I’ve known ever since I was a little girl that Jesus loves me and that His Word is sacred and true. I loved the flannel graph Bible stories in Sunday school that taught me about God’s rescue of His people from fiery furnaces, lions’ dens, and stormy seas. I went to a Christian college, where the Bible was my textbook.
After college, I served with a mission organization that provided seminary-level curriculum for pastors in Eastern Europe when Communism still ruled that part of the continent. Meeting pastors who were willing to risk beatings, prison, and even death to study and teach God’s Word had a profound impact on my love for His Word.
Years later, I taught an outreach Bible study in my home while our family was living in Beijing, China. We went verse-by-verse through the book of John with our neighbors, who hadn’t ever studied the Bible. To this day, it remains my favorite Bible study I’ve ever led.
It wasn’t until I started serving as a women’s ministry director in my local church that I began to take the study and teaching of God’s Word for granted.
Approaching Bible Study as a Task or Job Description
While leading women’s ministries in a large, growing church, we began to slowly creep away from one-on-one discipleship and small group Bible studies. As the attendance at our Bible studies grew, we depended more on the DVD curriculum that was so popular in larger churches back then. They were all biblically sound Bible studies, but we made the dynamic, sought-after teachers in those videos the priority, rather than equipping women to study and teach His Word on their own.
Sadly, I also began using my personal study of the Bible to mostly review studies to offer for the next semester. As a busy women’s ministry leader, I had moved away from leading studies to overseeing the logistics of offering several DVD-based Bible studies that were reaching over 600 women across our church campuses. Again, all good efforts, but I lacked the personal time to dwell in His Word that I had loved when I taught Bible studies with a small group of seeking women in my home.
I wonder if you can relate to some of what I’ve shared. Has your leadership journey also taken you to a place where the study of His Word has become more about your “job description” than a passion for Christ filled with wonder and awe?
Or do you depend too much on DVD-based studies that draw more women to your studies at the risk of overlooking the women in your church who have the gift of teaching?
Guarding Against “Bible Study Lite”
As I meet with women’s leaders across the country, many are discouraged that women are clamoring to go to national women’s conferences by the thousands while it’s hard to get them to commit to going to a Bible study at their local church or to lead one in their home.
Some ministry leaders have surrendered the call to make disciples to bestselling authors or to speakers who can fill an auditorium for a weekend conference or who have tens of thousands of subscribers to their websites. Authors Hannah Anderson and Erin Straza called this “outsourcing women’s discipleship to parachurch personalities” in their podcast, Persuasion.
Now, I don’t want it to seem that I am saying it’s wrong to go to women’s conferences or to offer DVD-led Bible studies. God has used those efforts to awaken a love for Him and His Word in the hearts of thousands of women.
But there is a growing concern that many women’s Bible studies have become topical book clubs, using a watered-down, “Bible study lite” approach to draw in more women, rather than an opportunity used to equip women to dive deep into God’s Word and to apply it to their lives.
Seeking In-Depth, Christ-Centered, Life-Changing Bible Studies
But the tide seems to be changing. Many of the women leaders I meet have a renewed passion for offering in-depth, Christ-centered Bible studies with the hope to see real-life transformation. Some of them are even writing their own inductive Bible studies and equipping their leaders to disciple other women.
As you seek God’s best for the Bible studies you plan to offer the women in your ministry this next year, here are five key ways to follow His lead.
1. Ask God to ignite a new passion for His Word in your own heart!
Ask Him to make you desperate for His Word. Dwell in His Word daily, guarding that alone time with Him.
2. Cover the decision process in prayer.
Ask your prayer team to be praying that you and your Bible study leaders will hear God’s voice speaking loudest as you seek His choice for the Bible studies you’ll offer this next year. Ask your pastor to be praying over your team’s decision.
3. Make the decision a team effort.
Seek wise input from women on your ministry team, leaders at other churches that offer in-depth studies, and the pastor and elders of your church. A team approach helps guard against choosing studies that aren’t doctrinally sound or just your personal preference.
4. Research the publisher of the Bible studies you are considering.
Most Christian publishers include their statement of faith on their websites. Does that align with your church or ministry’s statement of faith?
5. Take the time to complete the Bible study.
Though it’s not always practical, it’s best if you and your team can go through the study before you offer it to the other women in your church.
Savoring Psalm 119
Finally, as part of the process of choosing a Bible study, I want to encourage you to push pause and take time to read through Psalm 119—all 176 verses. I did that one summer morning when I was struggling with burnout as a leader. By the time I finished reading the psalm, I had tears in my eyes as God used His inspired Word to breathe hope and comfort into my weary heart and to ignite a new passion for His Word.
Verses like these from Psalm 119 jumped off the pages of my Bible, washing over me. As you read these words, take time to savor them, reading them out loud to cement these truths in your own heart:
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (v. 18).
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (v. 92).
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life (v. 93).
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (v. 97).
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart (v. 111).
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word (v. 114).
Like the writer of this beautiful psalm, may we as leaders inspire and equip the women we serve to love and behold wondrous things in His law . . . meditating on it all the day.