“Our group is unique and we do things differently,” she said with a little attitude and possibly pride.
“True,” I responded with some hesitancy. “No group wants to be normal or boring and no group wants to be stuck in a rut with their meeting time.”
The challenge in this situation was that this leader had trouble keeping a good balance with her group. They were missing things each week because of no plan to guide or compress the schedule when needed. Time would run out and they would rush through prayer. Often they missed key biblical truths because “there just wasn’t enough time” or they had so much to talk about to catch up with one another.
No one wants to think they are just following a formula. And in many ways each group really is unique and different, so knowing the best way to plan your time may be challenging. However, there are some ways that any leader or facilitator can use to be intentional with the schedule for the group and for her own personal time in preparation for that group.
Regardless of how long your group meets, it is important to have a schedule. You can compress or expand your schedule using the following model:
- 20% Gathering and fellowship conversations
- 60% Learning and discussion
- 20% Prayer
You can take this model and rearrange the order to fit your group depending upon the needs that week. This same model can be used for your personal prep for the teaching and facilitating of the study.
For example, if you meet with your group for one hour, you might spend 12 minutes for gathering and fellowship conversations, 36 minutes for learning and discussion, and 12 minutes for prayer. You expand the same 20/60/20 percentages for the allotted time. With a group time lasting one hour and thirty minutes, you would spend 18 minutes for gathering and fellowship conversations, 54 minutes for learning and discussion, and 18 minutes for prayer. You expand or compress as needed for your group.
In the same way, you can compress or expand your personal preparation time. As fun as it is to grab coffee or lunch with individuals in your group, if you spend 80% of your available time focused on gathering and conversations with group members, you only have 20% for actual Bible study and prayer.
So, how do you stay focused and expand or compress your Bible study schedule as needed in these areas?
20% Gathering And Fellowship Conversations
Dedicate at least 20% of your group time to gathering and building relationships. Sometimes this happens naturally, but here are a few ideas to help your group.
- Plan an icebreaker. These can be leading questions or a short game. It is even better if these questions or the activity ties in with the Bible teaching. Find something that will lead into a natural transition of the study focus for the group.
- Fellowship with food. There is something about having some food available that also keeps our mouths open for conversation. This time for conversation communicates that relationships are important and should be developed. It reminds the group that in addition to Bible study they are also meant to do life together.
60% Learning And Discussion
Plans and preparation of the teaching are important, but they do not always make a successful small group meeting. Depend upon the Holy Spirit to guide the conversations, learning, and prayer time. Here are some tips for expanding or compressing your learning and discussion schedule to allow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
- Consider adding worship music into the learning and discussion time. This may mean singing together, listening to a specific song or hymn, or allowing one of the group members to play or lead the group in worship.
- Review the previous meeting together. Doing this allows members to share insights and learning that has taken place between meetings.
- Give people a voice. Although some of the teaching may be lecture and commentary, allow time for questions and discussion. The answers and discussion with the group is also a good gauge of what people are learning. They are listening, but what are they hearing?
- Interact with the Bible. This is the main purpose of the Bible study schedule. Watch the time and conversation and keep the group focused on the main purpose of the time together.
- Live on mission. Remind the group that living out what they learn is key. You want women to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God, but also develop skills for discussing their faith with others.
Using a percentage of time allows adequate time in relation to the full amount of time you have available. If you need to compress your prayer time, consider using a variety of meaningful prayer ideas to help the group stay out of a rut and mix it up.
- Sentence Prayers. These are simple. Lead your group to pray through various areas of their lives such as relationships, work, school, church, or community. Ask them to pray one sentence after your prompting.
- Prayer Groups. This can help personalize the prayer time. In smaller groups of three or four, have them share their requests and prayer for one another. This allows more time for women to share requests.
- Prayer Journal. Keep a prayer journal as a group. Allow group members to write in the hard copy of the journal or consider keeping this online. They can review and pray for one another between group meeting times.
- Prayer Meeting. Consider adding a special group meeting devoted to prayer. This can be meaningful as you remember all that God has done for your group and in the lives of the individuals. It can be helpful to do this between studies or right before a break in your group schedule.
Groups are unique. Sometimes you have hours to spend together and in other cases you have limited time. Thinking in percentages, rather than minutes, can often help keep the group on track and allow more flexibility than expected.
What are some other ways you’ve learned to expand or compress your Bible study schedule?
Michelle Hicks is the manager for Women, Marriage & Family resources at Lifeway in Nashville, Tennessee. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.