There are many talented leaders depicted in the Bible, and like all of them; you don’t have to be perfectly equipped to answer God’s call. Starting a Bible study can be a rewarding experience that brings community and growth into many lives. It’s an act filled with such potential that it demands to be treated with a mindful approach. If you desire to minister to others, here are a few tips to help you get ready for that first meeting!
Focus on Gifts not Gender
This first tip is the reason I’m addressing this post specifically to women hoping to start a Bible study. There are many ingrained beliefs within the Christian church which may make you feel as though a woman leading a Bible study is sinful, or simply of less value. Push those fears aside by focusing on following the desires of God’s heart and trusting his direction on your life. Ignoring God’s call is never a good idea (see Jonah for details) and letting your gifts stagnate under the weight of an ungodly patriarchal system is not a glorifying act. If you are a woman and you have doubts about your ability to lead because of that, remember that you are created equally with unique gifts. Use those gifts however you can to glorify God. You are not a waste.
Authenticity Doesn’t Need Marketed
I’ve run an online company and now a blog so I know a bit about marketing and self-promotion. If you want to see results and reach people with your message or product, you have to put in the digital grind to bring awareness to what you’re doing. But when it comes to matters of the church we lift our marketing strategies too often from these pages of the modern world. The truth is that the gospel message is more than just another Zumba class, Etsy Store, or Home Business that you’re trying to market to your friends and neighbors. If we are “selling” salvation with the same banter, packaging, and methods as we would anything else, we are selling it short.
Search for authenticity in your words and deeds. Of course you want to get the word out and have people join your group, but trading organic growth for flashy marketing will show in your harvest. In a world filled with false fulfillment, we don’t need to dress Christ up to attract others. Invite people face to face or in their preferred method of communication. Make it personal and seek them out. Treat people as God sees them; as people, and not a business opportunity.
Know Your Inspiration and Motivation
Obviously, the desire to begin a Bible study should be coming from a place of following God’s desires and not of looking to gain power or puff up self importance. This is why it’s important to honestly analyze your motivations and inspirations. Ask yourself why you are doing this and who you are trying to be. If your answers reflect your need to feel control or your desire to be esteemed like another leader, then your heart is not in the right place to lead. Meditating on what it means that the last will be first and the first will be last is my go-to trick whenever I worry about my motivations.
When I began the Thistlette I felt sick with worry about whether I was doing something God honoring or Cheyanne honoring. If you can’t answer those questions and cite your inspirations honestly, this might not be the time to start your study.
I’ve already mentioned the need for authenticity, but here I would like to stress the importance of innovation. Just because you are trying to honor the strength of the message doesn’t mean you have to stick to the traditions that have gone before you. You probably have an idea of what “Bible study” looks like; people in a circle, prayer, notebooks, handouts, etc. My challenge to you is to rethink this image. You have a unique skill set, and so does every person attending the study. Think beyond the standard and learn to use the abilities that surround you to create an authentically unique experience. Incorporating creative methods and using the talents available to you will help bring a sense of community to your group that is lacking from the traditional model.
This may seem like an odd tip, but I (unfortunately) feel the need to include it. Thanks to the patriarchal influence on the church, many will see a Bible study led by a woman as being for women only by default. While this may not be the case in every situation, I encourage you to invite men to your study with intention. It’s so crucial to the health and growth of the body of Christ that we all learn from each other. While we should never seek to dominate or oppress other believers, it is important to listen to one another and share the mantle of leadership.
Traditionally, Christian men have been denied the perspective of women leaders in the church. Men are also denied the ability to be the student, being continually told they must pursue leadership in matters of faith. Inviting men will not only grow the diversity or opinions and personalities of your group, but will be ensuring that God’s design for gender equality and the symbiotic relationship between members of the body is working to its full potential.
Ask for Help
Yes, women can be leaders. And yes, I think it is awesome when they do. But working yourself up into this empowered knowledge does come with hazards. The biggest mistake you can make when you begin a new pursuit is to think you can do it all yourself. Asking for help is the best way to keep your study from crashing and burning two weeks in. The hands are strong, but they are not enough. Nothing ever gets off the ground without the power of the muscles, the support of tendons, and the touch of the palm. It is the same way with believers.
You may feel ready to begin a study, but God is pretty clear in Genesis that it is not good for mankind to be alone. Ask for help often and be willing to delegate and share responsibilities with others as needed. Your study and your character will be stronger for it.
Write Down What You Like About Other Leaders
If you’ve grown up attending VBS, youth group, church camp, etc. Then you have probably attended your fair share of Bible studies already. Some of the most overused (but amazing) advice I have ever received is to treat every opportunity as a learning experience. Whenever I am in a situation, I make a point to notice what was done well and what didn’t work. I try to anticipate how I might correct or emulate what I see to my advantage in the future. Look around at other leaders you see or have known in the past. Think about what they did or didn’t do that led to success in that situation. Then use those things to improve your own skill set.
Make it Accessible
If you have a specific focus you are hoping to reach with your study that is awesome. But be wary of things that exclude. As a woman, I can’t tell you how many fashion shows or craft parties I’ve attended in the past. I will say it’s enough to know that those type of things are too prevalent. There is nothing wrong with them inherently. However, having a study group that requires people to put in money and resources is going to limit your scope of attendees. Not to mention the fact that just because we are women doesn’t mean we are all interested in fashion or scrapbooking. Begin your study with a heart of inclusivity. Be on the lookout for things which might alienate other members financially, socially, etc.
Lastly, my advice to you is to be honest with yourself and with your group. You’re not going to be a perfect leader. And not every night is going to be a last-night-of-church-camp emotional breakthrough scene. The more subdued times can bring forth the most change. The most important thing you can do in this venture is to seek God openly and honestly. Lead from a place of love and humility. It’s stressful to bring people together, but it is your duty to seek peace. Prepare for the challenges you might face based on past experience. Have an action plan in place for when you do. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. And in all things, ask for God to guide you and those you are working with.
I hope this list gives you some ideas to think about as you strike out into new territory. I pray that God will be with you in your pursuit to know him more. May you find new heights of truth and new depths of faith through your journey. I’ll leave you with a verse from Timothy that is close to my heart when I’m in leadership. Good luck!
“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…”
2 Timothy 2:22-26
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