Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can we get women to WANT to come to Bible study?

 

My church is blessed to have two strong ladies’ Bible study leaders – one during the week for those who are available and one on Saturday for those who cannot attend during the week – who have the discernment to choose biblical content, study, and lead scripturally sound discussion. My prayer is that more women in my church would have the desire to attend these Bible studies, not only learning and growing spiritually but also for fellowship with each other and drawing closer to each other. If you have any ideas for actually getting women to want to study God’s word with other women I would love to hear them.

Been there, done that. I once taught a women’s Bible study class that consistently had only one to two women in it. I think our maximum attendance was one day when we had a whopping…four. The other women of the church chose to attend the “fluffier” classes that were being offered, and many just didn’t attend at all.

There could be any number of spiritual and practical reasons women aren’t attending your (or another reader’s) Bible studies.

☞ People are extraordinarily busy these days, especially women. Jam-packed schedules are probably the main reason for your low attendance. I’ll be honest, if I worked a full time job outside the home as well as taking care of my home and family, I’d be very unlikely to attend any Bible study class besides Sunday School. I’d want to devote that time to my family or to rest.

☞ Perhaps there are more false converts in your church than you’re aware of. People who aren’t saved are not new creatures in Christ and are devoid of the Holy Spirit, so they have no organic desire to spend time in God’s Word or with God’s people beyond the minimal amount required to fulfill whatever fleshly agenda brings them to church in the first place. There’s no human way to give them the desire to attend Bible study. Only God can accomplish that by saving them.

☞ If you go to a doctrinally sound church, your ladies may feel like they get plenty of good Bible study already and what they really want is unstructured fellowship time. See my article All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church.

☞ There may be something about the teaching style or the materials, that – even though they’re doctrinally sound – are rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe the teacher lectures and your ladies want more discussion. Maybe she talks over their heads in a very academic style. Maybe the materials are too expensive or there’s something about the book that is off-putting. Maybe your church only does “canned” (workbook, DVD, etc.) studies and what your ladies really want is to study books of the Bible, or vice versa.

☞ Hopefully this isn’t the case, but if there are factions in your church, someone could be surreptitiously – out of jealousy, sowing discord, or other reasons – discouraging the women from attending.

☞ The logistics of the class might be inconvenient for some. Do you offer child care for those who need it? Is the class held on a convenient day of the week and time of day? Is your church and the room you’re using for the class accessible to women with disabilities? 

These are just a few things that came to mind. Some of them may have to do with the class or the teacher. Others have more to do with the women themselves. What can you do to encourage more women to attend?

✔ Pray – and be ready to be in it for the long haul – that God will change hearts and give the women of your church a greater desire for His Word. In the end, God is the only One who knows all of the reasons women aren’t attending Bible study, and He is the only One with the power to transform them and overcome those reasons. Pray fervently and trust Him.

✔ If you’re truly stumped as to why women aren’t attending Bible study, ask them. You could do so face to face, individually, or, with your pastor’s permission, send out an anonymous survey (you’ll probably get a better response this way) asking things like, “Is the lecture style teaching we offer a fit for you?” or “Would you be able to attend if we offered child care?”, and also leave space to write in comments. (Naturally, you would not be asking things like whether or not you should water down the theology of the class, but if you can remove a practical barrier to attendance, why wouldn’t you?)

✔ Ask your pastor for advice. He knows the heartbeat of your congregation and will probably have some valuable counsel and suggestions.

✔ Be willing to try something different in the class. If you’ve only ever done workbook studies, do a study of a book of the Bible. Maybe a Saturday class isn’t convenient for a lot of people but a Sunday class would be. “I Shall Not be Moved” is for the theology of the class, not the logistics of it.

✔ Be willing to try something different than the class. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to do discipleship. Bible studies are awesome, but how about taking a semester off and doing some one on one Titus 2 mentoring instead? Or some unstructured “let’s just sit and chat” fellowships or ladies’ night outs? Or a prayer group? Or some outreach projects? If your ladies are already getting good preaching in the worship service and good teaching in Sunday School, it’s OK to try a discipleship method other than a Bible study class.

✔ Are you doing enough publicity well in advance of the class? You should start a minimum of 3-4 weeks before the class begins, and you should blitz with a variety of media: verbal announcements in multiple worship services, announce it in the church bulletin, newsletter, web site, and social media pages, have Sunday School classes announce it, send out a church-wide e-mail, put up fliers around the church, and encourage the ladies who are already attending the classes to personally, individually invite other women.

✔ If your pastor is OK with it, consider having one of the women who has been a faithful member of the class give a testimony (during the worship service, in the church newsletter, or wherever appropriate) about how the class has helped and blessed her, the relationships she has built through the class, etc.

In the end, the old saying is true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You may bend over backwards and pray your kneecaps off and you may still have a small attendance. That’s OK. That’s on God. All you are responsible for is to pray, trust and obey Him, and be faithful to Him where He has planted you. God doesn’t measure your success by how many women attend, but by your faithfulness to Him.


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.

Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

 

Why don’t you provide the answers to the questions you ask in your Bible studies?

If you’ve been around the blog for any length of time you’ve noticed (I hope) that Wednesday is Bible study day. We’ve been through several books, including Jonah, Colossians, Ezra, and our current study of Ruth. We’ve done two topical studies: one on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and one on assurance (1 John). And there are 66+ (every book of the Bible and then some) one lesson stand-alone studies. If you’re looking for a Bible study for group or personal use, they’re all hereand they’re all free (all I ask is that you don’t plagiarize).

The format I’ve developed for my studies is to present the biblical text, provide several study questions, and finish off with a homework assignment- action you can take to apply one of the truths of the passage to your own life.

But I intentionally refrain from providing a list of answers to the study questions. Why?

Because the purpose of my Bible studies is not for you to get the “right answers.” My goal is to demonstrate for you the kinds of questions you should be asking of any passage of Scripture you approach. The purpose is to teach you (or your small group) how to study the Bible on your own so you won’t need to depend on a “canned” study written by somebody else, even me. I’m trying to work myself out of a job. You know- teach a woman to fish rather than giving her a fish.

In my own private study time as well as in Sunday School classes and other small group Bible studies, I’ve found that diving into the text and studying it for myself – or with my group – is far more meaningful and memorable than looking at the passage through the eyes of a third party. Approaching Scripture without a “middle man” lends itself to an intimacy with God that just isn’t there otherwise. It’s the difference between a private, behind closed doors, conversation with your husband and a conversation with your husband while out on a double date with friends. You get that “double date conversation” every Sunday when your pastor preaches, but God is a personal God, and you need some time alone with Him during the week.

But I’m afraid that if I study on my own, I’ll get something wrong! What if I misunderstand Scripture and end up believing false doctrine?

Bible study is a skill. And just like every other new skill you learn, you’re probably going to make some mistakes when you’re first starting out. When you first learned to read, you pronounced some words incorrectly. When you were learning to ride a bike, you fell down a few times. But you didn’t let those mistakes stop you. You kept practicing until you learned the skill. Bible study is the same way. You probably will make some mistakes along the way. But God has provided a lot of “training wheels” to help you out:

His Goodness and Trustworthiness
God is a good God. He wants you to study His word, get to know Him, and grow in Christ. It would be evil and cruel of God to tell you this, and then lead you – His child, who wants to draw near to Him through the study of His word – into false doctrine. And God is not evil and cruel. He is good, He is a God of truth, and His word is truth. Trust Him as you open His word to study.

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:11-13

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
Psalm 119:160

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:17

The Holy Spirit
If you are a genuinely regenerated Believer, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture. Because God does not contradict Himself and He does not lie, the Holy Spirit indwelling you will not lead you to believe what is contrary to the words of Scripture He inspired. Ask Him to give you wisdom and understanding as you study.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:9-13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
John 16:13-14

Tools
God has blessed us with a number of helps for learning how to study His word, from instructions on handling the text to commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible atlases, and the like. Many are online and available for free. I’ve included some of those here (be sure to scroll down). And don’t forget your (doctrinally sound) pastor, elders, and Sunday School teachers as invaluable resources. I’ve never met one who wouldn’t be delighted to help someone understand a passage of Scripture.

Easter Eggs
If you’ve worked through any of my studies, you’ve probably noticed that, if you read carefully, I do provide answers to some of the study questions.

Hyperlinks– If you see a hyperlink in a question, try answering the question on your own first. Then, click the link. It will take you either to related Scriptures that will help you answer the question or to an article or resource you can read for more information.

Follow Up Questions– Each study “question” is usually a series of questions. Try to answer them one at a time. But, if you’ll notice, I sometimes provide the answer to one question in a subsequent question. For example (from Ezra, Lesson 11):

What was Israel’s hope? Compare Israel’s hope for God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin in response to true repentance with 1 John 1:9.

God loves you and wants you to dive into the treasure chest of His word. Trust Him. Use the resources He has provided. And if you fall off your bike in the process, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep practicing.


Additional Resources

Bible Study resource articles

Bible Studies by Michelle Lesley

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study


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.