How to start a Bible study
Pointers to help start your Bible study
If you want to start a Bible study, you'll need someone else to attend your study, a focus for your study, a Bible, and possibly some other materials or resources to help you prepare. There isn't just one way to start a Bible study or to lead an existing one, but forming a plan can help you carry out preparations. If you're wondering how to start a Bible study, here are a few tips that may help you in the planning and organizing stages.
Inviting Others to Attend
Bible studies exist for many different purposes. Some leaders use them as a tool to educate others in the Christian faith. Some put together a small group of people that share a similar need or stage in life (single moms, young married couples, high school teens, and so forth) so members can encourage one another. Some Bible studies discuss particular topics of interest, dissect a particular book of the Bible, or read Christian books that bring together the Bible's teaching and helpful instruction on carrying it out.
What you want to accomplish in your Bible study, or what you feel God wants to accomplish, will often help you determine which people in your life you should invite to attend the Bible study.
Defining Your Purpose
Sometimes the purpose will already be clear because of a burden you have for a particular group of people in your life, or maybe because several people you know have expressed interest in gathering for a Bible study. But if you need help defining your purpose and therefore the people who should attend, pray for guidance and consider some of these questions as you plan to start a Bible study:
- Why do I want to start a Bible study?
- What benefits do I think studying will bring to my own life?
- Do I know anyone else who needs those same benefits?
- Is there a person or group of people that keep coming to mind when I thinking about starting a Bible study? Have I asked God if these are the people I should invite to the study?
- Has anyone expressed interest in coming if I start a Bible study? What motivations have they explained?
- Is there a particular purpose or calling I feel God has given me? How does Bible study fit with that purpose?
After you have pondered some of these questions, you may benefit from crafting a purpose statement for your Bible study. Writing a statement helps you make your ideas more concrete. The faculty of the University of Washington offer some advice on writing effective purpose statements. Although their advice is geared toward written documents, it applies to other situations, as well. As you consider how to start a Bible study, a clear, concrete goal (or set of goals) can help you make many decisions that will come up.
Determining Your Focus
Defining the purpose of your study will not only help you determine who might benefit the most but also suggest your focus. For instance, if you identify a particular need, you might choose a topical approach to start a Bible study. If your purpose is to take a group of Christians deeper into the Bible, you might decide to explore a particular book of the Bible together. Whatever your focus, make sure it's clear to everyone involved.
Considering Other Resources or Materials
You do not have to be a Bible scholar to start a Bible study. Christian book distributors, Christian bookstores, and church libraries often contain a wealth of resources that will lead you through each session of the study. If you understand English, you can use hundreds of DVD-based series, workbooks, leader's guides, commentaries, and lessons.
Some people start a Bible study without extra resources. Some groups just agree to read an assigned passage each week and then get together and discuss that passage.
Other groups function more like a class, with a teacher who is clearly the leader and a group of listeners who form the class. In this setting, the leader may prepare lessons from scratch or use a prepared curriculum to structure the study.
How do you know which is the right approach? Once again, consider some questions:
- What format of Bible study have I found most helpful?
- Do I need to start a Bible study that is similar to other things already available to this group? If they don't need one more study like the others, what makes this study different?
- How can I best address the needs of the attendees? Do they need someone to lead them, or do they need to learn how to study on their own?
- Are there good resources for what we want to study? Or do we need to start from scratch because no one has produced what we need?
- How much money can I and/or the other members put into resources?
- Elizabeth George, "Leading a Bible Study," Christianity.com: Offers advice on the leader's role and difficult situations
- "Growing Through the Word of God," Calvary Chapel of North East Washington: Explains their goal for Bible study and takes you through an exercise of inductive Bible study on a short New Testament passage
- "How to Lead Bible Studies," Into Thy Word: Contains a collection of links to articles on the ministry's site; articles advise you how to lead/start a Bible study with lessons you prepare yourself