In almost every part of life, preparation is expected. We know when it doesn’t happen.
We see it in professional athletes who miss practice due to an injury as they drop a sure catch or miss an easy shot. We see it in the meeting room when a person’s ideas are dismantled because he or she failed to prepare adequately. We see it when we forget to put gas in our cars. Why should it be any different when it comes to Bible study?
Just because we wish everyone prepared prior to the group time doesn’t mean it will happen. Granted, the people in our Bible study groups are busy people, but that doesn’t keep them from preparing for other things in their lives. The truth is we find time to do what we think is important or of value. The issue becomes helping the people in our Bible study groups understand the value of preparing.
Here are a few practical things we can do to encourage our group members to prepare.
- Teach for discovery (as opposed to teaching for content). How the group time is led matters. Why would anyone prepare when they are going to be told everything in the first place? Create a group experience centered around the group discussing the truths and ideas discovered by the group members prior to the group time. Guide their discovery but let them discover.
- Give assignments. End the group time by giving the group an assignment related to the next session. Use one of the activities in the Personal Study Guide as the basis of the assignment.
- Send reminders. Use email, text messaging, and social media to send reminders to everyone in the group. Give some type of direction in the message so that the group has some clue as to what they need to focus on.
- Ask at least one accountability question in the group time. During the group time, ask a question such as What did you write in response to this question or Did you agree or disagree with this paragraph. Both of these questions assume someone prepared prior to the group time, but leave room for those who did not prepare.
- Suggest ways of finding the time. Share tips like scheduling time to study early in the week, using a lunch time to study, waking up 30 minutes early for a couple of days, and using the Adult Personal Study Guide App on the bus or carpool. Refer to basic time management practices to help as well.
- Share stories. Invite group members who you know prepare each week to share their tips, how and when they prepare, and the value they find in preparing. Reinforce through the stories shared how preparing adds to the group experience.
- Tell them how you prepare. You are most likely just as busy as the people in your Bible study group, yet you find the time to prepare. Let them know you are not asking them to do something you are not doing yourself.
This list of suggestions will get things started. You will most likely think of more ways of encouraging your group members to prepare for the group time. Share them, so we can add to our list as well.
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for the Adult and Young Adult Explore the Bible teams, leads a weekly Bible study group for his church, an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience.