Women’s Bible Study Format

In a previous post, I recommended Nancy Guthrie’s Hoping for Something Better as a good Bible study for women through Hebrews.  With both Nancy’s book and Practical Theology for Women, I’ve heard consistent requests for help to transition these books to use in a small or large group Bible study.  I am now writing a Leader’s Guide for Practical Theology for Women, and I have several questions for which I’m hoping that you, the reader, will offer feedback. 

The big question is simply what are you looking for in a Leader’s Guide?  I have always envisioned a fairly simple format for group study of my work — maybe 15 minutes where a leader reviews the big ideas from any assigned chapter and then 45 minutes for ladies to sit around tables and discuss the ideas that struck them.  In a Leader’s Guide, do you need guidance in what you should review with everyone?  Do you prefer videos where the author actually presents the review?  Do you need reproducible worksheets to hand out?

I am thinking through the best way to format the upcoming manuscript on Ephesians that I hope to publish in March.  I loved the old Experiencing God Workbook .  It had the text of the book with plenty of space to write my interactions with the text and Scripture presented.  Is that a format you would prefer for a group study?  Would you use that format in private study? 

The big question is what format will facilitate study by both individuals and groups?  There are many different learning styles.  What is helpful to your personal learning style?  What does not help and actually makes it harder to hear and process the material?  Thanks for any feedback you can give.

12 Responses to Women’s Bible Study Format

  1. kellycowan January 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    I liked the experiencing God workbook when I went through that. What i don't like is leading questions. I skip those. That's usually the #1 reason I don't like devotionals. I think maybe five questions that revolve around what we learn about God and what the Scripture is saying about being important to a response from us in our everytday lives is a good direction. I struggle in our community group with questions that stay about theology and don't get to the heart. But I like discussing the big picture, the theology going on in the text, and then as the questions come to a head, so does the persistence with getting to the heart of the matter with how this is practically impt.

  2. Melissa @ Breath of Life January 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I don't think videos are necessary, and sometimes prohibitive (cost and location). I do like a few directed questions for the leader, as a suggestion. I think that the study guide for Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss was wonderful. It includes a section at the end of each week, specifically designed for group study and really drives home application.

  3. Inspired Kara January 22, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    I agree that videos are not necessary. In my community group I try to find the best questions that use theology and scripture to challenge our heart and practical life. I usually always ask how each lesson impacts a participant's call to gospel-centered missional living. So, I think guided discussion questions that engage the participants' hearts, heads and hands would be helpful. Further scripture passages for leaders to explore would also be helpful!

  4. Dea January 22, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    In my case as a Bible Study facilitator, and having read your book, and worked through Nancy's Hoping for Something Better, I think I would have little problem using either for small group. The question is the definition of a small group. I would say 6-10 would be what I would call a small group.

    The groups I lead can be 20+ depending on the time of year and the topic. Since our Fellowship has a Small Group ministry many of ladies in my classes are coming to the Large Women's Gatherings for more consistent study and fellowship with women. (They have two studies going.) Some are single moms, and students, and there many who are the typical American woman with lots of things on her plate but she has a heart for God. She wants a Bible Study to help her be accountable and she wants to know she is not alone in the struggles of life. Some ladies tell me they need the structure to keep them on track. They like a daily assignment or a least a guideline for the week. I am a grace upon grace leader and I encourage them to come prepared or unprepared.

    I always have those still on milk mixed in with meat eaters. I love that but I have to keep that in mind as we study. I think a good mix of questions is good and we should be careful, those of us who have been in God's Word a long time, because we can have a tendency to get impatient with “leading questions.” My view is that leading questions lead to deeper questions and then eventually to “what am I going to do with this Truth that God just wrote my heart questions.”

    If I were to hand Nancy's book to my classes, probably half of them would do as she suggested (and what I did) and really dig through her questions at the back and THEN read her chapters. The other half would just read the book. That just isn't (I don't believe) what Nancy had envisioned, nor would it be what I would want for the class. If I use Nancy's book in my larger groups, I will have to write questions and direct them to respond to some of the great points Nancy made in the main portion of her book–getting them to talk about what the New Testament readers/hearers needed to hear and how God speaks to us through those ancient words as well. I would want to weave application into the discussion of the text.

    Gently, I want to say to you, for sitting around having a book discussion, we have what we need as leaders; however, for Bible Study format, there must be some places to write about what you are learning–from the Biblical text and from what the author of the study has researched out and presented for study. If you don't have this your book won't be used in larger groups but will instead be a resource for teachers or used in small group formats. Which is cool if that is what you are intending. That is what I assumed Practical Theology was when I read it without discussion questions. I'm glad you felt the leading to take the next step with your powerful little book!!

    I am excited for you. I praise God that you are receiving a greater vision of how God wants to use your love for his Word to bless many. I know He will lead you in the way you should go. Thanks for asking us. I for one will be praying that you will have clear direction and God will continue to bless your ministry.

  5. strongwomenstudy January 22, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    The church I am a member of now typically uses just a normal book format for small group study and creates their own workbook (with the author's permission) for our small group study with questions either made up or provided by the author. However, in the past I have really enjoyed using more of a Bible study format like the experiencing God workbook as it allows you to work through it day by day. Especially when you're working through a book like you are, I think having something to do daily helps to break it down into workable chunks, especially for new or more immature believers that aren't used to daily study.

  6. Homemaker, MD January 24, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    I agree with others that videos are cost-prohibitive and probably not necessary.

    I've led a lot of New Testament Bible study groups (with female med students) and I think the best help are practical examples and applications of the book and a whole lot of discussion questions that can be chosen from to help start the discussion off. Sometimes all it takes is one good question. It's the questions with obvious answers that sometimes stilt conversation, though sometimes they are necessary. Sounds like a great book though!

  7. Karla January 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Wendy,
    I was surprised (and not surprised) when I popped into your blog and saw this post. The Lord had been prompting my mind this week about, if given the opportunity, how would I present|lead a study on your book to women. I have been re-reading Tozer's The Pursuit of God, with study guide. Looking through the guide, I found its format very useful – a section for leaders, with applicable background, suggestions for facilitating the discussion, prompts for your own life – and a section of group questions (that the leader could copy for the group if needed) that I found were NOT lite, and required the reader to truly reflect deeply on Tozer's writing.

    With that said, I will think more this week about what specifics I would find helpful in a leader's guide for your book. And, I am so excited to see how the Lord will use your addition!

  8. Wendy January 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi, all. Thanks so much for your very helpful feedback. Here's what I'm seeing so far.

    1) Videos are not necessary.
    2) Thoughtful study questions are helpful — questions that meet women at a variety of levels of spiritual growth and stages of life.
    3) Area to write in the text is helpful and encourages interaction with the text.
    4) Guidance to leaders for their teaching introductions is helpful.
    5) Reproducibles with study questions are helpful.

    Am I missing anything? Thanks — this is great!!

  9. Rebecca February 8, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    1)Wouldn't use a video most likely.
    2)May I suggest an entirely different format from the usual women's Bible Study? What if the Bible study consisted of a real-life faith testing scenario, uniquely tailored to the principle in that chapter? The ladies would have to use the scriptures and teaching from that chapter (and perhaps some previous chapters) to help counsel this woman with her particular issue. You could write the scenario and then a series of questions that would lead the discussion. Many, if not most of us seek another sister in Christ to talk to during our trials, and this would equip those saints for a wide variety of common counseling scenarios. This would also force a much deeper level of thought and participation than the typical Bible Study as well as cementing the purpose of your book: PRACTICAL Theology.

  10. Janeen February 19, 2010 at 2:32 am #

    Being part of a church plant and, therefore, around more people to whom the Bible and biblical thinking is foreign, I've found most people have a “HUH?” reaction once I've started asking questions. A few questions with these people in mind would be helpful.

  11. Alicia July 22, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Hello Wendy,

    In researching which Bible Study to use next with my small group, I have discovered this book of yours, and am very excited to read it (with or without the group). However, I'm curious if this leader's guide ever came to fruition. I feel sure we can do the study without it, but thought I would ask just in case! Thanks!

  12. Wendy July 22, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    Alicia, it did! Email me at theologyforwomen@gmail.com. I'll send you a PDF copy.