If you haven't led a Bible study before, it can seem pretty intimidating. Still, Bible studies are fun and a great way for people to gather and share their faith as they study the Scriptures.
The benefits and rewards of studying the Bible in a group setting are huge. Bible studies are an essential way to help people grow in their faith and their knowledge of the Scriptures. Listening to others share their insights and experiences can inspire group members to think and live in new ways, as they grow in their faith.
If you're thinking about starting and leading a Bible study, it's not as difficult as it may seem. There are helpful approaches that can make you seem like a seasoned Bible study leader, and it won't take nearly as much preparation as you think. After all, you probably don't have hours of free time to prepare for weekly Bible studies from scratch.
How to teach and lead the Bible study
For some reason, there aren't many resources that give people tools for becoming a Bible study leader. Most Bible study approaches are often generalized or vague and may not provide the practical guidance you need. So, here's a helpful approach to leading a Bible study. The method I recommend is based off the approach that many discipleship organizations use. For example, Intervarsity uses this method to help college students lead Bible studies
with friends. It can be just as effective for your group. Similar models have been adopted by other churches in helping raise up Bible study leaders.
1. Ask questions about the text
It's helpful if everyone reads the text in advance, but you can also give your group a few minutes to read the section you are leading. Be sure to give everyone a few extra minutes to observe what they've read and a chance to ask questions. Everyone can feel comfortable knowing that there are no wrong questions to draw out from their observations.
Making observations and asking questions about the text will help the group to better understand what they've read. It also may draw out additional insights or lead to a discussion. For example, if you notice the author uses a certain word multiple times in a passage, that's an important insight worth investigating.
As the leader, be sure to have a list of set questions ahead of time. This way, you can be ready to use your questions if the group is having trouble coming up with their own.
Organize a small Bible study with an online sign up. View an Example
2. Interpret the text
Interpreting means examining the text together and answering the questions the group asks. As a Bible study leader, it's important for you to read the text in advance. This way, you do some of the investigative work in advance. Keep in mind that you won't anticipate all the questions and you won't have all the answers. That's okay � you're not supposed to know everything. Some questions might not have definitive answers. Other questions might call for follow up or someone else in the group might have a helpful insight.
Grabbing a good commentary can help equip you with some knowledge about the text you're studying. Commentaries are written by Bible scholars, and they are designed to give you detailed insight into books of the Bible. There are a lot of commentaries on the market. Here are a few commentary series that have broad approval. You can purchase a specific book from the series on a number of online book retailers.
3. Apply the text
This is often the fun part when studying the Bible. Many people rush to interpret the text too quickly. Without asking the questions and doing the interpretation work, you risk applying the text wrongly or superficially. When you have taken the time to fully understand a text, your insights are much better quality.
Your group probably won't have many problems applying the text. However, try to think deeply about the implications of how the text might be applied. Allow it to challenge the group. As the leader, have some applications planned in advance. However, asking some open-ended questions might also guide the group in your discussion.
Tips for Leading a Bible Study
- Choose a comfortable location and setting. Good leaders know that creating a comfortable setting helps lower people's guards. This helps them open up when it's time for discussion.
- Decide on a convenient meeting time. Ask all group members to make a commitment to regular attendance. On this note, it's best to specify a date range for the study. It's a lot easier for people to commit to a five week study than one that is 25 weeks or indefinite.
- Have snacks and refreshments available. The host can prepare snacks, or you can ask different group members to bring snacks each week.
- Give people time to connect. Bible studies are more than studying � they also provide a time for personal connection that deepens relationships among group members.
- Greet everyone warmly. You want to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that people enjoy.
- Share the leadership. Good leaders disciple and develop other leaders. This might include asking someone else to oversee snack assignments, take prayer requests, or communicate prayer requests to the group. Eventually, it's good to give others a turn facilitating the Bible study discussion.
- Prepare in advance. You don't need to be a Bible scholar to lead this study, but you should do some homework in advance. Follow the simple process discussed above and you'll have what you need to get started, or review bible trivia for inspiration..
- Show empathy for others. When you lead, you don't want to seem judgmental toward others. Allow people to share their feelings and foster a safe space for authentic conversation.
- Allow others to speak. You don't want to do all the talking. Prepare questions and encourage others to respond.
- Don't be afraid of awkward silence. Sometimes you may ask a question and no one answers. The pressure of awkward silence forces your group to think and eventually to respond to your question. Try this trick: after asking a question, look down at your feet and slowly count to ten. Counting won't feel as awkward, and it gives ample time to see if anyone speaks up.
- Keep the conversation moving. Every group has a talker who tends to dominate the discussion. These people can throw off the group dynamic. Before you privately pull them aside to address the problem, try to move the conversation around to others. If your talkative group member makes a statement, quickly turn to someone else in the group and ask them what they think. If they can't answer, try a different question and direct it at another group member. This helps to invite dialogue from others.
- Guide the conversation and avoid digressing. Sometimes the conversation gets off topic and goes in the wrong direction. As the leader, it's your responsibility to step in and bring the topic back on track. Just do it with a smile and others will respond positively when they realize they're off topic.
- Limit study time. A good study might only last 30-35 minutes and give solid quality. A little longer isn't bad, but we'd recommend keeping the study time limited to no more than an hour.
- Stay on schedule. This is a general rule and there may be times when you need to run a little over. Ending on time ensures consistency. Some people may have other commitments and it's important not to draw the meeting out too long.
Coordinate Bible study snacks with an online sign up. View an Example
Tips for leading your group into deeper connection
Leading a Bible study is more than organizing a group. When you gather people to study the Bible, you are creating a community. Together, you can grow spiritually and relationally. When leading a Bible study, people will view you as a leader. If you're leading well, they'll be likely to follow you in other ways that help the group to grow.
Here are a few ways to help your group connect:
- Open with an icebreaker. Allowing people to share random but meaningful information about themselves gives everyone a chance to learn more about one another. It's also a good way to bridge greeting time and the Bible study with some fun questions that bring smiles and make everyone feel comfortable.
- Plan a dinner. Who doesn't love a good potluck? Every Bible study should end on a high note. Once you've completed the study, plan a time for the group to gather for a meal and fellowship.
- Plan a project. Groups connect when they serve together. Assign someone in your group to help plan an outreach project. The group will get a valuable sense of making a positive difference in the local community as they build memories of working together.
- Plan an outing. Putt putt anyone? Find a group member who loves to plan social events and task them with organizing a group outing. Good Bible study groups can go beyond the study and find ways to do fun activities together. It will enrich your Bible study times as members grow closer and feel more comfortable being transparent in conversation.
Finally, don't forget the incredible difference you make when you study the Bible with others. It's a great privilege. You may not know it but stepping up in this way will make a positive impact. Bible studies help people grow and they create healthy community, and that's a difference worth pursuing.
So, get started today gathering neighbors, friends, co-workers and others as you unlock the secrets of the most incredible book of all.
Steven Borders is the Marketing Content Manager at Lumaverse. He has served in a number of church leadership roles and has an MDiv from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.