Sometimes I think of Bible studies not according to who will attend, but according to what I expect of those who attend.
- Low Commitment Bible studies work best for situations where we need to make it easy as possible for people to get into the word. The leader expects people simply to show up and take part in the discussion as they have thoughts. Such studies work well as a 5-minute introduction to a business meeting, a short investigative study, or as the very first introduction for people to the OIA method of Bible study. In many situations, low commitment is a good thing.
- Moderate Commitment Bible studies work best for situations where people want more out of the Scripture, but they still need a lot of guidance. In such studies, the leader expects people to commit to attending the study and at least to read the passage beforehand. At the meeting itself, the leader might not even read the text but can dive right in to the discussion.
- High Commitment Bible studies work best for situations where people need to be challenged beyond what they might find comfortable. In such studies, the leader expects people to spend 1-5 hours studying the passage personally before each meeting. The leader may expect group members to come to the meeting ready to share what they think is the author’s main point. At a meeting for one such study, I once prohibited participants from using their Bibles. I expected them to have spent enough time studying the text that they could discuss it from either their notes or their memory. (Note: I did that for only one meeting, and it was a wild ride, but my purpose was to stress the commitment required, not to direct anyone’s attention away from the text itself.)
The key to increasing commitment is to give homework. It’s really pretty simple. I know I’m talking about a Bible study, and such things are usually free and easy because we want more people to attend.
But people will get out of it as much as they put into it. And they’ll place higher value on things that cost them more. So why can’t we ask them to prepare for each Bible study meeting?
One significant danger here is that we may have different group members ready for differing degrees of commitment. In a single Bible study, we’re likely to ask too much of some people and too little of others. At such times, it may be helpful to split the group into different studies with different commitment levels. Or we may need to feed a ready-for-higher-commitment person with an opportunity to co-lead the study or receive more training outside the study.
As I lead Bible studies, I ask myself if I’m calling people to a commitment level proportional to their maturity and to Christ’s expectations for them (Matt 11:28-30, Luke 9:57-62). And I make frequent changes based on what will be most helpful at the time. Bible studies that never change year after year may just be a recipe for complacency.
Question: In what contexts do you think differing degrees of commitment are warranted?