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Four Principles for Bible Study Leaders

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There are many avenues in which Christians might lead others in studying God’s Word. Whether it is for a small group, church event, a Sunday School class, a men’s group, women’s group, or for students, leading others has is its challenges. Even in a setting like Sunday School, where time is intentionally set aside for the people of God to gather together and learn from God’s Word, leading can feel like a daunting task.

People can all of a sudden quit showing up or they can seemingly lose interest, and you may even find yourself being plagued by apathy. That which began as a wonderful opportunity can become simply another task you must endure. For those who may be frustrated by the lack of fruit they feel they should be seeing, here are four ways to help lead others in studying God’s Word well:

1. Pray
While this sounds like a cop out or even a Jesus juke, we must not take this step lightly. David Platt poses the question, “Why is it that you and I spend hours every week in the church devoted to the ministry of the Word while we spend minutes every week devoted to the ministry of prayer?” We must not approach even a Bible study with a small group of people as if we are the ones who can bring about life and transformation through the gospel.

While preparing to lead others in studying God’s Word, intercede on their behalf. Ask God to add His blessing to the reading of His Word; ask Him to write the eternal truth of Scripture on each person’s heart. Pray that God would attend to His Word by the power of the Spirit, that hearers would be convicted of sin and comforted through the gospel of Christ. Pray that God would use your time with others in His Word to make each of you look more like Christ.

2. Internalize the Text
It is often embarrassingly obvious when someone shows up to lead a Bible study and they are not prepared. It can be an indicator to others (even if unintentionally) that what you are doing is really not that important. A way to combat this is by internalizing the text. This sounds overwhelming, but it is well worth your time. It is amazing how much easier it is to navigate a time of leading others through a text by doing your due diligence on the front end. When the text has been internalized, and perhaps even committed to memory, you will be better equipped to teach and to answer questions others may have.

Most likely there will be times when you are studying chunks of Scripture that are too big to commit to memory given your time constraints. The same aim still remains. We cannot belittle the magnitude of what is taking place when Christians gather in submission under the authority of God’s Word. Leaders must take time to ensure they are handling God’s Word rightly. Regardless of the size of the text, whether you are studying three verses or three chapters, God’s Word must be meditated on “day and night” (Ps 1:2).

3. Ask Questions from the Text
Bible study leaders err when they ask questions that are entirely subjective. For example, asking questions about the group’s feelings or general opinions about a text is not helpful. There is a difference between applying God’s Word to life and catering what we read to fit our desires and feelings. We want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, not in pragmatism.

As you study Scripture, you will frequently find that questions naturally arise from the text, questions that the text itself answers. Showing this to people helps them apply the gospel to their lives. Many times you will not have to go far to find good questions that are helpful in teaching God’s Word and magnifying Christ.

4. Don’t Let Anyone Dominate the Group Time
If you have been a Christian for any period of time and have been involved in studying the Bible with a group, you likely can relate to this. There are people who love to talk and talk, regardless of circumstances. These people usually do not mean any harm. However, a domineering personality can really hurt your time in study.

You want to value everyone within the sound of your voice while you faithfully unfold God’s Word, but you do not want one person taking over. It is not rude to call on others in the group and to tell everyone to turn their attention back to the text. You do not want to shame anyone, but you cannot allow such precious time to be monopolized by someone who will not stop talking, particularly when what is being said is entirely unrelated to the study.

Leading others in studying God’s Word is a wonderful opportunity but also a weighty responsibility. As Paul reminded Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteous that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We will not be equipped for the work of God apart from the Word of God. So let’s trust God and be faithful to teach others His life-transforming gospel.

Eric Roberts serves as an Assistant Editor at Radical. He and his wife Morgan live in Birmingham, Alabama.
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