Not all Bible studies are created equal. Some are more effective than others with particular groups of people. So how do you decide what sort of study to lead?
One common approach is to define your Bible study group based on what sort of people you expect to attend. The strength of this approach lies in the process of putting yourself in other people’s shoes and designing your Bible study in a way that best serves the group. Expert marksmen will choose the best model to fit the people God has given them.
So you might think in categories like this:
- Investigative (or Evangelistic) Bible Studies introduce unbelievers to the claims of Jesus in the Gospels. We might even call these groups “Bible discussions” to make them sound more approachable to unchurched people.
- Growth Bible Studies help professing believers to deepen their walks with Christ.
- Training Bible Studies teach people how to study the Bible for themselves and thus equip mature believers to use careful OIA skills in their personal Bible study.
- Leadership Bible Studies encourage church or small group leaders with biblical principles for shepherding others with the word.
- Devotional Bible Studies help committee members or retreat participants to ground their meetings in truth from God’s word.
Thinking in such categories help us to lay down our lives for others and tailor our approach to their needs. We think proactively about who will attend, and we work to create a positive user experience for group members.
However, there are also a few dangers to this approach.
- We might tend to think of some Bible studies as “OIA studies” and other studies as “not OIA studies.” But no matter who attends our studies—believer or unbeliever, mature or immature—we should always do thoughtful OIA study. OIA is the best method we can use whenever we approach the Scriptures.
- We might be led to believe that some Bible study groups need to focus on the gospel, while others need to focus on the Christian life or discipline or growth. But we should see the gospel of Jesus Christ in every passage of Scripture, regardless of who attends the study.
- We might expect some Bible studies to focus on application and other studies to focus on education. But God wrote the Scripture to produce change in all who read it. No Bible studies should be mere intellectual exercises.
As you figure out what sort of Bible study to lead, another set of categories may help you avoid these dangers. Next week I’ll offer another proposal.
Question: What other kinds of Bible studies could we add to our list?