Bible Study

Throwback Thursday ~ You Have What it Takes to Lead a BIBLE Study?

Originally published February 1, 2019

I am so sick of women’s ministry/discipleship/”Bible” study that centers around narcissistic navel-gazing, I could vomit. My hurts, my feelings, my opinions, my self image.

Newsflash- You’re not the only person on the planet who’s ever been hurt or had problems.

And wallowing in the hurt and your emotions has never been the way to heal and feel better. Healing from the hurt comes from taking your focus off yourself and placing it on Christ: studying the actual Bible, obeying His commands, walking in holiness, praying, worshiping, serving others.

These canned “Bible” studies that masquerade as teaching the Bible – maybe even have the name of a book of the Bible in the title – yet all the “study” questions are about you, your preferences, and how you feel, are doing you no favors, ladies. They are keeping you enslaved to your hurts and self idolatry so you’ll continue to buy more and more of these books. Don’t be naive. LifeWay, CBD¹, and all the major “Christian” publishers know that there’s no money to be made in telling you to study your Bible. If you study your Bible you might actually grow in Christ, learn to glorify Him instead of your own opinions, heal from your hurts, and learn to handle your problems in a biblical way. And then all these divangelistas – whose main function in life seems to be exegeting stories from their own lives and telling you all about their pain- will be out of a job because you won’t need them, their books, their DVDs, their conferences, their simulcasts, or their merch, any more.

The Christian retail machine doesn’t make money when you follow what the Bible says to do: sit under good preaching and teaching at your own church, disciple women in your own church, be discipled by godly older women in your church, serve your church, attend your church like your life depends on it (because your spiritual life does), study your Bible every day, live in obedience to Christ. 

You’re being played and you’re being used by Big Christian Retail, ladies. Stop clinging to the pretty little gilded shackles they have locked around your wrists. Break free and experience the freedom in Christ that can only come from walking faithfully with Him in His Word.

I’m no prophet, nor a son of a prophet, but sometimes I think I might have a tiny inkling of how Jeremiah felt when he said:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
Jeremiah 20:9

When I see the way so many professing Christian pastors, leaders, and teachers in the public eye damage the spiritual lives of their followers by adulterating God’s Word, biblical anger wells up inside me. And sometimes, the pressure gets to be too much and it finds a way to escape, like it did the other day when I tweeted the remarks above.

hate with a holy, biblical hatred what the Christian retail machine, overall, has done to Christians, particularly Christian women, by feeding them fluff and false doctrine.

Go back and read the robust theological thoughts and writings of some of the women who helped usher in the Reformation. And then go stick your head in the door of the average women’s “Bible” study at the church down the street and listen to the teaching and comments. We didn’t get to where we are today without somebody poisoning the water hole.

So it was with no small sense of irony that two days after I had let the fire loose on Twitter, I found myself clicking – with much trepidation – on an article from LifeWay Women that popped up in my feed: You Have What It Takes to Lead a Bible Study.

It was written by a darling young lady named Mickey who made several very good points and was charming and encouraging. I’m certain she wanted the article to be helpful and edifying, and I have no points of contention with her personally. This article was a work product. It expresses LifeWay’s position, not necessarily Mickey’s personal thoughts and opinions. (I wrote for a LifeWay publication once. Believe me, if what you’ve written doesn’t match what they’re trying to convey, they edit it until it does. Which, as a business, they certainly have a right to do.)

“What might LifeWay Women think qualifies someone to lead² a Bible study?” I wondered, as I waited for the page to load. “I have what it takes? What does it take in their eyes?”

The first point of the article was to address women’s feelings of inadequacy about leading a Bible study and reassure them. Feelings. Not what the Bible says about teaching God’s Word, or the qualifications for doing so, or even the need other women have to be taught Scripture. Feelings. For LifeWay, the major obstacle to overcome for a woman who’s on the fence about teaching a Bible study is her feelings of inadequacy.

And how did LifeWay address those feelings of inadequacy and offer reassurance? Again, not with Scripture (indeed, no Scriptures are quoted or even referenced in the article), but by exegeting a personal anecdote from the author’s life. “I felt inadequate too, but then I gave it a try and I was successful. So if you’re feeling inadequate to lead, just give it a try. You’ll be successful, too.” It may be an oversimplification, but that’s the take away.

If this methodology sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because you’ve worked through one of LifeWay’s most popular women’s “Bible” studies. Generally speaking, this is the core of the majority of LifeWay’s women’s “Bible” study products: your feelings and the exegesis of personal stories from the author’s life to relate to and address those feelings.

The article went on to quote a recent LifeWay Women survey which asked women,

“What is the biggest obstacle keeping you from leading a Bible study?”

Know what the number one answer was? “I don’t feel like I know enough to lead.” (Again with the feelz.)

Is it any wonder, when, for decades now, evangelical women have been fed a steady diet of nothing but girlfriend stories that they feel inadequate to teach the Bible? Of course they feel inadequate! They don’t know their Bibles because the materials they’ve been getting from LifeWay all this time haven’t taught them the Bible. They likely know more about their favorite author than they do about Jesus. Most of them probably correctly feel inadequate because they don’t know enough to lead.

Feelings of inadequacy aren’t wrong simply because they make you feel bad. Sometimes your feelings of inadequacy are wrong because you’re neurotic or unrealistically anxious, and sometimes they’re right because you don’t have the skills to handle the task you’re attempting. We’ve all watched enough American Idol auditions to know that.

Our feelings need to be informed, molded, and submitted to the facts of God’s written Word. And what does God’s written Word have to say about whether or not you have what it takes to lead a Bible study?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
James 3:1

Where LifeWay issues a blanket “anybody can do it” encouragement to the hundreds of women (whom LifeWay has never laid eyes on and has no idea whether or not they’re biblically qualified to teach God’s Word) reading this article – “…trust me, friend, you have what it takes, too” – the Bible says that teaching Scripture is a solemn, weighty ministry fraught with the burden of responsibility of imparting God’s Word correctly. And precisely because of that, “not many” should become teachers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

What does LifeWay think qualifies someone to lead a Bible study? “…a willing spirit, an open heart for new friendships, and thirst for more of God.” Is that what the Bible says about qualifying for the lofty responsibility of teaching God’s Word? No. The Bible says we need to work hard at studying, understanding, and rightly handling God’s Word so that we don’t end up twisting it or teaching something that conflicts with it. We need to be able to stand before God unashamed to say, “I worked hard, and studied long, and did my very best to teach your Word accurately.”

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25a

LifeWay seems to think getting over your feelings of inadequacy means you have what it takes to lead a Bible study. The Bible says there’s a much higher standard. Are you even able to teach – to accurately explain what God’s Word says, in a way women can understand, and help them correctly apply it to their lives? Are you quarrelsome? Kind? Able to endure evil patiently? Do you know and can you handle Scripture well enough to correct someone who makes an unbiblical argument, and can you do it gently?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Titus 2:3-5

LifeWay doesn’t address the character needed to teach the Bible. The Bible says you’re to be mature and behave reverently, you’re not to gossip and slander others, and you’re not be controlled by alcohol.

While one of LifeWay’s tips for leading a small group is to choose a study that fits the “interests, preferences, and characteristics” of the women in your group, the Bible doesn’t really care what they’re interested in or prefer to learn. It prescribes what they need to learn. Do you know “what is good” according to Scripture? You have to know that if you’re going to teach it. And you also have to know what the Bible says about wives loving and submitting to their husbands, loving their children, being self-controlled, kind, and pure, and working at home, if you’re going to teach those things.

 

The Bible says you have to know your Bible to teach a women’s Bible study. You have to have certain skills, abilities, and character traits. Not just anybody can do it. Not just anybody should do it.

Do you have what it takes to lead a Bible study? If you want to know, don’t check with LifeWay. Check your Bible.


¹Christianbook.com – It used to be called Christian Book Distributors. Old habits die hard. :0)

Additional Resources:

Bible Studies

Basic Training: Bible Studies and Sermons

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word²
After I finished writing today’s article, I noticed that the LifeWay article exclusively used the phrase “lead a Bible study” rather than “teach a Bible study.” This is likely due to the fact that many LifeWay studies do not require the leader to teach so much as to play a DVD of a popular LifeWay author teaching. It is probably also intentional – to encourage women to lead without that pesky little need to be biblically qualified to teach. However, most people still rightly understand “leading a Bible study” to mean teaching the Bible, thus the survey response of “I don’t feel like I know enough to lead,” and Mickey’s own fear that “I don’t know enough about the Bible to lead…”. You don’t need to know much about the Bible to push a button on a DVD player. McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word addresses this harmful practice and the need for the church to have trained teachers teaching the Bible.

4 Ways We’re Getting Women’s Discipleship Wrong, and How We Can Get it Right!

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

Mailbag

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

Originally published March 19, 2018

 

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

You Have What it Takes to Lead a BIBLE Study?

I am so sick of women’s ministry/discipleship/”Bible” study that centers around narcissistic navel-gazing, I could vomit. My hurts, my feelings, my opinions, my self image.

Newsflash- You’re not the only person on the planet who’s ever been hurt or had problems.

And wallowing in the hurt and your emotions has never been the way to heal and feel better. Healing from the hurt comes from taking your focus off yourself and placing it on Christ: studying the actual Bible, obeying His commands, walking in holiness, praying, worshiping, serving others.

These canned “Bible” studies that masquerade as teaching the Bible – maybe even have the name of a book of the Bible in the title – yet all the “study” questions are about you, your preferences, and how you feel, are doing you no favors, ladies. They are keeping you enslaved to your hurts and self idolatry so you’ll continue to buy more and more of these books. Don’t be naive. LifeWay, CBD¹, and all the major “Christian” publishers know that there’s no money to be made in telling you to study your Bible. If you study your Bible you might actually grow in Christ, learn to glorify Him instead of your own opinions, heal from your hurts, and learn to handle your problems in a biblical way. And then all these divangelistas – whose main function in life seems to be exegeting stories from their own lives and telling you all about their pain- will be out of a job because you won’t need them, their books, their DVDs, their conferences, their simulcasts, or their merch, any more.

The Christian retail machine doesn’t make money when you follow what the Bible says to do: sit under good preaching and teaching at your own church, disciple women in your own church, be discipled by godly older women in your church, serve your church, attend your church like your life depends on it (because your spiritual life does), study your Bible every day, live in obedience to Christ. 

You’re being played and you’re being used by Big Christian Retail, ladies. Stop clinging to the pretty little gilded shackles they have locked around your wrists. Break free and experience the freedom in Christ that can only come from walking faithfully with Him in His Word.

I’m no prophet, nor a son of a prophet, but sometimes I think I might have a tiny inkling of how Jeremiah felt when he said:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
Jeremiah 20:9

When I see the way so many professing Christian pastors, leaders, and teachers in the public eye damage the spiritual lives of their followers by adulterating God’s Word, biblical anger wells up inside me. And sometimes, the pressure gets to be too much and it finds a way to escape, like it did the other day when I tweeted the remarks above.

hate with a holy, biblical hatred what the Christian retail machine, overall, has done to Christians, particularly Christian women, by feeding them fluff and false doctrine.

Go back and read the robust theological thoughts and writings of some of the women who helped usher in the Reformation. And then go stick your head in the door of the average women’s “Bible” study at the church down the street and listen to the teaching and comments. We didn’t get to where we are today without somebody poisoning the water hole.

So it was with no small sense of irony that two days after I had let the fire loose on Twitter, I found myself clicking – with much trepidation – on an article from LifeWay Women that popped up in my feed: You Have What It Takes to Lead a Bible Study.

It was written by a darling young lady named Mickey who made several very good points and was charming and encouraging. I’m certain she wanted the article to be helpful and edifying, and I have no points of contention with her personally. This article was a work product. It expresses LifeWay’s position, not necessarily Mickey’s personal thoughts and opinions. (I wrote for a LifeWay publication once. Believe me, if what you’ve written doesn’t match what they’re trying to convey, they edit it until it does. Which, as a business, they certainly have a right to do.)

“What might LifeWay Women think qualifies someone to lead² a Bible study?” I wondered, as I waited for the page to load. “I have what it takes? What does it take in their eyes?”

The first point of the article was to address women’s feelings of inadequacy about leading a Bible study and reassure them. Feelings. Not what the Bible says about teaching God’s Word, or the qualifications for doing so, or even the need other women have to be taught Scripture. Feelings. For LifeWay, the major obstacle to overcome for a woman who’s on the fence about teaching a Bible study is her feelings of inadequacy.

And how did LifeWay address those feelings of inadequacy and offer reassurance? Again, not with Scripture (indeed, no Scriptures are quoted or even referenced in the article), but by exegeting a personal anecdote from the author’s life. “I felt inadequate too, but then I gave it a try and I was successful. So if you’re feeling inadequate to lead, just give it a try. You’ll be successful, too.” It may be an oversimplification, but that’s the take away.

If this methodology sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because you’ve worked through one of LifeWay’s most popular women’s “Bible” studies. Generally speaking, this is the core of the majority of LifeWay’s women’s “Bible” study products: your feelings and the exegesis of personal stories from the author’s life to relate to and address those feelings.

The article went on to quote a recent LifeWay Women survey which asked women,

“What is the biggest obstacle keeping you from leading a Bible study?”

Know what the number one answer was? “I don’t feel like I know enough to lead.” (Again with the feelz.)

Is it any wonder, when, for decades now, evangelical women have been fed a steady diet of nothing but girlfriend stories that they feel inadequate to teach the Bible? Of course they feel inadequate! They don’t know their Bibles because the materials they’ve been getting from LifeWay all this time haven’t taught them the Bible. They likely know more about their favorite author than they do about Jesus. Most of them probably correctly feel inadequate because they don’t know enough to lead.

Feelings of inadequacy aren’t wrong simply because they make you feel bad. Sometimes your feelings of inadequacy are wrong because you’re neurotic or unrealistically anxious, and sometimes they’re right because you don’t have the skills to handle the task you’re attempting. We’ve all watched enough American Idol auditions to know that.

Our feelings need to be informed, molded, and submitted to the facts of God’s written Word. And what does God’s written Word have to say about whether or not you have what it takes to lead a Bible study?

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
James 3:1

Where LifeWay issues a blanket “anybody can do it” encouragement to the hundreds of women (whom LifeWay has never laid eyes on and has no idea whether or not they’re biblically qualified to teach God’s Word) reading this article – “…trust me, friend, you have what it takes, too” – the Bible says that teaching Scripture is a solemn, weighty ministry fraught with the burden of responsibility of imparting God’s Word correctly. And precisely because of that, “not many” should become teachers.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

What does LifeWay think qualifies someone to lead a Bible study? “…a willing spirit, an open heart for new friendships, and thirst for more of God.” Is that what the Bible says about qualifying for the lofty responsibility of teaching God’s Word? No. The Bible says we need to work hard at studying, understanding, and rightly handling God’s Word so that we don’t end up twisting it or teaching something that conflicts with it. We need to be able to stand before God unashamed to say, “I worked hard, and studied long, and did my very best to teach your Word accurately.”

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25a

LifeWay seems to think getting over your feelings of inadequacy means you have what it takes to lead a Bible study. The Bible says there’s a much higher standard. Are you even able to teach – to accurately explain what God’s Word says, in a way women can understand, and help them correctly apply it to their lives? Are you quarrelsome? Kind? Able to endure evil patiently? Do you know and can you handle Scripture well enough to correct someone who makes an unbiblical argument, and can you do it gently?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Titus 2:3-5

LifeWay doesn’t address the character needed to teach the Bible. The Bible says you’re to be mature and behave reverently, you’re not to gossip and slander others, and you’re not be controlled by alcohol.

While one of LifeWay’s tips for leading a small group is to choose a study that fits the “interests, preferences, and characteristics” of the women in your group, the Bible doesn’t really care what they’re interested in or prefer to learn. It prescribes what they need to learn. Do you know “what is good” according to Scripture? You have to know that if you’re going to teach it. And you also have to know what the Bible says about wives loving and submitting to their husbands, loving their children, being self-controlled, kind, and pure, and working at home, if you’re going to teach those things.

 

The Bible says you have to know your Bible to teach a women’s Bible study. You have to have certain skills, abilities, and character traits. Not just anybody can do it. Not just anybody should do it.

Do you have what it takes to lead a Bible study? If you want to know, don’t check with LifeWay. Check your Bible.


¹Christianbook.com – It used to be called Christian Book Distributors. Old habits die hard. :0)

Additional Resources:

Bible Studies

Basic Training: Bible Studies and Sermons

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word²
After I finished writing today’s article, I noticed that the LifeWay article exclusively used the phrase “lead a Bible study” rather than “teach a Bible study.” This is likely due to the fact that many LifeWay studies do not require the leader to teach so much as to play a DVD of a popular LifeWay author teaching. It is probably also intentional – to encourage women to lead without that pesky little need to be biblically qualified to teach. However, most people still rightly understand “leading a Bible study” to mean teaching the Bible, thus the survey response of “I don’t feel like I know enough to lead,” and Mickey’s own fear that “I don’t know enough about the Bible to lead…”. You don’t need to know much about the Bible to push a button on a DVD player. McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word addresses this harmful practice and the need for the church to have trained teachers teaching the Bible.

4 Ways We’re Getting Women’s Discipleship Wrong, and How We Can Get it Right!

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

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.

Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine?

 

I’ve been invited to join a ladies’ Bible study class that’s using a book by a well-known author and speaker. The woman who wrote the book is a false teacher. Should I accept the invitation and join the class in hopes of correcting the false doctrine that will be taught?

To join or not to join. I’ve been in the same situation myself, and I know many of my readers have as well. It can be a difficult decision to make. The Bible does say to avoid false teachers, but it also says they should be rebuked, and that older women are to “teach what is good, and so train the young women…that the word of God may not be reviled.”

My counsel to those who have expressed concern to me over studies by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, etc. taking place in their churches is to pray that God would give them wisdom as to whether they should attend the study and biblically refute all the false doctrine that comes up (the rebuking/training perspective) or whether they should decline to attend the study (the avoiding perspective), giving anyone who asks a biblical explanation as to why you won’t be participating (also, kind of rebuking/training). There are a lot of things to take into consideration as you begin working through Scripture and prayer to reach a decision.

First, where is your pastor in all of this? Why is he allowing a study to take place that uses materials authored by a false teacher? Maybe he is familiar with the author’s materials and approves of them (in which case you have a bigger issue than whether or not to attend this particular class). But maybe he’s a discerning-leaning guy who’s just not aware that this author teaches false doctrine.

Most pastors are extremely busy. They either don’t have the time or don’t know they need to make the time to vet the authors of the studies their church is using (I’m not excusing this state of affairs, I’m just saying- this is the reality we’re dealing with). And many of them simply assume that if the book comes from LifeWay (or another trusted Christian retailer), it must be OK. So, before making a decision about whether or not to attend the class, go to where the buck stops and humbly, patiently, and kindly find out where your pastor is about the issue. He might just pleasantly surprise you and cancel the class or insist that a doctrinally sound study be used instead, and your problem will be solved.

Next, if you’re married, what does your husband have to say about it? There may be a logistical conflict – he prefers you not to be out that late at night alone for safety reasons, your child has to be picked up from soccer at the time the class meets, etc. – that will immediately solve your dilemma, or there may be some other reason he doesn’t want you to attend the class. Since it’s not sinful to decline attending the class, if your husband says no, you need to respect his decision and decline to join. (You also need to discuss with your husband the issue of approaching the pastor about the study. He might prefer to be the one to talk to him, or he might prefer the two of you talk to the pastor together, rather than you approaching the pastor on your own.)

But even if your husband leaves the decision up to you, ask for his counsel and perspective. Simply by virtue of being a man, a person with his own unique thought processes, and someone who knows you well, he can add invaluable insight that can help you reach a wise decision. This was certainly the case for me when I was faced with this situation. I was leaning toward declining to attend the study, but my husband gave me a whole new perspective and encouraged me to get involved in order to be a corrective influence and godly example to the other ladies. And he was right!

If you’ve talked to your pastor and your husband and the dilemma is still before you, there are several things you need to think, pray, and study through as you’re working toward a decision:

☙Are you biblically knowledgeable enough to recognize and properly refute false doctrine? (It might help to get the perspective of your pastor, your husband, or a mature believer who knows you well and who will be honest with you.)

☙Do you have the extra time to study and make notes ahead of time so you’ll be prepared to refute, with Scripture, during class?

☙Is the study so replete with false doctrine that you’ll have to constantly be speaking up and people will just be annoyed and tune you out?

☙Does your conscience prevent you from financially supporting the false teacher by buying her book for the study?

☙Would it make a bigger impact on this particular group of ladies for you to attend and refute or to decline to attend with explanation? (Consider your influence on them, your reputation for sound doctrine among them, the dynamics of the group, etc.)

☙What will be the repercussions of your actions (whether you decide to attend or decline) on the church at large? How might your family and/or your pastor be affected?

☙Are you spiritually and emotionally prepared for the harsh backlash you will probably receive for refuting? Can you stand firm in the face of that, or will you cave?

☙Are you in the “cage stage” of discernment with a “mow ‘em down!” disposition to match, or do you have the self-control required to follow the instruction of 2 Timothy 2:24-26: to be patient, kind, and not quarrelsome? Do you understand that the goal of discernment is to humbly rescue captives, not to prove how right and knowledgeable you are?

☙Think outside the box. Is there another way to handle this situation besides attending/refuting and declining to attend? What about you (or a spiritually mature woman in your church- someone who is able to teach) offering to teach an alternative class that studies a book of the Bible?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Either of these options (or another) could be biblically wise depending on the people and situations involved. Talk to your husband and your pastor. Examine what God’s word says about false teachers. Pray for wisdom. Follow your biblically-informed conscience.


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.