From the Babylon Bee: “Revolutionary Women’s Bible Study to Actually Study the Bible”
Check it out!
Melissa Kruger has some helpful thoughts on the types of questions that tend to stifle conversation in small group settings:
Kruger has some helpful explanation. Check it out!
HT: Jake Swink
One of the most practical—but least expected—pieces of advice I give to Bible study leaders is to wear a watch.
I know it’s easy to keep track of time on your phone. And maybe you can consult your phone in a way that isn’t obvious or distracting. But a Bible study leader needs to monitor the time, and there’s nothing quite like a watch.
As a Bible study leader, I’ve far too often lost track of time. I’ve ended the study late, put a strain on the parents in the room, and inconvenienced those for whom driving later at night is difficult.
We don’t often consider time management when leading a Bible study, but it has much to do with how well our friends learn from and apply the Bible. When we rush, we can miss the supporting truths and observations on which a solid interpretation rests. When we proceed too slowly, we risk boring our friends and ruining the interaction that is so vital to a good Bible study.
The way we structure the time within our group study can have a huge effect on the way we engage with the Scriptures. Let’s take a look at six different time-related ways we can love our group members.
Try to arrive a few minutes early and begin at the agreed-upon hour. I’m not advocating you cancel any built-in mingling and conversation time. But when it’s time for the Bible study portion of the meeting, be faithful to that committment.
This is even more important than the previous point. When you’re setting up the group and inviting folks to join, make sure you allow enough time for your intended purposes. Then honor the committment your friends make to the group by ending on time.
Most small group meetings include other aspects of fellowship besides Bible study. Perhaps it’s a meal, a time for prayer, singing, or door-to-door evangelism. Try to stick to a rough schedule that everyone knows so that no one is surprised and the gathering flows as expected.
As you get to know your group, you’ll have a sense of their interests, their strengths, and their weaknesses. You’ll learn roughly how long it will take to discuss certain passages. As you prepare your Bible study, in addition to the questions you will ask and the applications you will raise, plan out the time. Divide your study into well-defined sections so you can press the accelerator or the brake as needed.
But application is hard. It involves a raw look at ourselves, our group, and our church or organization, confessing our failures and pressing the truth of Scripture into those areas for obedience. It takes time.
We have to do better than tacking on a half-hearted two minutes of application to the end of our studies. To nurture application-focused discussion during which real transformation can happen, set aside at least 10 minutes for this part of the conversation.
In advocating an eye to the clock, I’m not arguing for cold schedule-keeping. All that we do as Christians, and especially as leaders, needs to flow out of love for God and neighbor.
Sometimes love—and a sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit—demands flexibility. On a few occasions I’ve ditched my Bible study plans entirely in favor of encouraging, praying for, and lamenting with a brother or sister with a tremendous spiritual burden. People are more important than plans.
Additionally, sometimes the Spirit is at work during a group discussion when the meeting time ends. I suggest announcing to the group that the meeting is over and acknowledging that some people may need to leave. Offer to stay and continue the conversation with those who are able and interested.
By keeing an eye on the time, we love and serve those in our small groups. This isn’t easy, and it is a skill we develop with experience. As you pray for your group, ask God to help you use and manage the group’s time for the group’s good and God’s glory.
When I find myself in a new city, it takes me a while to get my bearings. I need an idea of a city’s structure before I can move around with confidence.
In Pittsburgh—the biggest city near me—everything is organized by bridges and neighborhoods. If I feel lost, I look for signs for the closest bridge, stadium, or college campus. Knowing the big picture keeps me moving.
When studying the Bible, a book overview serves this same function. Knowing the themes, structure, and main point of a book is a great help when you wade into the chapters and verses. We’ve written before about how to do a book overview in your personal Bible study; today we’ll address leading a small group through the process.
A fair warning: This particular small group meeting requires homework. Your group members may balk, but without homework, a book overview discussion will become a lecture. Nobody wants that.
My small group recently started Luke, and we kicked things off with a book overview meeting. Here’s what I expected my group to do before the meeting.
My group had five weeks between meetings to accomplish these tasks. Stating my expectations up front made leading the book overview meeting a snap.
I told my group we’d discuss five simple questions at the meeting.
We hit all five questions, and because my friends had prepared, we had a lively discussion.
The goal of a book overview meeting should be to come up with a main point for the book you’re studying. Once you agree on this as a group, you can return to it to make sense of smaller passages. Even if you don’t hit on application during this meeting, you’re laying the foundation for future discussions.
The book overview won’t solve all of your Bible study problems. But it is a wonderful exercise for both personal and small group Bible study. When you know what an author is trying to do with the book as a whole, sometimes smaller sections of the book click into place.
Next time you start a new book in your small group Bible study, take a week to talk about the big picture. You won’t regret it!
Thanks to Peter for his help in preparing this article.
Sometimes the best solution is the obvious one.
My small group at church was between books. We finished Isaiah and were about to begin Luke, but we needed a topic to fill a gap. Since we meet on Sunday nights and attend the same worship service on Sunday mornings, I realized the answer was staring me in the face. We could discuss the sermon!
A few people in my group had experience with sermon discussions. They knew this wasn’t just a repetition of the preacher’s outline. This was good, hard work. Like strong hands kneading dough, God can use discussions like this to press the application of his word deep into the lives of his people.
The preacher isn’t the only one with sermon work to do. He studies, prays, and prepares, but the folks in the pews have a job too.
We need to listen carefully and weigh the sermon against Scripture. We’re also called to apply the Bible, and this is where a small group discussion can be helpful.
Consider the benefits of having a conversation about the sermon.
People who anticipate a discussion like this are more likely to pay close attention during the sermon. This greater engagement naturally leads to greater spiritual blessing.
The small group will focus on application, and when several people work hard to apply the sermon together, powerful things can happen. You might see connections or sense conviction you hadn’t noticed on your own. A friend might mention needs in the church or the community that would be an ideal outlet of application.
Think of the benefits to your church if your small group members were diligently discussing the sermon and applying the Word preached! It would mean quite a transformation.
It doesn’t take much to lead a sermon discussion in your small group or Sunday school class. With a little preparation and some good questions, you’ll be ready to go.
If you use your church’s sermon to propel your small group into the Bible, you’ll have lots of time to wrestle through applications. As you’re confronted with ways you need to change and encourage others to change, it won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
Thanks to Peter for his help in preparing this article.
If old shampoo commercials have taught me anything, it’s that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
This advice isn’t just for job applicants. Your first moments with your Bible class or small group are critical as well.
Some teachers begin a class with a review. Others jump right into the passage.
But most skilled teachers use a softer opening. They create a transition period where people can settle, adjust, and get on the same page. Launching questions are great for this.
A launching question is asked at the beginning of a class or study. It launches the group toward your goal, gathering as many people on board as possible. (We’ve written about launching questions before, and Peter has provided some great examples.)
Much of the power of small groups (and smaller classes) lies in the interaction between the people. A good launching question encourages participation, showing that conversation is welcome, safe, and valued. The best questions are also linked to the topic or text of the meeting.
I’ve seen and made lots of mistakes at the beginning of a Bible study. Most of these mistakes fall into four categories.
Some questions ask for too much too soon. Someone who just sat down might not be ready to summarize Genesis or talk honestly about their sin. Asking a question that demands too much often results in silence, and nobody wants that!
In my small group we aim for honest conversations and personal applications of the Bible, but these discussions often happen toward the end of the study, not the beginning. I ask for more depth (both cognitively and emotionally) as the meeting progresses.
It’s easy to get people talking—sports, weather, or politics should do the trick. But if your interaction isn’t connected to the subsequent material, that launching question can seem like a waste.
Some questions have only one answer. These are fine in an elementary school classroom, but in a small group they promote the illusion of interaction without the reality.
Try to craft a launching question which is open-ended and easy for everyone to answer. Instead of fill-in-the-blank questions, state the truth you’re fishing for and follow up with why or how.
The specific wording of a question is critical, and I’ve found that improvising doesn’t work. I encourage every teacher to write down their questions verbatim and in an easy-to-spot place in their notes.
Without a scripted beginning, my launching questions end up being too long, vague, or confusing. A clear, straightforward question is most important in those opening minutes.
Suppose you’re teaching on a passage which centers on idolatry. You plan to steer application toward personal and corporate idols in the church.
Let’s discuss some possible launching questions.
There are other ways to begin a study like this; drop your suggestions in the comments!
I write my launching question at the end of my study preparation. I need to know the end of the story before I take aim at the beginning. (It’s one of the hardest parts for me!)
Remember that every group and class is different, so what works for me might not work for you. If your small group shares a meal before your study, or if your class always follows a focused time of prayer, you can handle the beginning of your meeting differently.
A slam-dunk launching question won’t make up for poor study preparation. But a good question will pave the way toward a productive, fruitful discussion. It’s worth the effort!
Today marks the unofficial start of summer in the U.S. The next three months promise sunshine and thunderstorms, lightning bugs and mosquitoes, picnics and sunburn. Summer is here, whether you’ve gathered your frisbees and watermelon or not.
Summer has a rhythm of its own. The children are out of school, we’re anxious to travel, and the longer hours of daylight call us outside for yard work and play.
Though it seems we should have more time in the summer for spiritual pursuits, for many the opposite is true. We float into the fall like a dry leaf, wondering why we feel so distant from the Lord.
Let’s make this summer different. Let’s fill this summer with the Bible.
As I urge you to pick up your Bible this summer, I realize some will consider this a stuffy burden. But if you think the Bible is boring, you’ve got the wrong book.
The Bible is the word of God! It is our light in the dark, it is our way back to our Father, it is the food we need for life. There are millions of reasons to read and study the Bible. Consider these seven.
There’s no need to wait until January 1 to make a life change. If you’ve been neglecting God’s word or if you’d just like to make the most of the summer, here are five ways to get started.
Read and study the Bible yourself. You’ll never regret focusing on the Bible. If you’ve never studied the Bible before, don’t be intimidated! We’ve got you covered. If you need the refreshment of simply reading the Bible, three months is plenty of time to read the whole thing. Really!
Join a Bible study group. A small group study can be just the thing to get you out of the house and into God’s word. Ask around at church to see what’s available this summer, and if you don’t find anything that works, start your own group!
Read the Bible with a friend or spouse. Groups can be great, but the simple practice of reading the Bible with one other person is powerful too. This really is as easy as it sounds: find a friend, find a time, and dive into the Bible together.
Read the Bible with your family. Pick a book in the Bible and start reading out loud. Once you finish, start again with a different book. Keep going. A family reading time will be fruitful for everyone (especially if the children ask questions).
Point your children to the Bible. School-age children invariably have more free time in the summer, and they can’t spend the whole time blowing bubbles. Whether your children can read or not, the summer is a great time to help them develop a daily devotional habit. Follow up and show them how the whole Bible fits together.
Three months of summer stretch out before us; let’s use them to immerse ourselves in the Bible!
Writing for Christianity Today, Jen Wilkin encourages us to “Stop Calling Everything a Bible Study.”
On the typical church website, it’s not uncommon to find classes on marriage, finances, parenting, prayer, and books of the Bible all listed as “Bible studies.”
In these gatherings, good things happen. People connect to one another in community. They share needs, confess sins, and explore topics through the lens of Scripture. But not all of these classes are Bible studies…
As we have expanded our use of the term, we have decreased the number of actual Bible studies we offer. Churches have gradually shifted away from offering basic Bible study in favor of studies that are topical or devotional, adopting formats that more closely resemble a book club discussion than a class that teaches Scripture.
I’ve also written before about how book discussion groups are not Bible studies. Getting this right is not merely a matter of terminology. Getting this right can mean the difference between training our people to read the Bible on their own, and training them to believe they can’t do it without expert guidance.
Wilkin’s short article is worth considering. Check it out!
In the English-speaking world, we are blessed with a wealth of good translations of the Bible. For most of church history, this was not the case.
Chances are you have a few translations you prefer, and occasionally switching between these versions in your devotional reading can prove eye opening. You see a phrase or scene from a slightly different angle, and you have a fresh appreciation or insight as a result.
Bible study leaders can also use multiple translations of the Bible to great profit. But it’s best not to introduce variety too early in the process.
In your personal study of a Bible passage, I suggest you stick to one translation. Because different translations have different philosophies and tendencies, switching between Bible versions at this stage in the process will slow you down.
At this blog we advocate an old method of Bible study called Observe-Interpret-Apply (OIA), and when observing we suggest you pay attention to words and grammar (among other things). Observing all that a passage contains can be a tall order—bringing in alternate translations might double or triple your work!
For your primary Bible, consider something closer to a word-for-word translation (“formal equivalence”) than a thought-for-thought translation (“dynamic equivalence”). Since Bible study should focus on the words of the original authors, we should use a translation that does as little interpreting as possible while still making sense of the text.
Note: If you’d like an explanation of some of the most popular Bible translations, Daniel Wallace does a decent job here.
After observing the text and working through the answers to your interpretation questions, you should have a sense of the main point of the passage. You may also have some questions you weren’t able to answer.
At this point I usually read my passage in multiple translations. I find software like e-Sword or websites like Bible Gateway perfect for this, because they allow you to view several versions in parallel. For example, here’s the first chapter of John’s gospel in the ESV, NASB, and NIV.
Reading a passage like this is revealing. Staring at your main translation for hours can bake the words into your brain. But this exercise will show you the differences between translations quickly. You’ll see the vast agreement as well as the small areas of disagreement. For particular words, a variety of translations will show you that Bible translation is a difficult task!
You may be able to resolve any word-related confusion by looking at a commentary or two. Most commentators geek out over words and translations, so you’ll have no shortage of food for thought.
If you are leading a small group Bible study with regular participants, it’s a good idea to note which translations those folks read. Take a look at your passage in these translations before the small group meeting so you won’t be thrown or surprised by an odd word choice.
If I notice a drastic difference between translations when I’m preparing, I’ll often point it out to my group. This “pre-emptive strike” allows me to bring the issue into our discussion if it seems important. However, it’s easy to get bogged down in discussions like this, so I usually try to direct our conversation elsewhere.
Though they can differ widely, most of the major English Bible translations are very good. And the deviations we see almost never change the interpretation of the passage. We can use the variety to inform our ideas about the author’s original meaning, but we must also remember not to freak out over the differences we see.