Starting Your Home Bible Study Group
By Ronald Craftsman
First meetings of ANY kind are very important. And small groups are no exception. If you are starting or re-starting your Neighborhood Bible Study soon, it’s not too early to think about that all-important first meeting.
Just what do you do? What patterns do you want to set? How can you make the tone welcoming and personal, eliciting open sharing?
Before You Start:
1. Pray! Pray! Pray! For your potential group members, for new group members, for softened hearts, for open schedules…
2. Invite new people and remind last year’s participants. Even if you’ve asked and been turned down before, you don’t know if a person’s circumstances have changed. A personal invitation is powerful; don’t only rely on flyers.
3. Read or re-read How to Start a Neighborhood Bible Study. The NBS method is one that will protect the group from 95% of small group difficulties, so you want to follow it closely. If you are restarting a group, now is the best time to get back into healthy patterns. A good start is so much easier than trying to make changes later!
4. Order study guides. Allow 6 business days for them to reach the West Coast.
The First Meeting:
Arrange seating so everyone can see each other.
Greet each person warmly. Give everyone a nametag. Provide simple refreshments as people arrive. Have extra Bibles and a dictionary on hand for the sample study if you will be doing one.
Begin with 10-15 minutes of conversation during refreshments. You may use this time to ask a low-key, non-threatening icebreaker question to help everyone get to know each other. For example, “What is your favorite Sunday afternoon pastime and why?”
Present the ideas on pages 11-21 in the How to Start a Neighborhood Bible Study booklet- or you may give each person a NBS Guidelines card (ask for them when you order your guides) and take turns reading by paragraphs so that everyone knows how to participate and what is expected. Let the group ask questions or add comments as needed. When a group is not new to NBS it is helpful to use the NBS Guidelines cards instead of going through the booklet. It is always a good idea to refresh memories about the Guidelines whenever a group starts a new study guide or when a new person comes.
If you use the NBS Guidelines card at this time, be sure to mention:
* Refreshments – Let the group decide if they want to rotate bringing refreshments.
* Recommended Tools for Bible Study: A modern, understandable translation of the Bible, such as the New Living Translation, New Century Version, New International Version, and Contemporary English Version.
* The cost of the study guide.
Lead a brief sample discussion as described on pages 22-23 of How to Start a Neighborhood Bible Study or from the study guide you will use with your group. If you do the latter, pick a sample study that is short, self-contained, and includes applications your group will relate to.
Conclude with the suggestions on pages 24-25. Many people tell me they cannot wait to start up their NBS group after it takes a break! Ron & Linda say: “… [Bible study] is such an important part of our lives now.” Even my not-yet-Christian neighbor exclaims, “Everyone needs to study the Bible!”
Remember, a good start is much easier than trying to get back on track later!