How to Start a Bible Study and Get Others Involved?

Hi everyone,

Have you ever wanted to start a Bible study but then struggled to get others to join?

Were you able to overcome this and get people involved? What worked for you?

Over the years, I’ve found these four things to make the biggest difference:

  • Be Personal
    Genuine gentle invitation (rather than frustrated coercion) goes a long way over time. If people know you care about them and are genuinely excited for the time of Bible study, it helps them build excitement too!
    Sometimes invitations and reminders need to be sent through email, call, or text. While I have never had much success with group texts or emails, personal emails - actually made differently for each person - have made a huge impact! My junior year of college I had some people who only came once or twice, over the first few months of my weekly Bible study. Some of them responded to almost every email while others responded to none. However, even those who didn’t respond asked me to keep sending them when I checked in with them, because they loved the personal connections and still hoped to come in the future! Somewhere between 3-5 of these occasional attenders later started coming regularly, and with those who didn’t I was still able to set up lunches and build meaningful connections and relationship!

  • Be Proactive
    I have found sometimes, it is the simple things that prevent people from coming. So it has been helpful to reflect and see what these may be. Sometimes the place or time is inconvenient. Sometimes people don’t know one another and more low-stress opportunities like game nights are needed to provide easy entry points. And sometimes people need to feel more appreciated or there is an area where the Bible study isn’t matching their needs. Taking time to make a few adjustments can make all the difference!

  • Be Persistent
    Keep praying, showing up, and doing what you can for the people who are regularly attending. The opportunity to serve and to study the word of God with even one person is so incredible and can have a lasting and profound impact! Even when no one comes, spending the time praying and studying the passage myself has brought me so much, encouragement, refreshment, and growth! If you get excited about what you learn during the study, that too will shine through to others!
    I remember hearing of a missionary who, for over a year, shared with others about his Bible study and no one came. Yet, he continued in prayer, using the time to study on his own. One day, 20 minutes in, when he was about to go home early, someone came. From there the study grew, eventually leading to the planting of a church and the movement continued to grow eventually resulting in the planting of thousands of churches. You never know how the Lord might work through your persistence.

  • Don’t Go It Alone
    Whether co-leading or simply having a support system to fall back on, I have found having others to provide input and bring encouragement helps me see things I would miss and address difficulties before I burn out. The people in it with me have become some of my closest friends and mentors from all of our time together in prayer and in the word of God. Plus, the more people excited and sharing about the Bible study, the more people hear and are excited to come!

Have you tried these things when starting your own Bible studies? How did they work for you?

Do you have any other key tips that you found had a big impact on getting others involved?

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Hi @blake,

These are great insights!

As I reflect on them tonight, your last point reminds me that most of the successful groups I’ve started were started with co-leaders.

First, it is so much harder to start a group by myself.

Second, I have a lot of blind spots. Other leaders can see what I can’t.

Third, I bring limited gifts to any community. A diversity of leaders brings a fuller range of what’s needed.

Fourth, each leader will connect with different members in unique ways.

Fifth, they have their own community and can bring people into the group that I don’t know.

Sixth, we can encourage each other.

I think there are probably thirty other reasons why it’s a gift to start something new with good friends. Also… it’s more fun!

I think you’ve shared a lot of wisdom to help anyone wanting to start a new Bible study.

Perhaps I would add another point. It’s that we aren’t necessarily starting something “new.” Of course, we are, in any common usage of the word ‘new’ starting a new Bible study.

But to be provocative, it helps me to think about new initiatives in terms of joining God in his uncommon pursuit. He’s already on mission, and so I’m not creating anything; rather, I’m looking to see how he is already at work, and how I can participate in what he is doing.

I look forward to learning from others!

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Yes, that perspective shift makes such a difference! God is already at work in the lives and communities of those who come.

It reminds me of a week in college when I had been struggling more with sin and was feeling exhausted and more distant from God than usual. I felt so unworthy and ill-equipped to co-lead the Bible study. Yet, at small group that week, God brought about really meaningful conversations with my roommate who was curious about Christianity!

It really helped me to remember that it’s not me at work, but God. It doesn’t depend on me, rather God offers the opportunity to step into and participate in the mission and work He is already doing!

Thank you for sharing this crucial wisdom and perspective! It really helps frame a key aspect of successful Bible studies.

I think you captured the benefits of having co-leaders so well too! It’s also just so much easier to invite others into a supportive community and culture that already exists among the leaders than it is to invite them into a community where no one knows each other or they only know the leader and the culture hasn’t been developed yet.

Thanks so much for sharing! Like you mentioned with the blind spots and different giftings we all have, it’s so helpful to be able to hear and learn from others!

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Hi @blake,

Thank you for sharing some great points to keep in mind as we start new bible studies. I was particularly encouraged by the story of the missionary who prayed for a year even when no one showed up for his bible study. Instead of being discouraged and giving up, he let God use the discouragement to shape his own heart.

Being proactive in meeting other’s needs is so very important. There needs to be a genuine love that extends beyond bible study time, the kind that helped the missionary pray for one year! I am reminded of 1 Thess 2:8 where Paul speaks of not only sharing the message but lives as well. The informal gatherings can be a means of connecting and getting to know others beyond what’s shared during bible study time.

Something else that has been helpful is to communicate the goals and format for the study upfront. Stating the goals beforehand may help people know what to expect, make an informed decision on whether to attend it, help establish a common ground for conversations among new members and avoid future problems. Sometimes people are motivated for only certain topics, certain denominational viewpoints, or are not able to make the time commitments.

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Thank you for sharing this! I hadn’t really thought of it, but this has been a big component of all of the most impactful Bible studies I have been a part of or led. Something I have really valued from my last small group, was the mentorship I had from one of the leaders. Knowing that I could go to him for sound, godly wisdom about anything and even just spending time outside of the group having fun together helped build meaningful friendship and gave space to further process what we talked about in the study and what it would look like to live practically live out what God was calling me toward.

This is also an excellent point. Bible studies and small groups can all be so different from one another, it is hard to know exactly what you are stepping into when you attend without very clear communication beforehand.

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This is the most important thing, isn’t it?

Compare:

  • Starting a Bible study and only loving people at the Bible study

  • Loving your neighbors and never starting a Bible study (but talking about Jesus as you spend time together)

I’d much rather Christians genuinely love their neighbors instead of starting more “ministry” initiatives.

A Bible study can be a great way to gather and care for each other, but we need to search our hearts.

I think sharing our heart motivations with God in prayer is a helpful way to discern why we want to start a Bible study.

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