Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 2
This is part 2 of learning from the experts on leading a Bible study. The experts are Donna Streufert, founder of the Women’s Leadership Institute and Deb Burma, author of the Bible study, Living a Chocolate Life (CPH)
To access Part 1 of this series, click here.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR LEADING A BIBLE STUDY?
Donna: Here are my steps for preparation:
- Spend time in fervent prayer.
- Work through the lesson as I expect group members to do.
- Be open to new insights God is teaching me through this lesson.
- Refer to the Leader’s Guide and/or commentaries or other resources to extend my understanding.
- Review or draw out the Central Truth and the objectives of this lesson. Consider printing these out for participants.
- Think through how I will use the time allotted for the session.
- Consider using a story, personal experience or object to catch attention as we begin the lesson.
- Plan for prayer and/or singing to close the lesson.
Deb: I prepare for each study with a read-through of the session and the Bible passages, often pausing to do a little research on the Scripture text, with the help of my Study Bible notes or other trusted sources. Then I go through the session and Scriptures again, this time more thoroughly, answering the questions myself as a participant would. If a video is included with the study, I view it once or twice, making notes to apply to group discussion while viewing it. Finally, I read over the session’s questions again and consider alternate or additional questions that may be especially relevant to our group and its unique needs. Throughout my preparation, I pray for God’s guidance, for humility and grace in leadership, and for clear direction.
For some studies, I prepare a fun activity as an opener or ice breaker. I may prepare simple props or handouts or provide a take-home idea to encourage the women to apply the lesson to life. (For example, a Scripture card with the theme verse that each participant can post in a prominent place for aid in memorization or a note card and envelope, so each can send a word of encouragement to someone outside the study.)
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IN LEADING?
Donna: The Holy Spirit is the teacher/leader. I am a tool. God is the one who changes hearts and lives. I am no more important than each member of this group. I don’t have all the answers. I am a learner, too. God is working in my heart and life just as he is in the other members of the group. We are all members of Christ’s body.
Deb: I think one of the most important things I need to remember is that I’m still learning too and I should humbly communicate that to those whom I’m leading. I need to remember that every woman in the room matters, and so does her input. I also need to remember not to be so hard on myself as a leader. By God’s grace, I’m able to communicate the saving love of Christ to every participant as I share His Word and trust that He works through me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, despite my shortcomings and mistakes.
HOW DO YOU HELP GROUP MEMBERS FEEL COMFORTABLE IN SHARING?
Donna: The blessings of group Bible study include a closer, more supportive relationship among members of God’s family. As trust grows, participants are free to open their hearts to one another. Some are more comfortable with sharing than others. Early on, I make a point of stating clearly that what we share of our personal lives remains confidential. I ask the group if they can agree to that. I may remind them later, also.
Sometimes I model the openness I want to foster by telling parts of my own story, my own spiritual journey, my personal experiences.
Shy or reserved people may simply need “permission” to talk about themselves. In this case I might say: “Betty, you’ve been through something similar. Would you be comfortable sharing your thoughts with us?” Often, this is all that’s needed.
Deb: I encourage women to share by sharing openly myself. I often begin with lighter lead-in discussion questions that break the ice, enabling women to feel comfortable with one another. I think it’s vitally important to affirm, encourage, and thank each woman when she does share, helping her to see that she has something of value to offer that others may gain from, and communicating that I care about what she has to say. I’m amazed at how quickly women begin to feel comfortable in sharing when others, including their leader, are courageously doing so. I’m often amazed at the insight a new participant brings to the table, as we discuss a given passage or topic that others (including myself!) wouldn’t have thought of. Our discussions are richer and deeper when group members become comfortable and begin to share. Relationships develop and trust grows as we grow together in the Word and grow in faith.
WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?
Deb: So many little fun and funny scenarios have happened during Bible study over the years, and I’ve been able to laugh at myself as I’ve admitted my own foibles while making a point in the midst of a study, which often serves to further remind others of God’s amazing grace in Christ! Once I boldly recited an entire passage, only to look up and find forty women staring quizzically at me because I had shared the correct chapter and verses, but was reading from the wrong Book of the Bible. (How could I have not realized my mistake when I’d prepared the lesson?!)
HOW HAS LEADING BIBLE STUDIES CHANGED YOU?
Donna: I am changed as the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word among God’s people. I am a learner first.
I grow through the witness, insights, wisdom and Christian life styles of my friends and fellow believers in group Bible study.
I have discovered my God-given gifts of teaching and leading. And this is a good thing. All thanks and glory to God.
Deb: We often hear people say that the teacher learns even more than the students in the preparation and process of teaching. I believe this to be true in the specific educational area of leading Bible studies! I’ve grown in my desire to seek greater depth and detail from the Word of God as a result of my opportunities to lead others in study. In preparation, I delve in more deeply than I might if I was studying on my own, knowing that I’ll be sharing with others and they’ll likely take away more from the study if I’m a good steward with my preparation time as a leader; God may use my enthusiasm and passion for the study of His Word to ignite a fire in others to do likewise.
Leading Bible studies has also opened my eyes to recognize that while I’m digging in, learning, and leading, I have SO MUCH MORE to learn; there are so many ways in which I desire to grow. I am humbled to learn how often a participant knows more than I do on a given subject and I’m thrilled to learn from her! I am humbled by my own shortcomings and limitations, but trust that the Holy Spirit works through every Word of Scripture and in the hearts of His people as we continue to learn together.
Many thanks to Donna and Deb for sharing their insights gleaned from years of leading Bible studies! Their experience in choosing materials, leading discussions, and handling tricky situations is invaluable.
We pray that you will grow in faith and trust as you develop your ability to lead others in God’s Word. May all the participants be blessed through your leadership.
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