A great Bible study can be transformative. You see God, your sin, and your Savior clearly. You grieve over your offenses but marvel at God’s love for you in Jesus. You leave refreshed and hopeful about the future. A meeting like this can turn your week around.
Because a Bible study has such potential, we can feel cheated when it falls flat. It’s like that slice of pizza you thought was stuffed with sausage but was swimming with anchovies instead. The unpleasant taste lingers.
A Bible study can turn sour because of disruptions, the group’s size, a chaotic setting, or recent events in the life of a group member. Sometimes we must play the unfavorable hand that God’s providence deals. But what if your Bible study leader is to blame for the spoiled meeting?
A Bad Leader
A Bible study leader could fall short in many ways. Maybe he favors lecture over discussion and misses out on the benefits of small group interaction. Or he asks questions but doesn’t care about the answers. Perhaps he shuts down conversations or silences people, leaving no room for differing views or sharing. Worst of all, he might misuse or misunderstand the Bible.
How do you react to a leader like this? Should you pack your bags and look for greener pastures?
Have A Conversation
Instead of jumping ship, ponder this: Might God have a job here for you? If the leader is young, inexperienced, or without a mentor, he might be aching for a friend to pass wisdom along. If you see the problems, by sticking around you may help your group study the Bible.
If you’re up for the challenge, there’s one obvious, uncomfortable task ahead of you: Have a conversation with your leader.
It’s possible that your friend has chosen a leadership style or strategy that makes your small group study unpleasant. But it’s much more likely that he doesn’t understand his effect. Your discussion may be a catalyst for his repentance (in case of moral failure) or training (in case of ignorance).
Of course, it’s also possible that the conversation will not go well, that he will explain away your observations and discount your concerns. Pray that God would use your words in the future if he doesn’t seem to be using them in the present.
I’m avoiding specific guidelines on the content of this conversation because it may go in any of a hundred directions. Collect your thoughts and your recommendations before you meet, and if you need pointers for studying the Bible or leading a small group, this blog has some resources to consider.
As for your posture in this conversation and afterward, I have six brief suggestions.
- Ask others first — Check with other members of your small group—are they seeing the same problems? If not, perhaps you need recalibration.
- Pray — Bring this matter to God ahead of time, and if your friend is receptive, pray during your meeting. (And afterward too!)
- Be humble — You are no better than your friend, and any insights you have are God-given.
- Be a friend — This news may be difficult to hear, so be sympathetic and offer support for the future. Avoid all scolding.
- Offer hope — Remind your friend of God’s long-term, enduring love and his committment to change us by the Spirit.
- Look ahead — It’s unrealistic to expect overnight change, so ask your friend for permission to give small-group feedback down the road.