I want to start a bible study group, but I don’t know how to go about doing it. I have this urge from God to step out of my comfort zone. Please help!
Hey, you’re awesome. That is very, very awesome. I love you for doing what you’re doing, and God has your back on this.
Please don’t see the following as a formula, but just a few jolts to get you started at a good place.
1) Read the Bible for yourself first.
I’m sure you’re already doing this, but most preachers and teachers have a habit of reading into the Bible as teachable material. Soon you’ll be saying, “Oh this will work for that topic” or “This verse fits perfectly here,” and you become a funnel where nothing catches.
Think of yourself as a sponge. If you’re not soaking in, you have nothing to pour out. You can probably teach dry for a while, but eventually you’ll burn and crash. Along with your Bible Study, please consider having a separate devotional time that has nothing to do with your teaching. While your devotionals can overlap into your teaching, it doesn’t always work vice versa.
2) Be a little crazy. Like run-through-a-wall crazy.
Whether you’re starting a college campus Bible Study or a cell meeting at your house or a life-stage small group at church — be a little nuts about everything. Be engaged, prepared, persistent, involved, vulnerable, passionate, and seeking.
I don’t mean extroverted. What I mean is: It’s very difficult to gather people into a room to learn anything, much less the Bible. It takes a determination to organize them, keep in contact, speak to their life-struggles, work through awkwardness, and to sincerely pray for them. If God has called you to teach, He will also anoint you with the ability to carry through, so don’t be afraid to max out how God has wired you for the task at hand. Utilize God’s gifts in you to the fullest.
Also: You will endure a ton of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and a nagging inner-voice that wants to quit. You might have only three people for a while or no responsiveness, and it can get discouraging. However you need to process that stuff — let it pass through your system like poison. Don’t deny it or hide it or numb it. Wrestle with it and let it sweat out your pores. Run through that wall to the end.
And double-also: You’ll face a lot of disagreement and opposition. Run through that too. One of my friends tried to start a Bible Study in her church and she was stopped by the pastor, because he was afraid it would conflict with some other Bible study. She was more or less devastated: but she went and hosted it anyway, as a non-church function for the ladies. It worked out really well. I’m not saying to actively disobey your pastor about these things: but the bigger point is to be a little crazy about pursuing this calling. If you have to over-do anything in life, it might as well be on what you care about.
3) Dive in the deep end.
Bible Studies can be a deep time of confession, repentance, growth, reconnection, and intimate life-sharing. You can’t force this at all, but you can begin by jumping in the deep end first.
The leader has to be willing to be honest and open about themselves. I do know of preachers and teachers who reveal too much, to the point where it becomes a One-Man-Show (and I’m guilty of this sometimes too) — but then I know others who never share a single thing and end up looking self-righteous or plastic-perfect.
Again, you can’t manufacture this moment, and people will know if you’re faking it or somehow using a technique. But the sincerity begins with you. Be courageous, ask God for grace, and jump.
4) Stick to the Bible.
Whenever people say “We’re having fellowship,” I sort of don’t believe them these days. The word has been so beaten down that it basically means “We’re having chips and salsa this Thursday while vaguely making it spiritual by praying for two seconds over the chips.”
Sometimes in a Bible Study, it’s totally cool to talk about the latest TV show, the you-had-to-be-there funny-story, the random bathroom humor, the latest sports scores, that one viral video, the sad headlines yesterday, or just giggling madly about nothing. All this is life, and none of it’s really wasted, and a great Bible Study will have these moments. But the primary objective of a Bible Study is to equip the saints with the Word of God so they may glorify Christ and dismantle the lies of sin and thwart the devil’s schemes.
As much as you’ll have an amazing time with friends, true fellowship will always have some God-centered growth by planting the Word of God in the soil of weary hearts. Certainly you don’t want to be the religious nanny, but you also want to anchor all your teaching by reining in the focus. So long as you tie it back to the redemptive purpose of God in His Gospel, you’re doing it right. Then the fun times will be even more fun, more rich, more full.
There were so many times when I went home empty from a Bible Study where I had a great time laughing, but there was zero substance to the teaching. There were other times when it was awkwardly silent, where jokes would fail mid-air, where the conversation sputtered — but the teaching was exactly what I needed.
I didn’t come for a social club; I could’ve picked other places for that. I came to be fed, for my thirst to be quenched by the Living Water, to be armed to fight Satan. Remember those broken people, and that no matter how much they laugh or smile, inside they need the Bread of the Word as much as you do. I don’t mean to sound so dreary, but I also make no apology for making fellowship a time of entering the glorious presence of God and basking in His authority. God has entrusted you with it, and I’m sure He will do amazing work through you.