Building a Bible study culture in your church is a huge job, only possible by the grace of God. Because such a culture is reflected in every area of church life, this hard work requires creativity and a long-term view. But the effort is worth it.
While a Bible study culture begins with church leaders, it is caught and carried forward from the pews. Godly leaders point down the road and give their people provisions for the journey.
Leaders must grasp the opportunity small groups present. As Christians meet to discuss and study the Bible, these groups become a powerful culture-making tool.
So, how exactly do small groups build a Bible study culture?
1. They show your values.
As a church creates, supports, and advertises small groups, it highlights their importance and advances their purpose. Church leaders promote small groups so their people will grow in Christ. The more people who engage in Bible study, prayer, encouragement, and fellowship, the better.
By building this ministry on a foundation of Bible study, your church repeats its reliance on the Bible. We want to know God through the study of his word.
This strengthens the Bible study culture in your church by establishing a common aim. If everyone knows the destination and the essential tools to get there, the swell of the crowd will attract attention, questions, and others drawn by the vision.
2. They help you grow.
Christians grow as they study the Bible. Perhaps this is obvious, but it bears repeating.
We need to know God, what he is like, what he has done for us in Jesus, and what he calls us to as his ambassadors. As we understand and apply the Bible, we renew our minds with truth and repent of our idolatry. We believe the truth and trust in God to greater degrees, and his Spirit produces increasing fruit in our lives.
We are animated examples, living proof both of the goodness of God and of his work through his means. As we grow, love abounds in the church, and we trace this overflow back to God, his grace, and the study of his word.
3. They provide hands-on training.
Small group studies offer unique opportunities to sharpen Bible study skills. The flexible and informal nature of these groups make them an ideal training ground.
Though most meetings focus on studying a specific passage, the group can take short detours for direct instruction in Bible study skills. The leader can structure his questions to make explicit the Bible study components of observation, interpretation, and application. (These ingredients form the core of the OIA Bible study method.) Group members have the chance to ask honest questions about the Bible and to interact with the responses. Perhaps the greatest training tool is the ongoing example of friends studying the Bible together and helping each other apply it.
This training builds a Bible study culture in obvious ways. You’re gathering forces. More people are equipped to model Bible study skills and pass them on to others. More people can serve as resources to those getting started.