Two Common Misconceptions When Leading a Team Bible Study
I had spent the entire week preparing to lead my worship team Bible study. The book of Zechariah and I had spent many hours together. I had prepared what I thought were some pretty amazing facts to share, studied a few Hebrew words, and was ready to dazzle my team with my insights, all carefully laid out in the notes I passed out just before getting started.
I shared what I thought was a pretty inspirational twenty-five minutes on the book of Zechariah, but was met with complete silence. The blank stares I received assured me that no one was impressed. I was convinced no one had even heard me because if they had, I would have at LEAST gotten a few gracious nods of agreement or approval.
I waited a few awkward seconds, which felt more like minutes. Still nothing. Crickets. Grasping at straws, I asked a last-ditch effort general question to the group, “Any thoughts?” Still nothing. Despite my best efforts and all my preparation, my Bible Study was floundering and didn’t know how to fix it.
Here are the two wrong conclusions I came to that day:
1. I had to keep talking and filling the space.
I assumed that the correct response to my team’s silence was to try to fill it myself. So I just kept talking. Let me remove that pressure from your shoulders right now—though you should come prepared for your Bible study, your team does not need (or want!) you to come with a long teaching. Most of them already hear a sermon each week. If you lecture more, they’ll quickly grow weary of you and your Bible study. A group Bible study should be a joint endeavor where everyone gets to share their thoughts and insights, not a time for your team to sit and listen to your exhaustive commentary on what you’ve studied. Your team will learn to love this time if they’re able to participate and contribute something to the conversation. People tend to zone out when one voice drones on and on, but when it becomes an interactive discussion with different voices, perspectives, and ideas, everyone benefits.
A group Bible study should be a joint endeavor where everyone gets to share their thoughts and insights, not a time for your team to sit and listen to your exhaustive commentary on what you’ve studied. Click To Tweet
2. People’s silence meant they weren’t paying attention.
I thought that if people weren’t talking, they weren’t engaging. I’m sure that’s true sometimes, but I would immediately start beating myself up if people weren’t responding. I dreaded the silence that followed my sharing. However, as time went on, I realized that often, people are engaging and do have things they want to share but are just too intimidated to share them. Some people fear being judged if they say the wrong thing or if it’s not “deep” enough. To remove this intimidation, you need to make your Bible study a safe place for everyone to share. It is not a time for only the deepest theological insights, but a time for people to feel free and welcome to share the simplest things from their hearts on the topic.
Your team bible study is not a time for only the deepest theological insights, but a time for people to feel free and welcome to share the simplest things from their hearts on the topic. Click To Tweet
Let me tell you three things that I’ve tried to do ever since that day.
1. Share shorter on the front end. I try and keep my opening sharing time around fifteen minutes maximum (though there are exceptions).
2. Come prepared with follow-up questions. After sharing what I’ve prepared, I’m ready with pre-planned follow-up questions. And rather than asking those questions to the group as a whole, I ask specific people by name, not to put them on the spot, but to draw people out and give quieter, less outspoken people an opportunity to contribute.
3. Focus on the heart. There is nothing wrong with sharing something you learned from a commentary, but you want to apply these truths to the heart, not just the mind. If you learn something interesting in your preparation, by all means, share it. But also talk about why it struck your heart, what it meant to you personally, and how you want to apply it to your own life. As you make it more about the heart you’ll soon begin to see your team open up and share more. I promise you, there is buried treasure amongst your team members and it’s your role to facilitate your Bible Study in such a way to draw it out of them.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do you get people to engage during your team Bible study? Please share your tips below.
Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo of Hilo, Hawaii. Check out more of his work here.