I am so deeply thankful for the wise and godly women who serve in the realm of academia and the church. It is difficult to dispute the lasting and eternal influence that women’s Bible studies have provided over the past several decades.
A Wish List for Women’s Bible Studies
However, I am certain that I have at least a half-dozen, half-completed Bible studies strewn about my bookshelves, closets, and nightstand. As someone who values achievement, discipline, and spiritual growth, this graveyard of incomplete workbooks is not something I’m proud of, and I have often asked myself what might be the motivating factors I need for reading to the last chapter or answering that final question. With that question in mind, and based on my own experience, I’ve made a wish list for women’s Bible studies. Here are three few changes I’d like to see.
1. Be Less Visually Frilly in a Women’s Bible Study
This may seem like an odd request, but it is one that resonates deeply with me. If you stroll through the aisles or web pages dedicated to “Women’s Bible Studies,” then there’s a good chance you will be met with a lot of pastel color grids, floral cover art, and cursive fonts—a far cry from the pervasively neutral tones of my apartment.
I know the old adage says, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” but the reality is that I often do exactly that. When faced with a book that looks frilly on the outside, my tendency is to think that it is also frilly on the inside. I know that is not a fair judgment to make (and have found that judgment to be incorrect in the past), but nonetheless, it is often my automatic assumption.
My desire for less visual fluff on the covers of women’s Bible studies reflects my hope that no one is led astray or distracted from the content of a study based on the cover, as I so often am.
2. Be Less Directed Toward a Particular Life Stage
I have said repeatedly that one of God’s richest graces in my life is the individuals He has surrounded me with – friends and mentors who are mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and the list goes on. Part of what has made these relationships so sanctifying in my own life is the ability to watch how the gospel of Christ transcends life stages, age categories, and marital status. Seeing the truth of Scripture affirmed and trusted by these women has directly taught me how to trust the Lord more deeply in the various stages of my own life.
Christ at the Center of a Women’s Bible Study
Scripture is replete with truth and application for single and married women alike, and we should certainly equip women to know how to apply the gospel to their particular life stages. Scripture, though, is not primarily about my life stage. It is about Christ. It is about the narrative of redemptive history.
I find that I don’t often need a reason to focus on myself. Thus, the women’s Bible studies that I find most beneficial are less directed toward a life stage (i.e. the single woman) and more directed toward a specific set of verses or a particular book of the Bible. Equipped with a deeper understanding of a particular passage, I trust the Holy Spirit will then direct me to know how to best apply those truths to my life.
3. Be Simply Exegetical
While this isn’t altogether different from the point above, I do want to make mention of the importance of studying Scripture less by topics and more by chapter and verse.
In my final year as a seminary student, one of my professors had a fairly strong critique of a paper I wrote. It wasn’t related to grammar, topic, or structure. Rather, he said, “You list Scripture references all throughout your paper, but if someone without any knowledge of the Bible were to pick up this paper, it would not make sense to them. They wouldn’t know what these references mean. Anyone should be able to pick up a paper that includes Scripture and be able to track with it because the Scripture should be explained.” This critique helped me to see that so many of the Bible studies I have learned from having, in large part, been beneficial because of my prior understanding of Scripture. Many of the pieces were already in place.
Assist the Reader
I love assembling furniture. It’s this fantastic challenge where all these seemingly random pieces and parts come together to make a beautiful new structure. However, I only love the process when I have clear directions. I think we can all agree that if you have a dresser with 150 different parts, you don’t want the manufacturer to skimp on directions. Three-step instructions for a 74-step process? No, thank you.
Bible studies should replicate the detailed instructions I desire when learning anything new: assist the reader in understanding how verse 7 builds upon verses 1–6. Guide them in knowing how the framework of chapters 1–4 lays a foundation for chapters 5–10. Do not assume they know the passage.
Exegetical studies should benefit the reader who is reading a passage for the first time or the seventieth time. If I have personally read the book of John over and over and over again, there is only more wisdom to be found in taking a closer, more methodical look at the passage.
I’ve known Christ for the better part of thirty years and I have vast amounts more to learn about his nature, his character, and his Word. The feedback on women’s Bible studies here is simply reflective of my own journey, learning, and style preferences. Of utmost importance is continuing to share with women the beautiful truth that God’s Word will never, ever run out of wisdom, depth, or truth for their lives.