If God can use a silly donkey to speak his word (2 Peter 2:16), he can use anybody. But the wise of heart will use sweetness of speech to increase persuasiveness (Prov 16:21).
Thus, even when truth is present, a bad Bible study can leave participants confused, wondering if they’ll ever understand what the Bible says. But as leaders we can prevent Bible studies from being dull by learning how to study well and how to lead well—and by avoiding at least six bad habits.
1. Winging It
The Spirit of God works as we lead Bible study, and he also works as we prepare for it. Before you lead, spend time in prayer and preparation to discern the main point of the text and to generate some helpful questions to guide the time.
2. Being Vague
When God speaks, he means to communicate something knowable and specific, and what he means is not a matter of one’s own interpretation. Your job as leader is to direct people to the text to discern what the author is saying. Clarity is a rare but precious commodity. Strive for it as you frame the time and ask good questions. Feel free to guide the group by taking tangential discussions offline.
3. Talking a Lot
The answers are in the text and not your brain. Direct the group back into the Bible, and ask questions to help them seek and find the truth there. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. By all means, draw the group out, and dominate the time with God’s voice, not yours.
4. Keeping it Academic
What good is it to understand the point of a passage but never have it change our lives? James says this is like looking in the bathroom mirror but having to pull down the car visor 15 minutes later because you forgot what you looked like (James 1:23-24). When you lead a Bible study, reserve time for application and push folks to grapple with the text’s connection to their lives. Don’t be satisfied with purely cognitive but apparently spiritual answers.
5. Sputtering to the Finish
Leaders are servants, and a great way to serve people is to communicate start and end times—and hold yourself to them. Also, a strong way to end the study might be to restate the main point, summarize a few applications, and close with prayer. You may want to sneak any announcements in before the closing prayer. What you don’t want is for people, who sacrificed time to attend, to wonder whether it was worth it.
6. Neglecting Prayer
Since the Holy Spirit wrote the Scripture, sensible leaders ask his help to understand it. While prayer might not fit your goals for the discussion time itself (particularly if the group’s purpose is outreach to unbelievers), prayer during your preparation expresses dependence on the Lord and gives him the honor he deserves.
May God strengthen you to be an excellent Bible study leader! May you lead with consideration, clarity, and confidence in the author and perfecter of faith. And if your study doesn’t go well, remember that our gracious God can still speak through anyone.