loving presence. Christ Jesus is actually present to lead the group and the Holy Spirit draws our attention to him.
The group’s quiet concentration on Christ and prayerful attentiveness to what he’s saying through the Bible passage assists individuals in learning to “be still and know” that the Lord is God (Psalm 46:10).
Some group members will struggle with silence at first. Many of us in our culture today fill our lives with noise and activity. Being quiet and still in a group, our bodies may feel antsy and jittery. Our minds may wander. We may not feel connected to God.
The leader’s calm and prayerful spirit helps group members to be more comfortable. Journaling also helps with focus and can be done on the handout for the Lectio Divina Guide.
Lectio Divina Groups include personal sharing, but in different ways than is typical in small groups. To facilitate Scripture meditation, the self-disclosure is brief, personal, and prayerful in response to open questions from the group leader.
Members have three chances to meditate on the passage, pray, and share with the group:
In the first round, they limit their sharing to literally one word or phrase.
In the second round, they may share their emotional response in a sentence or paragraph — or you may limit this response to quiet journaling until after the third reading.
After the third round, group members may have a few minutes or more to share with each other.
12 Steps and Best Questions to Lead a Lectio Divina Group
These Lectio Divina steps and best questions come from a transcript of a small group led by Kristi and I using Soul Shepherding’s Lectio Divina Guides. Included in this group were people who had not experienced Lectio Divina so they needed explicit instructions.
When you’re leading a small group in Lectio Divina you’ll want to personalize your instructions and questions to your group’s context, spiritual tradition, and experience level.
What we share in this group needs to be kept confidential. We want everyone to feel safe and to receive empathy and prayer — not judgment, advice, or reassurance.
As we go through the Scripture meditation process, I’ll prompt you at each step on what we’re about to do. Listen for my prompts or you may get confused. At times, I will ask questions that will invite you to share your reflections.
This way of being a small group is different. If at any time you’re not sure what to do, just wait quietly.
Group Leader Tip: The outline on your Lectio Divina Guides makes this easy!
2. Lectio Divina Rhythms
There are four movements in Lectio Divina that are embedded in interacting with the Bible text. Three times we’ll go through a cycle of:
- Reading the text
- Reflecting quietly on the focus question
- Responding in quiet prayer (with journaling if you want)
- Resting quietly until I prompt you to share with the group
After each reading, there will be a few minutes of silent prayer.
If you’re not used to being quiet in a group, then you may feel some discomfort, perhaps getting distracted, anxious, or antsy. If that’s your experience, try to accept this as a learning opportunity.
This is a different way of praying and being present to God in community. It may take practice for you to receive the benefits of praying quietly in a group.
Group Leader Tip: Vary the length of silence to fit group members’ experience.
4. Introduction to Passage
The title and theme for the Bible text is…
We have an introduction to this passage — let’s read it out loud in unison…
5. Opening Prayer
To prepare our hearts for the Scripture meditation, we have an opening prayer. If you find yourself distracted or uncomfortable during the periods of silence, you could slowly repeat this prayer to help you abide in the Word.
Group Leader Tip: You can share the opening breath prayer or invite a member to pray.
6. 1st Reading
As we do our readings and responses, we’ll be entering a time of silent prayer and reflection rather than talking with each other.
For our first reading, our focus point is to listen for one word or phrase from the text that the Holy Spirit impresses on you. Then we’ll each meditate quietly on that…
Quiet Reflection Question: What is one word or phrase that you’re drawn to?
Group Leader Tip: You may want to ask if a group member wants to read the passage out loud.
Group Leader Tip: Allow 2–5 minutes of silent prayer.
If you haven’t received a word yet, it’s okay. Keep listening as it may come later.
- If you have received a word or phrase you can share that with the group now by speaking it out loud as a prayer — with no explanation or commentary. This way, we can feed off the fruit of each other’s meditations.
8. 2nd Reading
For our second reading, our focus point is to enter into the Scripture passage.
Quiet Reflection Questions:
- What do you feel?
- What are your emotions?
- What specific situation in your life today relates?
In the quiet reflection, you can journal a prayer or pray silently.
Group Leader Tip: You may want to ask a second group member of the other gender to read the text.
Group Leader Tip: Allow 3-10 minutes of silent prayer.
Often in our small groups we pray for each other, but I want to invite you to pray for yourself. This would be a blessing for the rest of us in the group to join in agreement with your prayer.
- What feelings or life situation would you like to offer in prayer out loud?
Group Leader Tip: The first personal share in the group sets the tone. It may help the group for you to share first to model:
- Use of a personal examples
- Sharing how God is being experienced
- Being brief
10. 3rd Reading
Let’s do our last reading.
Quiet Reflection Question:
- What is God’s personal invitation to you from the Bible passage?
You can journal what God may say to you or offer a prayer of thanks for what God is showing you.
To hear God, you need to turn off the critic or cynic in your mind that questions whether you’re really hearing God. When God speaks, it’s usually in thoughts and feelings that come into your mind. Later, you can check what you discerned to see if it’s consistent with God’s inspired words in the Bible…
Group Leader Tip: You may want to pick a third member of the group to read the passage out loud.
Group Leader Tip: Allow 3-10 minutes of silent prayer. Then close the prayer time, “In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.” Allow a quiet pause before talking to the group.
- If you’ve received a personal invitation from the Lord it’d be a blessing if you share that. This helps you hold onto what you’ve received from God and it helps others to feed off the fruit of your meditation.
Group Leader Tip: Guide the process to help the people who share to receive empathy and compassion. Set gentle boundaries if anyone offers advice or reassurance. Moderate the time each person shares to allow time for everyone to share if they want to and for the group to close in prayer.
12. Closing Prayer
If you’d like to offer a brief prayer, perhaps for someone who shared, you can do so now. Then I’ll offer a closing prayer…
Group Leader Tip: Depending upon time and what you decide is best for the group, you can close with a wrap-up prayer or people can intercede for one another.
Or you can download our Prayer Guides bundle which includes Lectio Divina Guides, Ignatian Mediation Guides, and Breach Prayer Guides — a total 150+ one page Scripture meditation guides!
Experiencing Lectio Divina Groups
To help you learn how to do Lectio Divina groups, Kristi and I have developed an online course. You’ll find short videos and handy tools to prepare you to share Lectio Divina with your friends or small group.
You’ll experience being led prayerfully through the steps in Lectio Divina and listening to God’s voice. You’ll learn how to experience God’s presence in Scripture meditation and how to lead others in a small group.
This online course features 7 videos of 10-20 minutes, practical handouts, and a small group leader’s guide.
Get access to Lectio Divina: For You and Your Ministry.