What is true about the audience in a LBS?
1. You will likely have a mixture of personalities, ages, education levels, marriage/children statuses, and spiritual growth levels.
2. You may have a range of responses from those who indiscriminately eat up whatever you/the material says all the way to someone who likes to disagree/question everything you/the material says. I have found that there are often 1-2 on each end of the spectrum, and in the middle are women who are willing to read and listen with some level of discernment.
3. Women tend to overall be more emotional and interpersonal (in general). Many women do not like to disagree with someone or like to be disagreed with/told they are wrong (although there are some who enjoy doing that!). What often is felt in being asked/told a clarifying question/comment is “I don’t like you” when all that is being said is “I’m not sure that your comment lines up with Scripture.”
4. Women—in general—like to talk. Sometimes women will talk forever about a specific subject or they will talk about what they think to the exclusion (or minimization) of what the Bible says.
5. I have noticed that many women feel intimidated to study Scripture on their own. They feel like the material is too hard. They think deep study is only for pastors and scholars. They are more comfortable with practical, easy-reading books, rather than meaty Scriptural studies.
6. It is impossible to please everyone in your audience.
What are some practical issues to consider as you think about a LBS?
Who will teach/lead the study?
1. The teacher needs to have the characteristics we discussed earlier. Whether the study is a specific book of the Bible or a book on a biblical topic, the leader of a study needs to be well-versed at least to some degree in her Bible. She at least needs to be willing to spend the time to improve her Bible knowledge. Questions or comments can be made by the audience that reveal a misunderstanding of Scripture in an off-topic area, and the leader needs to be able to recognize and address these issues (whether at the moment or in a private setting).
2. The teacher needs to be able to have the time to prepare and study. If the only one able and qualified to teach a study has a bunch of young children at home or has other commitments that would not allow for adequate time to study, perhaps the study should be put off to another time. Also, if the ladies are obeying Titus 2:3–5, the relationships between the older and younger women would theoretically be meeting this need in the meantime. A formal LBS would be a bonus.
3. A teacher/leader needs to be kind and gracious, but she also needs to be firm. She needs to be willing and able to correct outright untruths, guide unaware mistruths, and direct conversations that drift off-topic.
When will you have the study?
You will have to know your both your teacher’s schedule, your church schedule, and your audience’s average schedule to determine what will work best. Many women either work or have children, so these factors must be taken into account.
What will be the frequency of the study?
I think this depends on multiple factors. What kind of study are you doing? Is it a book of the Bible that will lose momentum if you don’t keep moving and meet weekly? Are your ladies so busy with church and other activities that once a month is preferable? Are your ladies overall slow or quick learners? Will they be overwhelmed with too much in a shorter amount of time or are they hungrily lapping it up?
Will you provide childcare?
I think this is always a bonus and help, but it is often not possible. Often the people who attend a study are the people who are already involved in many aspects of the church. By default, these ladies may end up also providing childcare unless babysitters are found or fathers are able to help watch their own children. Maybe the LBS attendees could rotate who takes care of the children. Whatever you do, make sure you follow the nursery guidelines of your church.
Where will you hold the study?
If the Bible study is a formal church function, I find it more helpful to have the study in a church building if possible. There tends to be a subtle mindset difference in a church building setting, as opposed to someone’s home (I’ve seen it!). But if it is at a home, try to keep everyone together at the dining room table or some kind of setting that keeps everyone close together and allows for laying out their Bibles and taking notes. I have found that ladies are more comfortable to speak in an informal setting, for better or for worse.
What is the objective of the study?
1. If the objective is study, then the “fellowship” aspect needs to be emphasized at another time.
2. Another thought is whether the study would like to broaden itself to include unbelievers, making the study also evangelistic. One would have to think through questions an unbeliever might have when approaching the study.
So let’s say that your pastor asks you to lead a Ladies’ Bible Study in your church. You’ve never led a study before, but you enjoy studying, and you think you’d enjoy teaching/leading. What do you do?
1. Choose your content ahead of time. If this is your first study, choose a book that you have read before or a smaller book of the Bible you have studied before. Discuss your choice/material with the pastoral leadership.
2. Decide whether you are going to give “homework” for your study. Homework is any level of outside work that you expect the participants to put in outside of the discussion/teaching time. This can be as simple as reading the chapter/Bible passage or it can be as involved as spending several days a week answering questions. I am personally a huge fan of homework. The more personal effort the student puts into studying the passage for herself, the more beneficial the study will be to her. There are several factors to consider when you assign homework.
- Some people just will not do it. They either hate homework or say they don’t have time for it.
- Personally, I don’t like to do homework unless it lines up with my personal Bible study. Because my personal Bible study is usually very in-depth, I don’t like to do more than one at a time. So just reading something is nice in that case. Also, not all homework is created equal.
- Unfortunately, it seems that many (not all) people who complain about homework are not doing any in-depth Bible study on their own anyway. So, to be blunt, their complaint is probably more due to laziness. (I am not referring to women who actually do not have time due to a newborn baby, health issues, etc.)
- I like to make it clear that ladies will benefit much more greatly from a study if they work at understanding and answering questions. It will aid in their contributions in the discussion and to their own personal understanding. But I also do not require people to do homework to be a part of the study, nor do I shame or embarrass those who don’t do it. (Although it tends to be rather obvious who has actually studied the material.)
- Make sure any questions you ask are understandable. They should neither insult the intelligence of your ladies nor overwhelm them too much. (Being a little overwhelmed is part of learning, however. I think pushing them to think is a good thing, though unpopular.)
3. As you study, write out good discussion questions that you plan on asking.
- Lots of “Sunday School” type questions are annoying to many and feel insulting (e.g., Who were Isaac’s sons? What was Isaac’s wife named?) Having a handful of these questions can be helpful for someone who wants to answer questions, but doesn’t like to answer questions that don’t have a “right” answer. But–having too many questions like this stunts discussion and many (like me!) refuse to answer these questions that have obvious answers.
- A good discussion question is an “open-ended” question; it requires more than a yes/no or one-word answer. It may not necessarily have a “right” answer. I often follow up someone’s answer with another question: “Why do you think/say that?” This helps to force people to give a biblical answer rather than an answer based simply off of what they think.
- Good discussion questions are key to a good group discussion. Hardly anyone likes to hear the teacher talk the whole time (I have been told that!). People often enjoy the interaction (which is why I think homework is so important). Others can offer good discussion questions too. But a teacher must have the ability to divert discussions that get off-topic.
4. Decide how you will deal with prayer requests, fellowship time, snacks, etc. Unfortunately fellowship and prayer requests can take too much of the study time if the purpose is primarily study. Perhaps one way to aid in praying for each other without taking time away from study/discussion is to write requests down at/before the study and then email them to all the ladies. Here are a couple of suggestions for how you might structure your schedule:
- Sunday School: 9:00 to 10:00 AM
- 9:00–9:15 – prayer requests/fellowship/snacks
- 9:15–10:00 – Bible study (start on time to make the most of it!)
- Saturday morning: 9:00 to 11:00 AM – fellowship will tend to take a little bit longer on non-Sundays since people have not already said hello as they would when arriving at church on a Sunday
- 9:00–9:30 – prayer requests/fellowship/snacks
- 9:30–10:45 – Bible study
- 10:45–11:00 – wrap-up
I hope this has been a help to someone who is considering leading a Ladies’ Bible Study. I have enjoyed very much studying for, writing, and leading ladies’ studies and count it a privilege to do so. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comments section!