Preparing to lead a Bible study and work out all of the logistics that can come with it can sometimes feel like you're planning a child's birthday party, which is one thing I have not been sad about missing during COVID season. But the comparison holds true. You must answer things like: What do we study? Who do we study with? When do we do it, and where? How is the Bible study time going to be structured? And then, what do I need to do?
Before we jump into these questions, we must first remind ourselves of the purpose of Bible study and of our limitations. First, the purpose of studying the Bible is simply that–to study the Bible. We do not enter Bible study to find friends, socialize, show how much we know, or to check a box off a list of how to be a good Christian. Though developing community and growing in knowledge are good fruits from Bible study, we participate in it to know God and to grow in His Word. This should always be our purpose for Bible study.
God's Word is first a treasure for our own hearts. As Bible study leaders, it is easy for us to become wrapped up in getting through the days of study so that we can begin to prepare our teaching session. But let's not forget that we come to God's Word, not to get through it but to feast on the good news of the gospel. This good news has been given to us through the Scriptures so that we may delight in the Lord and so that through the power of the Holy Spirit the Word would change us and make us more and more like Christ. Dear sister, do not bank on giftedness and neglect the care of your own heart.
This leads me to the only way in which we can do this, and that is prayer. We will not see the Word first change our own hearts unless we bathe our own personal study in prayer. Likewise, we would be relying on our own strength if we try to lead a study apart from prayer. When we pray, we acknowledge our utter dependence on the Spirit to move and work in us and the others around us through His Word. Do not believe that this can be done without Him. We are weak and sinful. Our words will be full of mistakes and accidental offenses. But the Spirit can use even our best efforts for the glory of the Father. Let us lean into dependency on Him as we lead.
Now let's take a look at some practical ways to help you lead in Bible study.
What do we study?
Choosing a Bible study that is faithful to Scripture is of utmost importance. While there are some Bible studies that happen outside of the church, this is a reason it can be helpful for Bible studies to happen within the local church. The leadership of the local church can help to guide Bible study leaders in the direction of faithful studies. Not only must they be faithful to Scripture, but it is important that they help the students truly study the Bible for themselves. Keri Folmer says, "The best study guides help women dig deeper into the Scriptures without spoon-feeding them answers before they have a chance to think for themselves." We want to help guide those in our studies to be better equipped to study God's Word on their own and develop confidence to do so. The Daily Grace Co. has a variety of studies that are all accessible yet serve as encouragement to dig deeper into the Word. The Amen Study is a great place to start in gaining a better overview of all of Scripture and developing a biblical theology. You can also look here to decide based on the number of weeks you have available.
Who do we study with?
It is our desire at The Daily Grace Co. to point you back to your local church because the local church gives you an opportunity to connect with others in your local body who are already united under the same preaching and teaching. However, we also know that for some of you, that may be lacking in your local church. If that is the case, ask a friend or two (or ten!) to join with you in the study. Give thanks to the Lord for whoever He places in front of you to study with. As you begin your study, get to know who you are studying with. Knowing your audience helps you to think through different points of applications and avoid hurtful or confusing comments.
When do we do the study and where?
Your local church body may determine this. As I lead in our local church, we have sent out polls to check availability and have been able to better set dates based on that. Choose a place that is non-threatening. You may feel comfortable at someone's house where you have been studying for ten years, but a newcomer may not feel as comfortable showing up to someone's house that they do not know. With that said, you can hold it at a house and do that successfully, but just keep in mind everyone's feelings, and make sure you make accommodations so that all feel welcome!
How is our time going to be structured?
You will have to decide what works for your group and how you are comfortable to lead. Some seasons have lent themselves to have a more guided teaching/discussion type study group for me, and during other seasons we have had small group time on the front end, followed by a teaching time in the latter part of the session.
On point of advice, make the Bible study as participatory as possible. If you do not allow for participation, then it is hard for those you are in the study with to be active learners. This is where dedicated small group discussion comes in handy. Give that space so that they can hear one another and learn from one another. If there are still questions that are unresolved, hopefully the teaching session will clear them up, but if not, you can always admit you do not know and come back later in the week with an answer.
In your sessions, do not ask basic questions that are so obvious that no one wants to say anything. Start with basic comprehension questions, but then move your questions into interpretation and application questions that will provoke discussion and thoughtful responses.
What do I need to do?
Pray. Be prepared as best you can. Pray. Remind people frequently of the time and place of Bible study. Pray. Be vulnerable and honest. Pray. Don't avoid difficult truths. Pray. Trust the Lord and the work of the Spirit to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.