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.
So, you’ve invited women from your neighborhood, moms from your weekly park playgroup, and friends from church, and you’re excited to dig into God’s word together. With the help of someone you trust, you’ve chosen great study materials, and logistically, all of the pieces are coming together. One friend is bringing snacks, another is hosting, and everyone agreed to have kiddos playing downstairs while you share what you’re learning. But now you’re getting a little nervous about “leading” the group. Isn’t it going to be awkward?
Well, it doesn’t have to be!
First of all, most women are just grateful that someone took the time and energy to coordinate the study, and they are happy that they aren’t on the hook to lead the discussion. People probably aren’t thinking about you at all, they’re just excited to get started and enjoy the fellowship. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to have all the Bible knowledge in the world, or seem more spiritual than you really are, think of yourself as a facilitator (a person who coordinates a process and makes it easier for everyone). That’s not too bad, right?
If you can commit to pray faithfully for the women in your group, complete your study on time, and care for the hearts of women in your group by asking good questions and listening well - you can lead a Bible study.
Here are a few additional tips to help things run more smoothly:
Start and end on time.
All moms know how hard it can be to make it to places on time, and they also know how much effort it takes to get out of the house at all (with or without kids)! As a leader, you can respect the women in your group, and their investment of time in the study, by starting the discussion at the agreed-upon time. That’s not to say you should aggressively cut-off all the small talk (great conversations might be happening), but you can emphasize the importance of the Bible and the eternal investments of your study by helping everyone stay focused. It might feel strange the first time, but when there’s a break in the conversation, just say, “Hey, I’m really excited to dig in. Let’s get started!”
Likewise, it also conveys respect when you end on time, even if the discussion isn’t totally finished. Of course, some women might want to linger and keep talking (Yay!), but it allows those who might be running on a tight schedule to keep going with their day, without feeling rude or awkward.
Learn the group’s dynamics.
Good leaders are also good listeners and observers. As you’re engaging in discussion during the first meeting, consider the personalities of the group, especially identifying those who will be more of the 'talkers' and those who will be more of the ‘thinkers.’ You’ll want to actively engage both. Additionally, make a mental note of where people are at with their Bible knowledge and application so you’re ready to draw out wisdom and redirect the conversation as needed. If you get stuck, you can always ask for other thoughts from those with more Bible knowledge in the group or ask the women what God is teaching them personally (versus sharing stories about what other people are learning). Understanding the nuances of the group is a way you can love these women by creating a safe environment where everyone can share without the fear of being belittled, attacked, excluded, or showcased.
While you definitely don’t need to go to seminary, or have lots of previous experience to lead a Bible study, it’s still important to be prepared. Women will look to you to set the tone, so if you’ve invested time into your study, they will play-off of that and rise to the occasion.
Another way prepare is to think about what you’ll say at the beginning and end of the discussion. Not that you need a word-for-word speech (that would be super weird), but it’s nice to draw women into the questions, maybe by sharing something that was particularly exciting to you that week. You could close by recapping some of the best nuggets of truth that the women shared during that time, which leads nicely into prayer.
Finally, consider looking carefully at the questions (or whatever the discussion format will be) before the group time, and estimate how much time you would like to spend on each area. This isn’t something you need to follow with rigidity, but it can help you stay on track when the group starts down a bunny-trail. Let the Holy Spirit lead, but also remember that women learned from the study and are eager to cover all of the material if possible!
Pray with intentionality.
As the leader, it’s also important to pray for your group members when you’re preparing for a meeting and when you’re in the study time together. Remember, more than a leader who has it all together, they need God to change their hearts. This isn’t something you can do by your own willpower, it’s a gracious work of the Holy Spirit, so ask him to move in the hearts of the women in your group.
Also, you’ll want to consider how to help the women pray for each other, and it works well to have some structure for this. Some groups enjoy spending a long time in prayer together during the evening. For others, it might not be as conducive due to children and time constraints. There are many ways to going about prayer. For instance, you can have the group email or text you requests beforehand, and then you can share those with the group in a document or follow-up email. The downside to this method is privacy concerns (some people have requests that they don’t want others to stumble upon) and it can feel less personal. Another idea is to have women exhange requests with the person sitting to their right and pray for her by name in the group. There are many ways to do prayer requests, but coming up with a plan helps everyone stay on-track.
And remember: It’s not about you, anyway!
All of this might sound intimidating, but take heart, because it’s not really about you at all! The point of gathering together to study the Bible is to learn about, point each other to, and fall more in love with Jesus and his gospel - not to make you look good (or awkward). One thing that will keep this in perspective is prayer. Pray for the women by name when you aren’t together, and pray for them as a group when you are. As you desire God’s glory, wanting everyone to invest in eternal things, God will be faithful to help you by his Spirit.