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I have had so many people tell me over the years that their small group Bible study feels shallow, insincere, and stuffy. Have you ever had that experience?
Sometimes in these small groups it seems like everyone is trying to outdo everyone else with their spiritual knowledge. Someone launches into a political tirade. Questions that are designed to lead to healthy personal conviction lead to culture-bashing instead. And everyone walks away feeling a little more self-righteous than when they arrived.
It’s no wonder that the friends we bring don’t want to come back. It’s no wonder that we don’t want to go back!
But don’t be discouraged! I’m here to bring you hope!
I have determined never to be part of such a Bible Study again. But instead of quitting, I’ve changed my groups from the inside, and it all started with me.
Maybe the change for your small group problem needs to start with you.
Here is my list of Four Tips to Make Your Bible Study 1000x Better. (Also called The Art of Being Stupid in Bible Study.)
Be Thoughtfully Stupid to Make Bible Study Better
Ask the Stupid Questions
If you’ve been around church for a while, you know what the answers are supposed to be. The problem is that we have trained ourselves not to ask the questions. We don’t want to look stupid and besides, often we already know what people are going to tell us. But we need to ask those questions that linger, for our sake and for the sake of others.
We need to ask those questions that linger, for our sake and for the sake of others.
For example, if I ask, “How can I know that God loves me?” I know others will tell me, “Because it says so in the Bible.” But if I push and ask again, “Can you show me where? Maybe we can look up some passages together,” then suddenly this easy question has moved us into a lively practice of Bible-searching. And someone who needed to hear those encouraging verses gets to breathe a little easier.
So sometimes we should ask the questions even when we know the answer to invigorate discussion and to encourage that person who was afraid that her questions would be too stupid.
And sometimes we ask the questions because we have to admit that the church answer hasn’t satisfied our soul. Take, as an example, questions like “Why does God allow children to die?” We may know full well that the answer lies somewhere along the lines of “because God’s ways are beyond our understanding,” but wouldn’t it be helpful to take the time in Bible study to discuss it? We might not have time to finish a complete analysis of the question at hand, but we will acknowledge some hard truths, search the Scriptures, and encourage someone who thought that they were the only one who wondered about that.
Share your Stupid Sin
As the discussion in Bible study turns to our sin and our need for a Savior we often find ourselves wanting to put up a wall. We want to leave the discussion to the “sin over there” because the sin right here is harder to talk about.
So we start to talk about the sin that those other people do these days. Or we talk about the sin we used to do.
For the sake of letting the Scriptures do its work on our hearts, let’s stop when we hear ourselves talking about the far-off sin and let’s take that step to bring it back to our neighborhood. Admit your most frustrating sins to the group. This is SO HARD when you are the first one, but you will be rewarded when the others also begin to open up. Your small group will become a sisterhood or brotherhood that shares the most beautiful kind of Christian fellowship.
Your small group will become a sisterhood that shares the most beautiful kind of Christian fellowship.
But for the sake of the Gospel, never let it stop there. Every time you admit your sins in the group, make sure you bring it back around to the Gospel. Remember that our God knows that we constantly turn our eyes to worthless things. He knows that we sin but he loves us perfectly and inexplicably, and arranged for us to be with him by the death of his Son. He knows. He loves. He forgives. Praise God!
Bring Buckets of Grace for Your Stupid Friends
With that in mind, that our God loves and forgives us, we can bring buckets of grace for the others in the group. Is there someone who drives you nuts? Is there someone who derails the conversation? Or who seems to look down on you when you ask those stupid questions?
Take a breath and remember that they are still in process just the same as you are. Pray for them. Ask God to help you love them. God loves that prayer! Let him work on your heart.
Follow Some Stupid Rabbit Trails
And finally, the last tip to make your small group Bible Study better is to let your group follow some of those rabbit trails. Watch the people in your group, and use their behavior and words as a guide for how you focus your time together. If, for example, Susan has been sitting, unusually silently throughout the Bible study, and just as you are discussing the dimensions of Noah’s ark, she says, “Sometimes my husband makes me so mad,” it is time to follow that rabbit trail.
Always put the relationships with the group members over the content of the study. Trust me. People in the study won’t be able to engage with the content if they don’t feel like they can trust the group. But a group with strong relationships that studies the Bible together will see exponential spiritual growth.
A group with strong relationships that studies the Bible together will see exponential spiritual growth.
So there you have it!
But trust me friends, it is not enough just to agree that this is how Bible study should go. It all starts with you. Be uncomfortable. Be stupid. Receive the strange looks from your confused friends when you ask the questions that “Christians should know” and push through to the other side. I promise that it will be worth it!