It’s that time of year again…
Many groups are finishing up their Bible studies (if they follow the September-to-May study year like we do.)
Most leaders are planning and/or praying about which studies they’ll do in the fall (unless they are terrible procrastinators like me!)
No matter where you are in your planning process, we all need the Lord’s help choosing which studies to use.
For only God knows what our women need.
The Power of Group Bible Study
As a nineteen-year-old youth pastor’s wife, I was passionate about reaching young people. But I wasn’t crazy about being expected to attend the Ladies Bible study every Wednesday morning.
I remember grumbling a bit as I got ready the first week. It was sure to be dry and boring. After all, I had nothing in common with these women. At least that’s what I thought.
But nothing could have been further from the truth! In that small gathering I found a circle of women who loved Jesus with all their hearts. And though I was younger by far than most of them, they welcomed me with open arms. As did the book we studied.
Lord, Change Me by Evelyn Chrisiansen was the focus for our study, and that book rocked my world. It was as though God had handpicked it just for me. From the very first page, Evelyn described the struggle and the frustration I was feeling with everything and everyone around me – including my brand-new husband!
I’d been praying, “Lord, change him!” or “change my situation.” But Evelyn challenged us to pray, “Lord, change me.”
That simple prayer, and the scriptural principles she taught, literally transformed my life and marriage. It was the inspiration, in large part, for my book, Having a Mary Spirit: Allowing God to Change Us from the Inside Out.
For something powerful happens when women gather around God’s Word.
How to Find the Right Fit for Your Group
If you haven’t already planned your 2016-2017 study year and feel a bit overwhelmed by the task (I do!), here are a few things my co-teacher, Marge List, and I think about when choosing our studies.
- Consider your study year. Using a calendar, map out the weeks in your fall quarter as well as the weeks available from January through May. Note any church events or holidays that might preclude your meetings.
- Consider your budget. What have you been allocated to spend on curriculum? How much can class members afford for books?
- Consider your culture. How often and how long do you meet? What style of study does your class respond to best (book and/or DVD study, inductive style or lecture)? Do they prefer homework or not? How much homework?
- Consider the needs of your ladies. What is the spiritual maturity level of your ladies? Are there gaps in their spiritual knowledge or Christian walk that a study might fill?
For the women at our church, we’ve found that three – or at the most, four – studies each year works best. This is what our 2016-2017 schedule will look like:
- 2nd week of September to 1st week of December – 12-Session Study
- 2nd week of January to 2nd week of May – 10-Session Study + 8-Session Study
Although our church is generous with our budget and we could afford more studies, we’ve chosen to limit the number for several reasons. First, we like to live with a topic for awhile – shorter studies feel like they go too quickly. Second, we know that many of our women can’t afford to buy a book or workbook every six weeks (which is the length of many current studies).
However, that doesn’t stop us from using a shorter study if we sense God’s leading. This spring we combined War Room and The Armor of God studies and it’s been wonderful! [See how we did it in War Room / Armor of God Study Review.] Stretch out a single DVD study by showing and discussing the video one week, then using the next week to discuss the homework in depth. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
[Read & Download: “Tips for Leading Small Group Discussion”]
Where to Find Studies
With access to the internet, there is no end to online sources for Bible studies. But that “abundance” can be crippling at times, at least for me. So before I go to my computer for a study, I go to three of my favorite resources:
- My local Christian bookstore – I love browsing the study section. I like to see how the study is laid out, the amount of homework, and whether or not the topic fits the needs of my ladies
- My CBD catalogue – I love Christian Book Distributors (also found online at ChristianBook.com ). They do a great job of bringing the best of the best studies to my attention as I browse the pages – actual pages!
- My friends – When someone recommends a study, my ears perk up. Especially when they go on and on about how good the study was and how it touched the hearts of their women.
- My church library – Though we don’t do it often, we revisit popular studies from the past. We’ve also borrowed studies from other churches in town and offered access to ours.
If I’m unable to find a study through one of these resources, I go online.
ChristianBook.com has a great women’s Bible study page. Using their excellent search engine on their site, you can refine your search by: author, audience, format, # of lessons, etc.
Lifeway.com offers excellent studies from Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and many more. I love that you can download individual teaching sessions which is great for women who miss a week or can’t make it to study but want to be a part.
Amazon.com is a good resource as well. I like checking their bestselling list and reading reviews. Available on this site as well as others, the reviews give unvarnished recommendations from groups who’ve uesd the studies.
Most online stores like these feature sample pages and videos that give you a taste of the product.
Other Online Resources
In the world of social media, Pinterest is my favorite source for Bible study material as well as creative ideas for making personal and group study come alive. With a few, well-chosen words typed in the search bar, you can find “best of” lists, reviews, samples and so much more.
Much of that material comes from excellent women’s ministry sites that curate and create material to help leaders lead Bible studies and special events. Here are some good ones:
- RachelWojo.com – lots of great material, but check out her Pinterest page as well!
- Women’s Ministry Toolbox – filled with fun icebreakers and leader helps! Here’s the Pinterest page.
- Creative Women’s Ministry – lots of downloadables, event ideas, etc. On Pinterest also.
The Best Resource of All
In a very real way, group Bible studies changed my life. And I want the same thing for the women I serve.
It’s reassuring to know that Holy Spirit wants to lead us as leaders. He wants to guide us to the studies that will meet each woman at the point of their need.
So rather than leaning on my own understanding, I’m learning to look to the Lord for the wisdom I need. Often as I look for a study, I’ll sense in my heart a subtle (or not so subtle!) leading towards a specific title or a particular author. I’ll do research. I’ll look at the reviews. But when I finally decide which one to use, I don’t actually do the study.
That may sound crazy to some of you type-A planners out there! Now, there isn’t anything wrong with fully vetting a study by doing it ahead of time, but I’ve found I get the most out of a study when I experience it in real-time with my ladies.
Because here’s the deal…I desperately need to hear from God as much as I did the day He grabbed me by my pride and gave me a good talking to in the Lord, Change Me! study at the beginning of my ministry.
And I don’t want to miss that. Because something special happens when women gather around God’s Word.
I’d love to hear from you…What Bible study changed your life?