Have you ever been to a Bible Study Group? If not, maybe it was the fear of the unknown, worries about other people’s expectations, concerns that it might be too hard or too serious, or not being able to commit to a whole course that stopped you. If any of this rings true for you, rest assured, members of the current group are largely complete novices and absolutely no prior experience is necessary. In fact, I’d never even attended a Bible Study Group myself, until I started leading this one!
There are no professional theologians in the group, and yet it’s definitely not the blind leading the blind. Because when it comes to Scripture, we all come with unique and personal perspectives, valid opinions and wisdom to share, whether we know what order the animals went into the ark or not. I’d describe the Group as a bunch of curious explorers, picking their way through Scripture and being dazzled by new findings.
The group itself grows and shrinks each week as people have different commitments, and that’s fine. Whoever is able to turn up is very welcome, and can join in and learn something new in a very friendly and relaxed space. There is often much laughter, sometimes tears and always hunger to learn, but what else would you expect when we open the Bible together? People bring along different versions of the Bible, and in small breakout groups we see how different writers have interpreted and translated the same passages and we discuss what the verses mean to us.
In our first term we studied St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. As the Group leader, I did a bit of research, shared some short YouTube videos and even borrowed a recorded lecture from college to help build up a picture of 1st Century Corinth, to provide a bit of context. Each week we’d try and imagine what sort of issues the Corinthians were going through and how this correspondence might speak into our experiences at church today. We also learned about Paul the person.
Last night we gathered to discuss the future of the Bible Study Group, as my training needs will take me elsewhere in church so I won’t be around to lead it anymore. The group unanimously agreed that the show must go on and volunteers from within the group have stepped forward to give leading a go. It is hoped that it will be entirely lay led from here, which I find very encouraging. After all, no experience is necessary (as I proved!) and leading the group is about giving everyone the chance to contribute if they wish and guiding the conversation along. It’s not about being the subject matter expert.
In fact, a key new feature of this next chapter is that I will be providing some ideas for how to do a bit of personal research, pre-reading and prep, so that everyone is equipped to read around the subject if they wish. I’ll show members where to look online, what kind of books to read and which YouTube videos and podcasts to explore, so they have a full and rich image of the context. I think these skills shouldn’t be just for the leader but for everyone, as we’re all disciples (learners) and pilgrims (travellers). The more exploration we can do ourselves, the more the Bible will come alive to us and ultimately the more out faith grows.
Next week the group will start exploring the book of Ruth from Thursday 28th Jan until 11th Feb, so will complete the book in three sessions. They will then break for Lent then decide which book or theme they will delve into after Easter. Debby Gill is leading the first night, then Katie Malcolm and Alison Marshall with co-lead week two and we are praying that God will provide a leader for week three! We’re asking the Holy Spirit to nudge someone into volunteering so if that’s you, let me know.
And if any of this sounds like something you’d like to join in on Zoom one hour a week, then please come along and give it a try. The three-week study of Ruth would be a great place to start. God bless.
Rachael ( Rachael.firstname.lastname@example.org )