Many of us have been part of bible study groups or have been one of the sections we did at youth group. But what are the things we have to consider when preparing to lead a bible study?
What have we actually been asked to lead?
Most groups have other parts to the group time together. How you welcome and start off your time together. How much social, free chatting time is there so people can connect and catch up. Do you have any worship or prayer times? Are there a catch up on what else the group is doing or working towards? Not to mention the hospitality side, is there going to be any drinks or food available too? And how is the actual space the group meets in set up?
Most group leaders who want to empower the group’s members will have people take turns to lead and provide those aspects of the time, including the main content part (in this case, the bible study). But these other parts are equally important for creating a safe space for nurturing deeper supportive friendships with one another and God.
If you have any questions or doubts about what you’ve been asked to do – ask your leader. You need to be clear on what you’ve to do and prepare and what’s not your responsibility. This will help you have the confidence to know what’s your’s and what is not being asked of you.
For the rest of this blog, parts 1+2, I’m only going to look at the aspect of leading the bible study section. Otherwise, this would either be a very long article.
Your role as leader of the bible study
The preparation time – to meditate and study the passage with God. To ponder different questions or look at the background or commentaries notes on any difficult verses. To come up with relevant questions to help the group make good observations on what the passage is telling us. And to process through how we can apply the biblical principles we see to our lives today. Then respond to what God’s showing you as a group or individuals to finish the time well.
Your role the facilitator of the discussion time -to make sure too much time isn’t lost on weird targets that don’t relate to the topic or passage. To help give everyone a chance to share, to encourage quieter members to speak up and help others not to overshare and thus be considerate to others.
To guide the time. When to move onto a new question, or highlight a key point, to challenge everyone (including ourselves) to grow deeper in how we apply it to our lives and situations today. Thus also guide in how to respond to God’s word as a group or personally.
To keep track of the time – make sure the key points you wanted to cover in the time are accomplished.
The Context of the group
If you’re leading within your own group, you already know everything about the people and their situations. But if you’ve been asked to lead a group that’s not one you regularly attend. Here are some of the things you need to consider.
Who attends the group? How old are they? What stage in life are they? Are they all single, at university or starting out in the workplace? Are they a mixture of singles, couples, young families or middle-aged (so have teenage kids), or nearing retirement?
Are they new Christian’s so don’t know much about the bible or mature Christians who enjoy discussing and hearing other’s perspectives on the passages perhaps already familiar to them?
If you’re younger or less experienced in your faith or understanding of the bible. Don’t worry – use your unique perspective to your advantage. Be humble and honest. Partner with the Holy Spirit, He knows everything about God’s word and how to get the most out of this particular time for everyone.
Find out how well the group knows one another. Are they open and happy to share more personal thoughts/ feelings? Or is the group still new and getting to know one other. So some might not be comfortable going deeper, so still building trust.
What is the group’s normal? How do they prefer to do things? For example, reading the bible, praying, responding as a group or personally? Whether they realise it or not, each group creates their own rhythms and ways of doing things – find out what they are, so you can respect them and know what would be appropriate to do.
Lastly, how much time do you have for the bible study part? It’s critical to know on so many levels!
What kind of bible study is it?
Is it a more inductive type – where you take more time to look at the observations, ask the poignant questions before moving on to interpretation and application. Is everyone in the group are familiar with this method and like to go through a whole book or letter of the bible over an extended period? (See my blog on The Inductive Study Method).
Is it a church-wide Bible study series – therefore, you’re provided with notes and questions the whole church is going through at the same time.
Is it a series on a particular theme or topic – have you been given a specific passage to look at an aspect of that theme. Or you have free rein to pick your own scriptures to explore it (but know what others have done already).
Other Bible study notes the group is going through, so you’re doing the next section. Is there a leaders handbook to help you prepare? This is great, as a lot of the preparation done for you. But it doesn’t take away from hearing God on what He wants to do specifically with the group this time – so which questions are essential, any new questions to add-in? Or how to facilitate the group’s response to what’s been discussed.
Total freedom – to pick a passage and points to discuss that you feel from God to do. Or that’s related to your passion or life. (As the group want to hear more of your perspective because of your experience in that area). For example, you’re a missionary and God’s heart for the unreached peoples. Or a student and God’s word for young people. Or the biblical perspective of healing – as you have a spiritual gift of healing and seen many healed.
What is the purpose or goal of the bible study?
Most bible study times are there so the group can get to know and understand more of God’s word. It’s a big, long term goal but each week adds another piece to the big picture of who God is and what His word is communicating with us.
We all want to become more like Christ. Bible study is an intentional way of looking at an aspect or characteristic of God. What is God’s perspective and then discovering together how we can apply it to our own lives and situations today? The key is intentional application. What do I need to change/ adapt or add to my life to be more like Jesus?
As a group, we can bring different perspectives, thoughts, ideas of what the passage means and help one another understand what it meant to the original audience in order to then apply it to our lives today. If this kind of process is hard for you to do on your own, it’s good to do it together as a group. The more practised you become, the more you’re then able to do it on your own and thus develop your relationship with God personally.
No matter the reason – getting into God’s word and asking the Holy Spirit to help us is fantastic. Using different methods and being open to hearing others perspectives and encouraging one another in how to apply His word to our lives is brilliant.
I hope these points will help you when preparing to lead a bible study. Next week, we will look at part 2 – The seven parts of a bible study.