Thinking about forming a Bible study? Start here.

Hands on an open Bible.

“Bible study” might seem like a well-defined term, but digging into what it means can reveal that people have different ideas about how one might go.

Some people expect a scholarly approach, like dissecting a particular book of the Bible word by word. Others want an opportunity to socialize with new people while lightly discussing a chapter or verse.

Both approaches and many more can work. What is more important is finding a group that works for you and helps you grow in your faith.

“The Bible was intended to be studied with others,” says Jerry Bertelson, a senior spiritual care consultant and pastor at the Good Samaritan Society. “Many sacred texts were intended for communities to engage with them.”

The best way to find a group you like being a part of might be to take charge and start one yourself.

Getting your Bible study started

“A leader should ask, ‘What is the purpose of this group?’ before they start,” says Jerry. “If they can answer that very clearly and succinctly, people will be more interested in joining.”

The purpose can be almost anything, but it needs to be apparent so people know what to expect.

Jerry suggests leaders ask themselves a few logistical questions as well, including:

  • What translation of the Bible will you use? Should everyone bring their own copy?
  • Where are you going to gather? At a church? In someone’s home? In a public space?
  • What time of day? How long will it be? Consider work schedules and evening responsibilities.
  • How are you going to advertise? Is your audience on social media? Are there bulletin boards in public spaces?
  • Who is invited? Once the group is established, will it be closed?

“The leader should begin with their own passion,” says Jerry. “Then find a couple other people who share that same passion.”

Creating space for everyone to share

Don’t stop there. Before you gather your closest peers, consider inviting people from different generations to add value to the experience. Creating a group that will offer unique perspectives can add a lot of color and depth to your conversation.

“Bible studies tend to sort of shift to talking about life experience,” says Jerry. “So, think about topics that span an intergenerational range.”

A leader can go in any direction when choosing what to discuss. A few potential topics to start with include:

  • Anxiety
  • Hope
  • Identity
  • Priorities

These topics will likely mean something very different to each person, but they can act as a helpful starting place and a theme for the conversation.

“Being able to talk about how lives are shaped by things like these can be really helpful,” says Jerry.

And when a group welcomes people from different generations, there’s space for everyone to learn.

“I think younger generations can learn resilience from older generations,” says Jerry. “They’ve been there. They’ve been through life.”

There are lessons to learn from younger people as well.

“By interacting with younger generations, people from older generations might learn to be less afraid of new things,” says Jerry.

An intergenerational group offers more than just different perspectives on the text or topic being discussed. It creates space for meaningful connection with people who might not otherwise have a chance to interact.

“Listening to one another’s stories can be so healing and helpful for everyone,” Jerry states.

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