I’ve been there.
You volunteer (or are chosen) to lead a Bible study. “It’ll be awesome,” you say. “I’ll learn so much!”
But then you sit down to plan—and you’re confronted with the reality that this is so much harder than you thought. Your palms start sweating. Your mind is racing, filled with thoughts of what the high school students/retirees/moms will think of you when you lead them in Bible study.
What if I say something grossly wrong? What if they laugh at me when I mispronounce Nebuchadnezzar? What if I run out of talking points after 15 minutes? What if they just stare at me in cold silence? Or worse, what if they avoid all eye contact until I painfully call on the one person who dares to look up?
Friend, you are not alone.
Most people feel unqualified to lead a Bible study. Excuses pile up like dirty dishes in the sink:
“I’m not an expert in the Bible. . . let someone more qualified tackle this one. Barry is pretty knowledgeable!”
“I really don’t have the time. Between work and kids, I’m booked until, like, 2032.”
“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of gal. How about if I make some cupcakes? I pinned a recipe I’ve been dying to try. . .”
If everyone spouted off excuses like that, where would we be? God often uses ordinary people (think of the disciples—uneducated fishermen!) to help further His Kingdom.
“But Hannah,” you’re probably asking, “how do I even begin to prepare to lead a Bible study? It’ll take so long, I won’t even have time to eat my well-rounded dinner of boxed macaroni and cheese!”
Here’s where I respond, “Great choice in dinner food. Mind if I swing by? While we’re chowing down on artificial cheesy goodness, I can talk about my short-lived experience as a Bible study leader.”
I would then proceed to tell you about my few years leading a Bible study in college, where I was often nervous and unprepared. At this point, you might begin to think that I am not qualified to be giving you advice, and you would regret letting me eat your mac and cheese.
In all seriousness, though, I do have a little experience in leading Bible studies, and while I might not be able to offer you advice like a seasoned minister could, I can tell you of my failures. Here are a few nuggets I wish I would have known:
Prepare for the worst. I’m a firm believer in being optimistic, but you should be prepared for a class that is reserved and doesn’t actively participate. This is especially true if you’re leading a group that is gathering for the first time; until they get comfortable with one another, there will be some awkward silences. So come up with ample questions, activities, or readings.
Embrace those silences. Don’t ramble. When no one immediately blurts out an answer to your question, don’t start rambling about your opinions. Give time for the group to answer, and if they really don’t speak, rephrase your question or ask a different question that might help spark a discussion.
Last piece of advice: Keep perspective. I used to get so caught up in the leading aspect (preparing, practicing, worrying. . .) that I would forget to remember the true purpose of Bible study—to grow in your faith with your brothers and sisters. It’s an opportunity for you to learn as well, so don’t get too caught up in the details.
These are just a few small pieces of advice that I wish I’d heard sooner (is twenty-three old enough to say stuff like that?).
If you’re looking for advice from an actual professional (Rev. and Dr. before his name), you can download a free chapter from How to Read the Bible with Understanding. The chapter is called “So You’re Going to Teach a Bible Study,” and it lays out ten steps to teach you how to read the Bible in a way that will help you better prepare for and lead a Bible study.
What advice has helped you most when leading a Bible study? Share in the comments!