The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

Originally published November 12, 2018

In my recent article, 4 Ways We’re Getting Women’s Discipleship Wrong, and How We Can Get it Right!, one of the points I mentioned is that we’ve equated women’s discipleship with purchasing a celebrity Bible teacher’s DVD/workbook package and parking women in front of a TV instead of training older women in the local church to teach younger women straight from the Bible.

The idea that we have to use pre-fab studies instead of teaching straight from the Bible is so deeply embedded in our evangelical DNA that nearly every time I write an article or social media post saying we need to kick this habit and get back to straight Bible teaching, what some readers seem to hear is that we need to use doctrinally sound pre-fab studies. (And they proceed to recommend materials by the handful of doctrinally sound women authors who are out there.)

That’s not what I’m saying. I know there are (a few) doctrinally sound pre-fab studies out there. I’m saying we need to totally revamp the way we do women’s Bible study and detox ourselves from our addiction to studies written by authors outside of your local church, who don’t know the women of your church, and who aren’t there for the women of your church – even if those authors are doctrinally sound.

A variation of this question came up again (from a very kind sister who genuinely cares about the ladies in her church and the teaching they receive) in response to the aforementioned article. I share it here, along with my response, to a) help continue to hammer on the idea that we do not have to use canned studies, there’s another, better way, and b) to give you a few ideas of how to stop being so dependent on canned studies in your own church.

I have found some good DVD’s that have been a real encouragement and have fostered true growth in our women. [List of doctrinally sound DVD studies.] While direct teaching is wonderful sometimes the women who teach in our church find themselves in limiting life circumstances…I would love to hear of some DVD’s that you’d recommend, not as a daycare/babysitter for women, but that contain good teaching for times when we want to be in the Word but cannot take the time to adequately prepare.

I’m glad there have been some doctrinally sound DVDs you’ve been encouraged by, and, just to clarify, I’m not saying every DVD on the market features a false teacher (but the vast majority of them do).

I’m not trying to sound harsh, but I think you might have missed the point of section 3 [of the article]. The whole point is that we need to stop relying on pre-fab studies and teach/study straight from the Bible, and you’ve responded by asking me which DVDs I recommend. I don’t. I recommend teaching/studying straight from the Bible. (I’ve explained more here, if it would be of interest.) Your question kind of proves my point about how deeply ingrained the “canned” Bible study mindset runs. It’s not a question of whether or not there are doctrinally sound DVDs on the market, the issue is that we need to study the Bible itself, and we need teachers in the local church who are trained to teach straight from the Bible.

…good teaching for times when we want to be in the Word but cannot take the time to adequately prepare.

I’m not sure whom you’re referring to regarding not having time to prepare. If you’re talking about a teacher, she should step down if she doesn’t have time to adequately prepare. That’s part of being a teacher (I address that at length in the first article linked below section 3). If she can’t commit to preparing, she shouldn’t be teaching.

If you’re talking about students in a Bible study class- if they have time to watch a DVD, they could spend that same time period reading and discussing a passage out of the Bible.

Again, I don’t mean to sound unkind or anything like that, and I do appreciate your question, but we really need to get away from the pre-packaged studies and simply pick up the Bible itself and study it.

Thanks for your response. I guess I didn’t clarify that I was wondering if there were studies that you’d recommend during times when the teachers we have don’t have time to properly develop a lesson. Your post just spurred that question in my mind though I know that wasn’t your intent. It takes me an average of six hours to prepare to teach a lesson and if I’m in a temporary place of not having time to adequately study for a couple of months we like to continue learning even if it is just from a sound teacher via DVD. Being from a smaller church in a depressed area where women are expected to work, it can be difficult to always have an available teacher. But the women do minister to each other in a word based way.

I definitely understand that women’s ministry is not done biblically in many cases. Your posts contain lots of good info. Thanks for what you do! 

Thanks for understanding. Here are a few things I’d recommend instead of falling back on a DVD.

1. Get one or two more women trained to teach, and have a rotation of teachers. That takes the burden off of one person and is also helpful if you get sick, go out of town, have an emergency, etc. It would also give each teacher a longer time period between lessons she has to teach, so she would have more time to prepare. It might not be the easiest thing in the world to get that in place, but prioritizing Christ and His ways rarely is. He never promised us easy, but He did promise to help us. Ask for His help and have your class pray about the situation, too.

2. If there’s some sort of out of the ordinary, rare emergency that has kept you from preparing, simply go in to class, read the passage together, and discuss it verse by verse.

3. If it’s been impossible to prepare, turn that class period into a prayer meeting. Frankly, it would be beneficial as we need far more small group prayer meetings in the church. You might even want to purposely schedule your class that way, say, lessons for three weeks, prayer meeting on the fourth week, or something like that.

4. Make use of my studies at the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page. If you need a “one and done” type of lesson in a pinch, look under “Wednesday’s Word” toward the bottom of the page. Read the passage with the class and use the questions for discussion. All of my studies are free to download, print out, and distribute.

These are the kinds of things teachers have done for centuries until DVD players were invented. There’s really no reason to ever have to fall back on a DVD. Like I said, if you can watch a DVD, you can read a passage of Scripture and discuss it.

Additional Resources

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Bible Study

Bible Studies

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

9 thoughts on “The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.”

  1. Hi Lesley,
    Thanks for your passion for God’s Word! It is an encouragement!

    After reading your response to our sister above, I had a question. You denounce canned Bible studies from other teachers pretty strongly, even if they are sound, but you pointed this sister to your own fabricated Bible studies as tools. How is that different? Is it HOW one uses sound, doctrinal material to aid in studying the Bible and crafting a lesson? Those two suggestions of yours don’t seem to add up in my mind, and I would like some clarity.

    Thanks for your ministry!


    1. Hi Amanda! (My first name is Michelle, by the way. :0) If you’ll click on the link in #4 or click on the Bible studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page, I explain there that my Bible studies are like training wheels. They are designed to help women transition from using canned studies (either to study from or teach from) to studying or teaching straight from the text of Scripture. Many women are so reliant on canned studies that they have no idea how to simply pick up the Bible and study it or teach from it. My goal is to show them how so that once they get the hang of it, they won’t have to rely on anyone else’s Bible study books or materials any more, including mine. I’m trying to work myself out of a job. :0) Hope that clears things up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Michelle!
        I’m so sorry I called you by the wrong name! I know you’re name is Michelle, so I’m not sure why I put that. We’re not on the football field so using your last name as an identifier isn’t necessary. Ha!
        And yes, your response was helpful. I think you are right—it can be hard to know where to start when your transitioning from canned to actual Bible study.
        Thanks so much for all you do for Christian women in providing your site as a resource. It is a blessing!
        In Him,


  2. I agree with you. I have attended Community Bible Study for many years and their workbooks are very good. But no DVD. We read the word and answer questions at home and then discuss in class . The one book/DVD that made an impression on my and really changed my life was The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Michelle for your many posts on this and other topics surrounding Women’s Ministry!

    Our pastor recently held a meeting with the women of the church (maybe 8-10 showed up). The chair of women’s ministry is “taking a break” and he wanted a plan for moving forward. I was hesitant to go because I see nothing but problems in our churches attempts at Women’s ministry. Reminding myself I can’t have an opinion if I don’t show up, I went.

    Several ladies expressed an interest in a weekly Bible study, but one that required “little to no preparation, and no homework, because we don’t have time to be studying the Bible everyday.” So, of course what followed that was a suggestion by some that we just watch Shirer, or Terkeurst, DVDs . They are not willing to hear that there is anything wrong with these teachers. Only one woman asked if Pastor would be vetting if what we chose to study would be doctrinally sound (he doesn’t).

    Sad and a little angry, I told the pastor (and a couple of likeminded women) that If the women want to actually study the WORD – not have a book club or watch party- I’m all in, otherwise this is just not the place for me. You don’t have to worry if the material is sound if the material is the Bible! Apparently I’ve just volunteered to teach our spring women’s Bible study.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AWESOME!!! I’m so glad to hear that you – someone who cares about sound doctrine – have stepped up to teach. What a blessing to your pastor and the ladies of your church – even if they don’t recognize it. If you need some help, check out the “Bible studies” tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. My studies are designed to teach women how to study – or teach others – straight from the text of Scripture in a “learn by doing” sort of way. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to depend on other people’s books and materials (even mine!) any more. I’ve taken a moment to pray for you. God’s richest blessings as you start this new adventure. :0)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your prayer, and for the resources, I have been checking them out for a while, and am taking a hermeneutics class from The Master’s Seminary Institute for Church Leadership (it’s free!!).


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