April 11, 2016

7 Lessons From a Reluctant Women's Bible Study Leader

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, Who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. – Isaiah 64:4 NIV
Ten years ago, I was talking on the phone with my sister, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my cousin Karen, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my church friend Pam, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” Pam told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

At which point, God had my attention.

A few weeks later, Pam and I headed up a planning meeting at church, and a few weeks after that, we held the first session of Proverbs 32 women’s Bible study. (No, we’re not trying to add to Scripture; we just wanted to convey that while we were striving to reach the Proverbs 31 standard, we weren’t there yet. We should have called ourselves Proverbs 30, but the “Sayings of Agur” didn’t seem to convey our mission. So we went with Proverbs 32…P32 for short.)

Just last week, my Bible study sisters and I wrapped up our 10th (!) season. I can hardly believe we've been at it this long. I can hardly believe it got started in the first place. Because I was possibly the least-qualified woman in the world to lead a women's Bible study.

But God has a way of working with the least.

I'm so grateful to Kelsey at The Unabashed Life for originally featuring this post in her Unabashed Woman Series. Now, just barely on the other side of another season of study, Kelsey has graciously given her blessing for me to share these lessons from the least here…treasured souvenirs from a very special journey.
1. With God’s help, you can do what you can’t. I was not qualified to facilitate a women’s Bible study. I am neither theologian nor Bible scholar. I am an introvert. I’d never even done a full-on Bible study before, much less headed one up.

Now I’ve learned that if God calls you to it, He will equip you for it. I brought plenty of weakness to the Bible study table—and there God showed His perfect power (2 Corinthians 12:9). Many weeks, after I’ve told God, “I can’t do this. I need You to do it through me and for me,” I’ve driven home from church praising God for the honor and thrill and wonder of seeing Him work.
2. You can love what you don’t even know you like. On a list of spiritual blessings from my entire life, P32 is very near the top. But before I wandered blindly in, doing or leading women’s Bible study wouldn’t have been on the list at all. Our God of surprises sprung this passion on me when wasn’t even looking for it.

3. Silence does not equal disinterest, boredom, or anger. In P32’s early days, I agonized that ladies who never spoke up didn’t like the material or didn’t like me—or both. But after more than one of them told me privately, “I love this study and this group. I’m getting so much out of it,” I quit worrying about my non-talkers. Someone can be engaged and enthusiastic without saying a word.
4. Pray. (Wisely.) From the beginning, we knew we needed to pray with and for each other. But in order to dedicate most of our time to studying and discussing the Word, we started using prayer cards. Every week, our members wrote their names on index card and, if they wanted to, a praise or a request. I shuffled the cards and handed them back out, and each woman committed to praying for the sister whose name was on the card. We also formed a closed Facebook group, open to all members of P32 but not to anyone else—a safe, private place for us to all share in one another’s joys and sorrows.
5. Do your best to choose a study that’s right for your group, but don’t get hung up trying to find THE right study. Every year, God has graciously guided me toward and then confirmed a study I felt was a good fit for us. But I always come back to this truth: as long as we are digging into His Word and using careful, humble teaching to do it, Jehovah will bless and inform us. He is not so stingy as to leave us just because we don’t choose one “right” study. He is bigger and more generous than that.
6. Growing pains are normal, but they probably won’t last long. We had seven ladies our first season of P32, and it was so special we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We started showing and sharing it, and others began saying, “I want that.” Twenty women showed up at our first meeting that second year. We revamped our format to accommodate the growth, but it was unsettling. “I just feel like crying,” one our founding members told me, and I shared her grief. We went back to our original structure and quickly settled into a new normal with a larger group. It wasn’t the same, but it was still good.
7. You will scarcely know a sweeter privilege on this earth than that of watching—before your very eyes– another woman grow in her knowledge of God and her love for Him. The gift of having a fellow sister in Christ tell you that because of what she’s learned in a study, she chose differently or reacted differently or thought differently or felt differently than she “normally” would have is immeasurable. It is worth every worry, every difficult morning, every beyond- ourself moment. To borrow from 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my [study sisters] are walking intruth.” My heart breaks with happiness just thinking about it. 
In a few months, if God wills it, I might once again take the seat at the front of the table in our Bible study meeting room. From there, I’ll look for new lessons that I AM—The One and Only…the God of Daniel, Esther, James…the Spirit Who produces fruit—has ready for me and for the women seated around me. I can’t wait.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. – 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

How about you, sweet friend? Have you led Bible study and learned some lessons along the way? Or have you sensed God calling you to lead (er, "facilitate") but are holding back? I'd be honored to have you share your story in a comment.

12 comments:

  1. I could not love these words more, Elizabeth. I can feel the love, fellowship and deep study of God's Word that your ladies have had for 10 years. As a women's Bible teacher, I clicked over to see what your lessons were. ;) Your #3 lesson encouraged me greatly today. Many blessings to you all as you open the Word together Lord willing for another year. Saving this one to my Women's Ministry pinterest board for sure. <3

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    1. Oh my goodness...thank you so much, Lisa! Truly, it still stuns me what God has done these last 10 years and the honor and blessing He has given me to be part of it. Thank you for encouraging me with your words...and I know what you mean about #3. That was a "biggie" in terms of lessons I needed to learn pretty quickly. ;) Blessings back to you...thank you for stopping by and for the pin! :)

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  2. Love this! I just recently stepping into teaching. What an honor! And God gave me such peace about it - I'm usually a fraidly cat!

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    1. Woo hoo...good for you, Ellen! You are so right: it is an honor. I am overwhelmed (in a good, God way) about it almost every week. May God continue to bless and guide you as you take this new journey...and thanks so much for taking time to read my little lesson list today!

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  3. So encouraging to me. I'm not a leader of a Bible Study- but I am new to women's Bible Studies and this is helpful for understanding the dynamics and what goes into leading them!! Thanks! #RaRaLinkup

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    1. Oh, Bethany, I am SO excited for your new venture. I feel the way I do when a new member joins my little group: filled with anticipation and expectation for what I know God is going to do in, with, through, and for her via His Word and the careful study of it. I just wish you could actually BE part of my group so I could see you experience all that firsthand! Thank you for taking time to read my post and to take it in...no doubt, your consideration and teachable spirit are a blessing to your very own leader! :)

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  4. I so needed this encouragement. I started a small ladies Bible study, although I'm not reluctant, I still needed these words!

    Love the new site name and design!

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    1. You go, Ana! That is FABULOUS that you're not reluctant! ;) I am so happy for you, that you've started your own study, because I know firsthand the joy that awaits you. Thank you for stopping by...this is my very-neglected second blog baby! :)

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  5. Delighted to read your blog (and will follow). I too, teach Bible Studies, 3 every week. I love my ladies and some have been with me for more than 15 years. My blog was started in response to teaching because I clearly hear God say, 'write about what you're saying'. Blessings to you and yours! Marie @ http://asatisfiedspirit.com

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    1. Wow, Marie...THREE every week! And 15 years. You are an inspiration. I am headed to your blog right now...thank you so much for stopping by mine!

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  6. Hey Elizabeth, I love what you've shared here. I'm so glad you stepped out in faith and were obedient to the Lord's prompting to start the study. And I love the name! Thanks for these pointers. I will put them to use in the very small group that I facilitate with the moms at our homeschool coop. I particularly love the one about the non talkers still digging the group. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hey right back, Tiffiney! Thank you for stopping over here at my neglected second blog baby! ;) I can just imagine what a wonderful facilitator you are with your small group. And yes: not freaking out about the non-talkers was a huge lesson God taught me! Blessings on you, my fellow mom/blogging friend! xoxo

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I'd love to hear from you. What do you think? What's on your mind? Did you learn anything from this study that you didn't know to begin with? Did it make any sense? Tell me...I really want to know.