A Common Question
I'm often asked the question, What is necessary to have an effective Bible study? I know that people usually expect me to say you need good content. But I don't know many people who, when they start out with Bible study, intend to use bad content. So I don't think anyone is going to mainly stumble over the issue of getting good content in place.
There are three things that we tend to rush by that I believe are absolutely essential for women in particular to be able to lead an effective Bible study.
Structure, Accountability, Predictability
Those three things are: structure, accountability, and predictability. They're not particularly colorful things, but they are absolutely vital.
We provide structure. We tell the women in the study that we're going to use a format and here's how much work it's going to require of you, here's what we're going to use your time for while you're here, it's going to last for this amount of time, and it's going to happen on this day of the week. We build out all of the pieces that she doesn't want to plan herself, and we may offer childcare to remove barriers to entry so that she can opt in.
Then we're also going to give her accountability. That means when she is present at the study, she'll experience a small group dynamic so that she knows she is seen and heard. And if she's not there, someone misses her and follows up with her. These things really help, especially for longer format studies that go 9 to 11 weeks, for example. They help her to stick with it and stick with her homework a little better because she knows she'll have a discussion and people will know if she's prepared.
The third key piece is predictability. I call this the McDonald's theorem of women's Bible study. If you were in a car with three screaming, small, hungry children and you had a choice between taking them to McDonald's or a place you'd never been before to get them food, you're going to go to where you know exactly what you're going to get. The predictability piece means that we are going to do exactly what we said we would do. We're going to start on time and end on time. The teaching is going to be consistent from week to week. If we said that the small group time was dedicated to having a thought-level discussion, we're going to keep it on track during that time.
When we do these things for women, we build trust around what it is that we are doing for them. They are then able to say, I can allocate time to this because I know you will deliver on what you have said you're going to do.
If you think about it, everything else that these women are involved with—whether it's their child's softball coach, their personal trainer, the local community center, or the PTA—all offer structure, accountability, and predictability to opt in. So, when we say we think your time is valuable, and we think you should spend it here, we owe them the same courtesy of providing those essential things. It will help them to commit, to grow, and to learn.
- Why Bible Study Isn't Enough (Jeff Vanderstelt)
- Why Bible Study Should Always Lead to Worship (Jen Wilkin)
- How Women Can Disciple Younger Women (Gloria Furman)