Today’s post is part of a six week series on how to start and facilitate a women’s Bible study group. We’ll cover the basics like what and why, as well as the more difficult parts, like who and how. Our hope is to encourage you to study God’s word with fellow believers, equipping you with practical how-tos for starting a study in your local church or community. If you’re just joining us, you can start at the beginning of the series here or jump to the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth posts.
When women commit their precious time, energy, and attention to a Bible study group, it’s important to make the most of it. But making the most of it doesn’t just mean choosing a study that will be the easiest, or even what will make the group the most comfortable. Instead, it’s a delicate balance of committing to a curriculum that’s rooted in the gospel message with challenges for women at many levels, without being bland or discouragingly difficult. Does this type of study even exist? Sure! But there are many factors to consider.
Discerning A Solid Study
There are many different types of Bible studies on the market today. Maybe you’re interested in a commentary-style book with simple discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Or maybe you’d like a study with few teaching texts to reference, but lots of questions to walk you through an inductive method of understanding scripture. Some studies focus on going through a whole book of the Bible, and others are completely topic-driven. There are even studies that don’t have questions, but prescribe a method that can be used with simply a pen, a notebook, and a Bible.
Regardless of the style of the study, it’s important to make sure it encourages women to understand scripture in its original context, points them to other scriptures for the purpose of interpretation, and is laced with a strong thread of the gospel narrative.
Another way to check the soundness of a study is to take time to research the author. What are his or her credentials? Do they work for an organization? Does that person and or organization or church hold a high view of God, believe in the inerrancy of scripture, and desire to see women become biblically literate? What do you think is their goal in writing the study? Answering some of these questions in a ministry team setting, under the guidance and authority of church leaders, will prove helpful when it comes to choosing a study.
Considering the Needs of Your Group
During the study selection process, it will be important to think about the needs of your group. This isn’t because you hope to keep them spiritually comfortable, but because you want to make the most of everyone’s time and come alongside women right where they’re at.
You might consider the specific spiritual needs of the group based on age, stage-of-life, or how the study complements other things the women are learning at church on Sunday. Is your group full of non-believers and new believers, or are you leading a seasoned group of women who’ve studied scripture for years? Is your group going to be consistently attended by nearly all of the women, or will it be scattered attendance where women need to be able to pick back up after being gone? Is your group going to be a short and efficient meeting because of a ticking clock with childcare, or is it a leisurely meeting over coffee? Thinking through these questions about the demographic and setting of your group can help guide your study selection.
It’s important to be realistic about what your group can accomplish, choosing something that will point them to truth and challenge them spiritually, without being so hard and time consuming that they just give up.
Choosing a Study Format
Another component to consider when starting a Bible study is the format of the group. Will this be a place for casual and organic discussion, or do you hope to stay on track and go over every point of the study in each session? There isn’t a right or wrong answer, but determining this will help you choose a study that would best meet the objectives of the group and decide what type of supplemental material might be necessary.
Some common Bible study formats include elements such as a prayer time, worship and praise through singing, a time for informal discussion or icebreaker questions, formal discussion with time to answer questions, and teaching (either in person or on a video) that provides a helpful summary to the group. Your study doesn’t need to include every one of these components, but women might benefit from having access to these different elements in some form of another if they aren’t provided directly in the study itself.
What Studies Do You Recommend?
We certainly haven’t tried all of the studies and methods that are available, but if you are unsure of where to start, Risen Motherhood offers free equipping resources for the inductive Bible study method. You can find a tutorial for the method on our website, or, for a more thorough explanation, we recommend reading Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.
Of course there are other methods and studies out there in addition to the inductive method, so check with a trusted older woman at your church, your women’s ministry leader, a pastor, or even an experienced friend!
Choosing a great Bible study is best done with the help of a group in your local church, and it requires time, discernment, and prayer. It might feel like you aren’t able to accommodate everyone at every stage, but when you entrust your time to him and seek to make disciples of women, God is faithful and his word will not return void.