I’ve been in a small group with eight other ladies for five years. Every Thursday evening, we gather. Pre-Covid, they’d come to my house, and we’d share treats and tea while digging into the Bible together. Now it’s on Zoom.
Our small group has grown these past five years spiritually, and we’ve grown together as friends. We pray for each other, study the Word, share life (the ups and downs), and regularly get our children together for park dates. It’s such a blessing. Reading with others does not need to be just in a small group setting. It could be you and a friend or mentor. Or you and your spouse could decide to study the Word together daily.
Did you know that it’s only recently we started to see Bible reading as personal? For centuries it was always done in the context of community! For a good reason! Here’s what Dr. Lawson Murray writes in his book Bible Engagement Basics:
Getting together with a micro-community of believers to read and hear God’s Word is an effective way to get to know God and understand how to live in a vibrant relationship with Him. In fact, research done by Phil Collins (Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement) reveals that most transformation occurs when people talk about the Bible with other people. And research done by Stetzer reveals that “through groups, people are inspired to read the Bible more, not necessarily because it’s an expected duty, but because they know the joy that comes from connecting personally with God through his Word.” So if you had to choose, you’re better off discussing Scripture with friends than studying it alone.
Here are five tips for reading the Bible with others.
1) Make Time for Friendship.
It’s essential that you create time and space to build relationships. In our small group, we spend the first 15 minutes catching up on life and the last 15 sharing prayer requests and praying for one another. We also are authentic – our rule is that what happens in the group stays in the group – to allow others to feel safe to share openly.
2) Focus on the Bible.
It’s easy to get caught up in conversation when you gather with others – but you must spend most of your time in the Word and in prayer (and worship if you’d like to!).
It’s also easy to get caught up using Bible study resources, commentaries, curriculum or whatever else. The Bible should be the focus – it should be read and discussed – and rely on the Holy Spirit to be the teacher.
3) Encourage Everyone to Speak.
It’s so vital to study the Bible in community! We’ve come to understand learning from the Bible to be driven by an experienced teacher or one-on-one time with God. However, God speaks to us as a community. Others also bring a different perspective and appreciation for the passage.
Start by inviting God to help you focus and to teach you. Pray before, after and during your time together. Pause when a passage speaks to your heart and pray about it together. When you end, pray that God will help you apply what you’ve read and pray practically for one another.
5) Use Different Translations.
My small group loves to open up all different translations as we read passages together. For example, I usually have the NLT open while another loves her NKJV, another her ERV and another the NIV. After one of us reads a passage out loud, others will chime in with how words/phrases were different, which helps us go deeper with that passage.
Bible Study Styles For Groups
Here are some Bible study styles that have worked for my group.
1) Lectio Divina
This is when we read a passage aloud and allow everyone to share what the Holy Spirit might be saying to them. Read this blog post for more!
2) Reading the Bible together throughout the week and then discussing it.
We’ve found that doing this helps keep one another accountable with Bible reading throughout the week and gives us a lot to talk about! Two great resources for this would be
a. theStory – we have digital Bible reading guides through books of the Bible. Your small group can purchase one and read through the Bible alone during the week, and use the weekly review questions to fuel your discussion.
b. E100 – This is an excellent resource, and it’s on sale in our bookstore for just $5! Work through the 100 essential stories in the Bible using the book and discuss what you read each week when you gather. Bonus: there is a version for children, so you could even do this as a family – Big Bible Challenge.
3) A Bible Study Curriculum
My church subscribes to RightNow Media, and our small group has used some of the series in this. However, we always start by reading the passage and discussing it – allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation before jumping into the lesson.
4) Taking turns leading
There have been times when we each take a week and share a passage through which God has spoken to us. It’s an excellent opportunity for others to get a chance to lead, and we learn so much more about where they are in life.
If you’re not a part of a small group at your church, this is something to consider! Does your church have small groups? Get connected! If they don’t, then why not pray about starting one? You don’t need to be a Bible expert to lead a small group. There are many resources, but ultimately, we have the Holy Spirit to lead these times.
This post was inspired by Dr. Lawson Murray’s post on Bible Engagement With Small Groups. Read it here.
theStory is a free resource thanks to our sponsor, Deeks Insurance.