Whether you are thinking about starting a community Bible study for your church, work, or friends there are a few things that can determine how successful you will be. Success can be defined in a number of ways but here we define success as impacting the most people in the most profound way. This will involve getting people to join you in your study and choosing the right content to use with your Bible study. It also involves creating the right environment for people to grow and be blessed while they study with you. Starting a community takes commitment, but you can do it and we are here to help you
Define your Community
Before starting your community Bible study you need to clearly define who your community is. Starting a community without a definition is the best way to keep people out of your group. Many times we think that limiting who is in the community will force the group to be too small, but the truth is that having too wide a definition may actually make it harder to know who to ask to join. In fact, it could also make it less appealing for people to join because depending on who your target group will determine a lot about when you may gather together and how you participate in your group.
One of the best ways to know who your community should be is to ask yourself, “what group of people would make me feel frustrated, sad, or disappointed if I found out they were struggling in their walk with God?” Emotion is a powerful motivator and this is often how God moves on our hearts to drive us to start a Bible study community. Some groups that we recommend are your church, a particular group within your church, your fellow employees, family members, and organizations that you are a part of. Once you know who your people are, it will really help to cater to them and create the best environment for them to grow.
Choose your Bible Study
The phrase Bible study has come to mean a lot more than its words. All too often when people talk about doing a Bible study they really mean doing a book study where they read a book together other than the Bible. Books are great, but the evidence is out: “When we studied half a million church attenders to find out what kind of practices they engaged in, the research was very clear. The number one practice that catalyzes movement toward deeper intimacy with God is reading, studying, reflecting upon, and even memorizing truth from the Bible.” (More, How to Move from Activity for God to Intimacy with God by Greg L. Hawkins.) We all need to take this to heart. Our communities are facing an epidemic of not knowing what God’s word actually says. We can be a catalyst for change by using the Bible in our Bible studies.
Connecting In God’s Word
If you look for a Bible reading plan, you will likely get overwhelmed by all the options. In fact, many Bible reading plans really aren’t Bible studies because they don’t have questions or anything to help your group to engage with each other. What we recommend is to give people a short-term commitment with a long-term option to continue. Building deep profound relationships doesn’t happen overnight, but we need to get our community to commit to starting somewhere.
Bible Study Together has the perfect option for starting this kind of community. Using the printed resources and daily Bible study app has everything you need. Both the app and printable resources feature their Chronological Cross-Reference Bible reading plan. The best way to use these is to encourage your community to commit to doing the first 30 days of the plan together. Then at the end of the 30 days, they can decide if they want to continue the plan or start something else. Once people build a habit of daily Bible reading with others over 30 days, many of them won’t want to stop. Then you have a community locked in for a long-term commitment. Longer-term Bible studies are where deep long-lasting relationships are built and people grow.
Start Your Community Bible Study
When starting a new community Bible study the most important thing your group needs is clear communication. People need to know what it means to be part of your group and what kind of commitment it will require. One of the best ways to get people to buy into your group is to create an identity with your group and a transformational result. An example might be, “Our group is made of the ladies at Jackson Baptist Church who are committed to daily Bible reading. We help each other experience more of God through His word and His people.” Having a clear pitch lets people know what you are about and why they can’t miss out.
In addition to having a clear pitch, people also need to know when or how you will communicate with each other. In-person weekly meetings are one of the best ways to really build a community around your time in God’s word. It is very important with meetings to schedule a clear start and stop time. In western culture, you need to strongly respect the time that you set because it will allow people to know what to expect and allow them to fit it into their schedule. Once you have a plan, use your clear pitch and scheduled time to invite your people into your community.
Impact Your Community
Impact comes from relationships and regular interactions. If you use the Bible Study Together app, then you can create a group within the app and daily share with each other what you are praying and reading about without the need for Facebook or other distracting forms of social media. When gathering together you should give time for people to talk about their lives and then focus on what you all have been reading. If you have a lot of people in your community it may be good to break up into smaller groups for in-person gatherings. Typically groups of over 12 people end up limiting who can talk and share. Depending on the format of your gathering this may or may not be an issue.
One thing that should always be avoided is to create an environment where people come and go, but never have time to visit. Providing a buffer at the end of the gathering for people visiting often relieves stress for when the formal time will be over and gives people some flexibility in getting places. However, it is important to not say the meeting is over, but then to call it “visit time” till it’s time to go. In some groups, it may be better to have an arrival time for visiting and a start time for the study. Having a niche group of people in your community will help you find what is the best fit.
God and Others will Help You!
At every step of the way, find people to pray with you about starting and maintaining your community. God is all about Christian community and the word church really just means assembly. If you want to experience God in all His fullness it will only be together with His people.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV).