Sally Ivaska developed a set of Bible studies for women in graduate school on the theme, “Who Am I?” She included in the study booklet the guidelines below which we think are helpful for anyone leading a group Bible study.
The guidelines presented here are designed for use with the study "Who Am I?" but much of this will apply to any Bible study you may lead. Additional resources for studying the Bible and for leading Bible studies are included at the end of this article. May God bless you as you study his Word.
Preparing the study
Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your preparation, knowing that he wants to help you discover liberating truth in God’s Word.
Begin a few days before your group meets to allow yourself time to meditate on what God is saying through his Word and to think of creative ways of helping others get the most from your group study.
Read and re-read the passage of Scripture, trying to discover its central idea. Ask yourself, “What was the author saying to his original readers and why was he saying it?” Use a Bible dictionary to look up any unfamiliar words, names or places.
Think about how the central truth(s) applies to similar situations today and to you personally. Is there any principle or example for you to follow, a sin to avoid or confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim? What does this passage teach you about God, yourself, or others.
Once you have studied for yourself, if you are using a study guide, answer thoroughly all the questions asked. In the study "Who Am I?" you will find three types of questions, important in guiding any passage you study:
• Observation: What does the passage say?
• Interpretation: What does it mean?
• Application: What does it mean for me or our group?
Make sure you don’t skip the application questions. Remember that the goal of any Bible study is transformation. Your job as a Christian is to obey; your job as a leader is to move the group toward obedience.
Leading the study
Open with prayer or a song. This helps the group to put aside concerns of the day and center on the Lord.
Explain the guidelines for your small group:
• Everyone should participate in the discussion
• Nothing said in the small group meeting will be repeated outside the group; we agree to keep things confidential.
Ask a question that gets the group talking. A study guide may suggest a question you can use. This does two things: It encourages people to share information about themselves, thus building a sense of community, and it helps them to begin thinking about the Bible study topic. A second option is to ask: Has anyone encountered an “application moment” from our previous study?
Read aloud the passage of Scripture or ask others in the group to read. The "Who Am I?" studies were based on the New International Version of the Bible, so it will be helpful for someone to read from that translation.
Lead a discussion of that passage using the questions from the study guide. If a question seems confusing, rephrase it. Use your good judgment in deciding whether or not to answer all the questions. The amount of time you have for the study will determine this.
Encourage everyone to participate by giving opportunities for the quieter ones to speak. With some questions, in particular the first one in each study, it may be appropriate to go around the circle and have everyone share something.
Transition from Bible study to sharing and prayer, allowing each member to voice a request. Don’t let a great Bible discussion crowd out time for this. Thank God for what he has taught you from his Word.
My prayer is that your discussions around the Word of God will transform your minds and deepen your walk with Jesus.
Sally Ivaska is the wife of David, mother of four sons, and proud grandmother of Zadie Marie. She has a master of arts in teaching from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University. Her passions — small group Bible study and all things cross-cultural — have taken many forms over the years: hosting international students, coordinating small groups for her church, serving as the International Student Advisor at North Park University, and training African students to study Scripture inductively and write their own discussion materials.
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