It is easy to do. Focus on who’s in attendance, what you're wearing, and what you're eating and before you know it the group you put together to study God’s Word has turned into a party.
After organizing four separate Bible studies, one of which I hosted in my home, I know from first-hand experience that keeping your group focused and accountable is difficult.
So, what's the difference between a party and a Bible study?
A party centers on the people who are there and not the one Person you've come to worship. A Bible study centers on a feast of God’s Word.
So, here’s some ideas for keeping your group on the right track. Keep it simple, short, and sweet!
1) Keep it simple
Simplify the menu. If you spend more time prepping food than you do praying for your group or preparing for the lesson, you might need to scale back. Plan to serve one or two refreshments and a drink. Send around a sign-up sheet for food so one person isn’t shouldering the load for teaching, leading, cleaning their home, and food prep.
Keep attire casual. Nothing can kill a group’s authenticity faster than feeling like they’ve got to look their best or compete with others. Keeping your group casual is a helpful tip for making everyone feel welcome and wanted.
Stick to your purpose. To stay on task, avoid spending too much time on fellowship or on prayer requests. Both of these things are important to the health of your study, but they shouldn't impact the amount of time you spend digging into God’s word.
Enlist partners. If you find the details of organizing the study are overwhelming and are keeping you from meeting your purpose, ask another study member to help with reminders, recording and sending out prayer requests, or whatever details are weighing you down. When you enlist partners you become a mentor for the time when they host their own study.
2) Keep it short
Let’s be honest, people are busy. Be attentive to the needs of your group by keeping your studies short. Keeping fellowship and prayer requests in check will help with maintaining a schedule, but overall, a Bible study shouldn’t take more than 1 to 1.5 hours.
One study I attended lasted from 9:00 am to noon. And when I arrived at 9:00 am sharp I was surprised to discover I was late! Many of the women arrived as early as 8:30 am for fellowship. Granted this study was geared toward older, non-working women, but I found the extended schedule to be deterrent for my continued involvement (as well as others!) Keeping your studies short will allow for a broader variety of age group involvement as well as facilitate group growth.
3) Keep it sweet
Keep God’s Word central. Watch out for heart motives by keeping your purpose clear - feasting on the riches of God’s Word. Protect the time you actually spend studying the Scriptures by cutting out extended announcements at the beginning of the study. It’s also important to encourage planning meetings to occur outside of the study hour, on social media, or on different days. If these things must be done, then leave them for after the study has been completed. If people must leave after a certain time, make sure they are missing out on the planning time rather than Bible study.
Pray for unity. Spend a few minutes during each study session to pray for a spirit of unity among your group. Gracefully shut down or redirect any comments or prayer requests disguised as gossip. Encourage your group members to pray for each other outside of the study hour and to check-in with each other throughout the week. If you have a larger setting, drawing names to pair individuals up as accountability prayer partners might be helpful.
Limit prayer requests. To help keep your group free from other distractions, consider limiting prayer requests during the study hour to the needs of the specific individual in attendance at the study (or about the individuals in their immediate household). Create a separate Facebook Page (set to private) for sharing additional requests that involve extended family, friends, or coworkers.
There is a trick to keeping your Bible study simple, short, and sweet. Keeping your study small is truly a good thing.
The larger your group, the more challenges you’ll face in keeping your study on track. Be prepared for the time when your study might need to divide into a sub-group to sustain growth.
Just like a plant kept in the same pot for too long, a Bible study can become root-bound. With no outlet for new growth, the plant will either stop growing or begin to shrivel. Dividing a growing study can facilitate new and organic growth. You’ll soon discover you have more groups meeting in a variety of locations and at a variety of times.
Melissa Deming is the creator of HiveResources.com–a site that helps women sweeten their walk with Christ through devotional articles, book reviews, and more. Melissa holds a Masters of Divinity in Women's Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C. She and her husband, Jonathan, have four-year-old twins, Zach and Jonah. They are part of the core team of a new church plant in Pittsburgh.
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