Walk, jog, or sprint? What is your preference? There are definite benefits with each one depending on who you talk to. Doctors and athletic trainers encourage different choices and plans for the people they care for depending upon the purpose. Is the purpose for weight loss or to increase stamina? Or is the walking, jogging, or sprinting preparation for maintaining heart health or to manage a chronic condition?
Just as people choose differently when it comes to walking, jogging, or sprinting, the same concept can be applied to Bible studies.
All churches want to meet the needs of their church and community. And at the same time, every church is different. Some do semester-long studies while others prefer a new study each month to go along with the pastor’s sermon series.
So how does a leader expand or compress the number of weeks in a Bible study? She learns and plans to walk, jog, or sprint!
Walking means you are going to have a longer timeframe to complete the Bible study. It does not mean slow but instead means you’ll be steady in your approach. Walking through a Bible study can be accomplished by most. For example, this “walking” might be a situation when a church offers a Bible study from January through April. They desire to have Bible study semesters in the church. The group is going to meet over twelve weeks and go at a solid pace. This is great when you’ve chosen a ten or twelve week Bible study. You have an introduction week, complete the study at a reasonable pace, and have a final session to review and celebrate what the group has learned. But what if the study chosen is only six sessions? How do you fill the other six weeks of group meetings?
- One easy way to expand your Bible study to the allotted weeks is to use two group meetings for each week of study. For example, you might take the first group meeting of study to watch a video and explain that the following meeting will be reviewing the personal study. You are basically taking each week of the study and giving the group twice as much time to complete a single week.
- Another way to expand a study is to add in weeks for review. This is where the group completes two or three weeks of the Bible study on a normal schedule and then the leader adds in a week for review and catch up. This helps to reinforce the content they’ve learned or gives the learners extra time to complete some of the personal study they’ve missed. Think of it as including a mid-term exam or little reviews along the way.
- A third way to expand a shorter study is to build in weeks for prayer and fellowship. This is much like adding in review weeks except the group spends additional time in prayer and an extra activity to help the group to get to know one another better. You might invite women in advance on these weeks to share a testimony or enlist someone to lead in a time of worship.
One of the great things about moving at a walking pace is that the group has time for extras that will enhance their Bible study and community.
Jogging requires a little more push to it. This is often when a church wants to offer two studies in the spring, but avoid overlapping with one another. The first study needs to stay on schedule in order for the second study to begin on time. This is usually simple scheduling and everything works as it should, except when it doesn’t. What happens when the unexpected ice storm or bad weather prevents a group from meeting? What if the church decides to not to have Bible study groups meet one week?
A few words of advice to keep all at jogging pace:
- Adjust the schedule and keep everyone moving forward.
- Let the group know that two weeks are going to be combined in order to catch up.
- Consider connecting via a Facebook Live or at another time that week to make up the time.
- Skip the week but encourage the group to complete it on their own time.
- Encourage the women to carry on and remind them there is much to learn.
A sprint is fast. The word itself implies speed. But the last thing you want is for women to feel like they rushed through a Bible study. The reality is sometimes churches choose a time where the only option is to run a sprint and condense the Bible study material. The church may want to offer a “sprint” Bible study for women right before Easter or for the summer. So how does a leader compress or condense a Bible study and still offer strong content?
- If facilitating a video-based Bible study, consider the content. Is the video essential, enriching, or elective? For help, you can view our LifeWay Women Catalog online, which details how the videos affect the overall study. If essential, keep the video as part of the teaching. Otherwise, consider using the videos as bonus material for the class and optional for the learners in the study.
- Consider encouraging women to double up on their personal study by doing some in the morning and some of the study in the evening. Remind them of the limited time commitment and that they will not be sprinting through Bible study the rest of their lives.
- Spend time reviewing the content and find natural ways to combine and/or skip over some of the material. It is fine to hit the highlights and leave them wanting more. The beginning of the summer is a good time to do a “sprint” study and then encourage women to complete the Bible study throughout the summer.
- Focus on the Scripture and leave out other examples or stories. Bible studies are designed to help women learn and know the Bible. A good Bible study will direct women to apply the Scripture to life in general, but will also guide women to apply the truth of Scripture personally.
Personally, I love a good walk. Physically, mentally, and spiritually. But sometimes life and Bible study leadership require something different. When I must jog or sprint, I do. The same may be true as you begin Bible studies in the New Year.
Where do you need to walk, jog, or sprint? What other ideas do you have to expand or compress the number of weeks in your next Bible study?
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.