Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 1

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A BIBLE STUDY can be enjoyable and exciting. But it can also be complicated and challenging. To help leaders, both new and experienced, we asked two seasoned experts on how they handle this leadership role.

Donna Streufert is the founder of Women’s Leadership Institute. She is the wife of Pastor Dan Streufert and a champion of women who seek to fulfill their God-given roles in the church. Doing the math, she discovered she has fifty years of experience in leading Bible Studies!

Deb Burma is also a pastor’s wife, serving with her husband Cory, in Columbus, Nebraska. Author of Stepping Out, A Chocolate Life, Treasured, and Beautiful Feet, she blogs at debburma.blogspot.com. Deb is also a ministry leader and frequent speaker to women’s groups.

WHAT CONCERNED YOU MOST AS YOU BEGAN TO LEAD BIBLE STUDIES? 

Donna Streufert: Thinking back to the very first group, mentally scanning all those that followed, I realized that what I wanted most of all was this: that participants would experience personally the excitement, joy, comfort and assurance that comes when connecting with God through His powerful Word.

I had been blessed this way. I wanted this blessing for others.

Deb Burma: Many Bible study leaders say their greatest concern is that they won’t be able to adequately answer difficult questions from the participants. Thankfully, I was blessed with the guidance of mentors who told me that it’s okay when a leader doesn’t have all the answers. It’s more important to listen to the questions with genuine interest and care, acknowledge when you don’t know an answer, and provide reassurance that you will try to find the answer. Then seek answers through research—asking the pastor or another trusted source for assistance in finding them. But on a related note, I DID find myself fearful that my attempts to explain a difficult text or answer questions of a complex or personal nature would be misunderstood and may even cause a woman to leave the session distraught or confused.

I’ve worked through these fears with prayer and preparation, and by beginning each Bible study series addressing the possibility that issues like this may arise, and opening the door for open and honest discussion that may include clarification during the study or one-on-one conversation afterward.

HOW HAS YOUR STYLE OR APPROACH AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Donna: Every group has a personality. It’s important to know your group, understand the individuals and see how they function as one. Love them. Flexibility required.

So, my style or approach flexes to meet the personality of the group. For example, some groups are no nonsense and detail oriented, some are full of questions and challenges, some are at ease with one another and laugh easily. (Yes, laughing in Bible class is allowed.)

Time and place and group size also affect my style and approach. A group of several hundred or more requires a more deductive style (teaching or lecturing.) Small groups, under ten members or so, do well with an inductive approach (participants read, think, search and arrive at their own conclusions.)

Deb: Over the years, I think I’ve become more relaxed in my teaching style in both large- and small-group settings, seeking to find a balance between completing a lesson in one session and allowing more time for discussion. (It all depends on size of group and time constraints.)

I’m learning that it’s okay to challenge women, especially as they’ve become invested in the group over time, and encourage them to complete between-sessions assignments, while also being careful to communicate that it’s okay to arrive without preparation. (I wouldn’t want a woman to stop attending because she struggles to keep up with the reading or homework.)

I’ve also learned more about the variety of people’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing). To engage different kinds of learners, I use video clips, handouts, object lessons, visual aids like maps or props, take-home projects, discussion starters, and so on, depending on the study topic and the group’s dynamics.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU EXPERIENCED AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Donna: Two challenges come to mind – numbers and materials. Sometimes these challenges arise. Other times these are not challenges at all.

For example, with numbers: Sometimes it is difficult to attract people to spend time together in God’s Word. Apathy and indifference and lifestyle choices appear to keep numbers low. The times when attendance in Bible classes soar are more encouraging and exciting. But either way, I try to remind myself that I’m not in control. Prayer, personal invitation, careful preparation are my responsibility and my privilege. The rest is God’s Word, God’s people, God’s work.

The second challenge is finding just the right material for the group I’m leading. If I know my group well, I will look for materials

  • with sound biblical content
  • that truly engage learners
  • that meet their needs
  • that are appropriate for the age group and life experiences of the group
  • and have a workable format.

Sometimes I find a perfect match for a group. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge. I may need to shorten or adjust or even replace one study with another. But, that’s OK. I’ve learned something helpful for the future.

Deb: My biggest challenges in leading Bible studies have been situations when a participant has boldly declared a statement that is clearly off-base or not Biblically accurate. How do I respond in such a situation? While I never want to embarrass a woman with a confrontational correction in front of everyone, I also need to very gently bring the group back to Scripture and make sure others are not confused or misled by her declaration. I prayerfully consider how to respond to this woman one-on-one. Similarly, when a participant attempts to dominate the discussion or take the group on an unrelated bunny trail, it’s essential (though a challenge, for sure!) to gently manage the discussion, giving others equal opportunity for input and quickly bringing the group back on track.

An equally big, but very different, challenge is the already-crowded schedules of all potential participants. While seeking to grow women’s ministry by inviting and involving a vast variety of ages of women in every stage of life, it’s increasingly difficult to find times for Bible studies that work. I’ve found that providing two time options for the same large-group study on the same day is very helpful! That way, a woman can choose a noon time study or an evening study, or to alternate. Also, offering varying lengths of series enables women to commit to a timeframe that they’re comfortable with. As an example, instead of agreeing to attend a Bible study every week for a year, a woman may sign up for an 8-week series and then decide if she can commit to the next one. I’ve seen so many women give Bible study a try for the first time when given this opportunity!

Click here to read Part 2 of this article!

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

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Posted on: July 12, 2016, by : WLI

3 thoughts on “Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 1

  1. I never really cared for Bible study years back as it to me seemed stuffy and cold. UNTIL I started going to a neighborhood women’s Bible study and I was hooked for life. It did not happen over night but somewhere in the middle of a study by a well known Bible teacher and I wish I could say it was one of our CPH ones but it wasn’t something resonated with me and I have been forever changed. Now I am beginning with baby steps to write some studies. Bible study is fun it can be challenging but always when going to a study I am blessed for being there even if I do not agree totally on every piece of doctrine presented. I have found I can gently mention how we believe and leave it at that for the others to hear most are not Lutheran even. Sadly our church has more often than not ignored the need for study. Most Sundays there are few who stay for Bible study after church. Our small church did not even have a Bible study offered for years. Apathy among our members is so large. This group of women in the study I am involved with are so fired up to study together and I have learned so much. Our group loves video studies and I have been able to do one of D Pyle’s and we are doing her second in two weeks it is a good way for me to introduce our doctrine to these gals. The videos take the place of one having to lead and it is basically open ended questions at the end so are easily answered. We are finding too that women just are so busy alot of times lessons are not done ahead of time but that is okay. I want to start a women’s Bible study to run over summer months when families are less busy but I am afraid to commit to doing it as I am worried I will commit a big time frame every week and not find anyone interested. How do we deal with that? I am thinking though, it could be Satan trying to discourage me. I sure need some encouragement to go ahead and step out to the edge of that diving board on this one!

    1. Betty, I love your intentionality toward Bible study and gathering women around God’s Word. As for encouragement, STEP OUT with a plan. Summer is a great time to gather for a women’s Bible study, as most churches take a summer break from those offerings. Just know that due to family vacations/summer commitments, every woman will not be able to attend every week. But offer a good study, time, and place and get the word out! God’s blessings as you step out!

    2. Betty, we are so glad you found some encouragement from this article. Even if just a few gather for your bible study, your time will be well worth it. Just as the Word took root in you, it will take root in others. Do not let fear prevent you from stepping out. We need bible study leaders like you! Please let WLI know if there are other helpful resources we can provide to continue to support you.

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