Every instrument comes with a manual. In the book on understanding God’s purpose for our lives, Myles Monroe writes, “When the purpose of anything is not known, abuse is inevitable.” The manufacturer determines the purpose of something. They decide on its limits, abilities, and how to fix problems that come with handling that thing. The Bible is the manual that guides our life, belief system, and our relationships. We search the scriptures because it is in them we obtain eternal life. The scriptures that proclaim life also testify of the person of Jesus (John 5:39). The Bible is also profitable to teach, train, correct and reprove us.
If the Lord has prompted you to start a bible study, say yes. The Lord will walk with you through every step of this decision. Where the Lord guides, He always provides. He will give the people, the materials, and the grace to lead many to know Him better. Many around us are hurting, giving up, and even depressed. Gracious, fitly spoken words are a honeycomb. They are sweet to the body, and they bring health to the soul. (Proverbs 16:24). The word of God responds to our deepest needs. It informs our brokenness, hurt, and happiness while equipping us to make better decisions every day.
The word of God is alive and powerful. It will speak to every need we have and crush every burden on us. Let us look at a few tips to consider when we are in the process of preparing to start a bible study:
- Start with Prayer
When God’s people humble themselves and seek His face, He promises to hear them from heaven and restore their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). The things of the Spirit are only able to be understood through the help of the Spirit. In prayer, our doubts are satisfied, our questions are answered, and we get instruction. No great move of God has ever been birthed outside the practice of prayer. Paul and Barnabas were called into the missionary work in a prayer meeting (Acts 13:2).
The Moravian prayer movement was sustained for years after its emergence through prayer. This was a hundred years long prayer meeting. By 1791, 65 years later, the small community of the Moravians had sent over three hundred missionaries all over the world.
Brethren, we can not separate the mission of God from prayer. Therefore, in your new decision to start a bible study, begin with prayer.
Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray for understanding and insight. Pray for God to soften the hearts of the people. Ask for God’s guidance while selecting the people, the materials for the study. Pray even when choosing and the study questions for the discussion.
- Know the Why
Anything started without a proper grasp of its intent does not stand the test of time. God is not in the habit of backing failing projects. If it fails, it is not that God was not behind it. It is because we were unable to understand the motive of God for the project. What are your focus groups? Are they new believers in need of discipleship? Are they high school or university kids? Maybe it is your family members. While you search for the Lord’s will in prayer, He will reveal all this to you. Choose a study topic that is designed for growing Christians who have some experience with the Bible. The lessons need to be short, easy to understand, and straightforward.
The Bereans were nobler than the Thessalonians because they went back to study the word after Paul preached. They received the word of God eagerly, but they also took time to examine the word to confirm that what they were being taught was true. The term “examine” used here is similar to the one used by forensic experts. We must not forget that the objective of the bible study is to help the members discern the truth from error.
- Plan A Schedule
Once you have all the essential details written down, it is time to make the ask! Make the phone calls, send a text or an email or even find the people physically. Make sure you let them know the details of the study. Consult their schedules and find at least two times when they are available. Most people with families give their time to join bible study when they are sure it works well with their set families’ schedules. There is no one size fits all time; the schedule largely depends on the dynamics of the team you are leading. Look closely to make sure there is enough time provided to help the members discuss at length.
The early church did not have the luxury of well-built “churches” like we do today. They got creative with their meeting venues. They met and ministered to whatever place they could get. The early believers met in the temple until it was destroyed (Acts 2:46a), in rented homes (Acts 1:12-13a), in people’s homes (1 Cor 16:19), and even in schools (Acts 19:9). The options are endless. People can meet in a park, on zoom, at a coffee shop, etc. it is very okay to try different places/days/times until the team finds something that works well.
- Leading the Study Group
Leading any team of people looks easy for anyone who has not done it before. While the discussion is ongoing, you will realize that roles in the group shift from “know it all” to “referee” back and forth. Some people will be quiet while others will speak over the others. Leading a bible study is an enriching experience, and it is valuable to the life of every person involved in the study. We can all remember the person that taught us how to study the Bible, the one who guided us through the seemingly tricky bits of scripture.
As the leader, you must prepare and review the information before the day of the study. What would happen if a blind man asked for directions from another blind man? Both of them will probably end up in a ditch. I am not asking you to be a pastor to the rest. I am instead recommending that you go through the material before the others. This will give you the advantage of leading the rest through familiar terrain. The responsibility of leadership can also rotate around the different members.
2 Timothy 2:15 –” Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- Guiding the discussion
Road signs help us to navigate unfamiliar territories. As you will quickly realize, when people become familiar with one another, the discussion quickly goes outside the subject matter. Christ must remain the centerpiece. Guiding the discussion also means establishing a culture of accountability. Start when you say you will start. Encourage the silent members to join in the discussion. Affirm someone when they seem unsure of their opinion. Clarify when a question seems to be confusing. Correct the errors gently with love.
Avoid staying on a single issue for a very long time. When unsure, refer to the notes prepared beforehand to maneuver through the rabbit trails. Leading may seem overwhelming if it is your first time. Your enthusiasm and energy for the task at hand are contagious. Finally, end on time or a little early.
- Applying What Is Learnt
Do you people that have been in bible study groups for years, yet nothing changed in their lifestyles? Research from Nashville Lifeway Research says that nine out ten households in America own a bible but rarely pick it on their own. Many Americans hear the Bible when it is read by someone else. We are fond of the Bible, but we do not read it. How do we help those attending the study group to practice what was discussed?
Some people come to the bible study for friendship. Others go because they did want to offend the one who invited them. They hope that the group will provide great human relationships to fix all their needs. Therefore, we must intentionally pray for these to have a personal encounter with Jesus during the meetings. Breaking down the lessons into smaller actionable instructions also helps. Let us analyze a simple method to bring the verses to life. The S.O.A.P process of studying the Bible is easy, straightforward, and easy to teach.
The acronym is a simple reminder for the members to participate in four simple steps.
- Scripture: Read and write down the scripture as per the day’s verse following this SOAP guide.
- Observation: Pray the prayer “God, why did You write this?” Write down what you hear.
- Application: Pray and ask, “God how would You like me to apply this verse into my life?” Write down what you hear.
- Prayer: Write out a prayer to God based on what you just learned and ask him to help you apply this truth in your life.
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way “(Colossians 1:9-10)