January 15, 2020

Eight Lessons From a Reluctant Bible Study Leader

Fifteen years ago, I was talking on the phone with my sister, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my cousin, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

A few days later, I was talking with my church friend, and we got on the subject of Bible study. “I need to be in a group of women,” she told me. “I need the accountability. I won’t do it on my own.”

At which point, God had my attention.

A few weeks later, my church friend and I headed up a planning meeting at church, and a few weeks after that, we held the first session of Proverbs 32 women’s Bible study. (No, we’re not trying to add to Scripture; we just wanted to convey that while we were striving to reach the Proverbs 31 standard, we weren’t there yet. We should have called ourselves Proverbs 30, but the “Sayings of Agur” didn’t seem to convey our mission. So we went with Proverbs 32…P32 for short.)

Now, my Bible study sisters and I are deep into our 15th (!) season. I can hardly believe we've been at it this long. I can hardly believe it got started in the first place. Because I was possibly the least-qualified woman in the world to lead a women's Bible study.

But God has a way of working with the least.

If you're sensing God leading you to facilitate women's Bible study, here are a few lessons I've learned along the reluctant way:

1. With God’s help, you can do what you can’t. I was not qualified to facilitate a women’s Bible study. I am neither theologian nor Bible scholar. I am an introvert. I’d never even done a full-on Bible study before, much less headed one up.

Now I’ve learned that if God calls you to it, He will equip you for it. I brought plenty of weakness to the Bible study table—and there God showed His perfect power (2 Corinthians 12:9). Many weeks, after I’ve told God, “I can’t do this. I need You to do it through me and for me,” I’ve driven home from church praising God for the honor and thrill and wonder of seeing Him work.

2. You can love what you don’t even know you like. On a list of spiritual blessings from my entire life, P32 is very near the top. But before I wandered blindly in, doing or leading women’s Bible study wouldn’t have been on the list at all. Our God of surprises sprung this passion on me when wasn’t even looking for it.

3. Silence does not equal disinterest, boredom, or anger. In P32’s early days, I agonized that ladies who never spoke up didn’t like the material or didn’t like me—or both. But after more than one of them told me privately, “I love this study and this group. I’m getting so much out of it,” I quit worrying about my non-talkers. Someone can be engaged and enthusiastic without saying a word.

4. Pray. (Wisely.) From the beginning, we knew we needed to pray with and for each other. But in order to dedicate most of our time to studying and discussing the Word, we started using prayer cards. Every week, our members wrote their names on index card and, if they wanted to, a praise or a request. I shuffled the cards and handed them back out, and each woman committed to praying for the sister whose name was on the card. We also formed a closed Facebook group, open to all members of P32 but not to anyone else—a safe, private place for us to all share in one another’s joys and sorrows.

5. Do your best to choose a study that’s right for your group, but don’t get hung up trying to find THE right study. Every year, God has graciously guided me toward and then confirmed a study I felt was a good fit for us. But I always come back to this truth: as long as we are digging into His Word and using careful, humble teaching to do it, Jehovah will bless and inform us. He is not so stingy as to leave us just because we don’t choose one “right” study. He is bigger and more generous than that.

6. Growing pains are normal, but they probably won’t last long. We had seven ladies our first season of P32, and it was so special we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We started showing and sharing it, and others began saying, “I want that.” Twenty women showed up at our first meeting that second year. We revamped our format to accommodate the growth, but it was unsettling. “I just feel like crying,” one our founding members told me, and I shared her grief. We went back to our original structure and quickly settled into a new normal with a larger group. It wasn’t the same, but it was still good.

7. You will scarcely know a sweeter privilege on this earth than that of watching—before your very eyes– another woman grow in her knowledge of God and her love for Him. The gift of having a fellow sister in Christ tell you that because of what she’s learned in a study, she chose differently or reacted differently or thought differently or felt differently than she “normally” would have is immeasurable. It is worth every worry, every difficult morning, every beyond- ourself moment. To borrow from 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my [study sisters] are walking in truth.” My heart breaks with happiness just thinking about it.

8. You really can't imagine the joys that are set before you. That's because "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

A version of this post was originally published here


  1. This intrigues me. I was part of a group at our church that was a temporary program. We planned on staying together but it just hasn't happened. I'd love to have a bible study but like you don't think I'm qualified. I feel everyone knows more than me. Maybe I will take the leap. Can I ask how often you all meet? Are you all in the same "stage" of your lives? I know schedules are always an issue but my kids are getting older and feel I have more flexibility than those of younger parents.

    1. Hello!! I'm so sorry for this delayed response! Bless your heart...I didn't and still don't feel qualified, either! Thankfully, God fills in the gaps week after week. "My" ladies and I (about 20 of us) meet just once a week, on Tuesdays from 9:30 to 11. We have young moms with babies (two twin boys get shuffled around on various laps while the older kids are cared for by homeschool teenagers) all the way to grandmas in their 70s. In case it's helpful, here's a link to a more details "how-to" piece I wrote on starting a women's Bible study: https://guiltychocoholicmama.blogspot.com/2017/04/so-you-want-to-start-womens-bible-study.html. And do not hesitate to email me directly at spencerejoy@gmail.com if you have other questions or would just like to chat about this. I am always eager for other women to experience the joy I've had through this kind of ministry, so I'm glad to help make that happen in any small way! :)
      ~ Elizabeth/GuiltyChocoholicMama


I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!