How do I lead a home bible study?

Some readers have asked how to start or lead a home group Bible study. This is a great question. There are many reasons why you might want to start a small group study in your home or at work. In these days of rising apostasy, some people are finding they are not receiving good instruction at their church from the pulpit or their Sunday School class. Others have left their church and have not found another one yet, but do not want to leave off fellowship with like-minded believers. Some are in a megachurch and this is the best way to connect with fellow believers for study and prayer. (Acts 2:42). Still others are born leaders with the gift and heart for teaching.

First before starting a group at your home, if you are members of a church, be sure to discuss this with your pastor. You don't need his permission to start one, but if you want the credibility of your church and his endorsement, you will need to submit to him for pastoral oversight- especially if you're a woman intending to minister to other women this way. More on that from 9Marks of a Healthy Church folks.

Another note I'd like to stress is that if you're a woman wanting to start a home group study, you do NOT need to remain in the women's aisle at the book store when perusing curricula. There is no biblical command to study only from guides written by women, and there are many good reasons not to. Here is one prime example of how or why it might be better to study from a curriculum written by a man.

The IF:gathering is the biggest phenomenon you may never have heard of. That is because it is an organization founded by women who do their work mainly online. Though there are small group gatherings in real life, of course, called IF:table, these come about because of their organizational and promotional work in the largely hidden realm of social media. In other words, if you're not clued in, you would never know that this is going on:

Every pin on that map, screen shot from last week, is a gathering under the auspices and curriculum of the IF:gathering, called IF:table. IF:table is women meeting up in homes and back yards to discuss the Bible in a fellowship atmosphere with an outlined curriculum. When I first looked at the IF:ladies and their local gatherings a few years ago, there were white spaces on the map where there were still no gatherings being held. You can see how they have gathered steam over the last two years. Now there are no white spaces east of the Mississippi.

The problem is, the IF:curriculum is less than solid. After all, the name IF comes from the women's foundational premise; "IF God is real, then what?" These women promote a social gospel in lieu of the true Gospel among other issues with their hermeneutic. I'll link to the biblical reasons why I've come to this conclusion below. IF is a liberal, questioning, soft 'Bible' study designed exactly for women who are always striving to learn but never able to come to knowledge of the truth. It's a curriculum designed to feed into women's vulnerabilities and capture them in a snare. We are the weaker vessel, and sadly, the success of IF:table proves it. (1 Peter 3:7).

For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

So aside from the biblical vulnerability we have to following the false, how do the IF: ladies successfully get so many women to gather in back yards? By making it easy. Here is their curriculum explanation outline-
IF:table- A place to gather women and share a simple meal and dive deep with people over real stories and Christ centered conversations. A time for a whole lot of laughter – and maybe a few tears – but time spent that leaves us with glad hearts. Full hearts. Grateful hearts. 
We're inviting you to join us by hosting a dinner with us. Once a month in your local communities 
The vision is-
     6 women
     4 questions
     2 hours
     (Acts 2:46) 
Invite your people, prepare a simple meal, and we will provide the conversation cards 2 weeks before each IF:Table.
Therefore the question I was asked, what solid alternatives are there? becomes important. Where can women and/or their husbands turn to find materials that will aid the leader in setting up a consistent, biblical fellowship study in your home?

First let's look at the reasons to have a small gathering in the first place, and what they are and what they are not.

From the 9Marks men, Using Small Study Groups to Cultivate Fellowship defined,
They are not support or counseling groups, and they are not pure study groups. Rather, they are used to cultivate spiritual fellowship together, a fellowship informed by Scripture and pursued through prayer, study, and interpersonal reflection.
I would go to that link above and read that essay from 9Marks and read any others they have at the site. 9Marks is a website dedicated to helping Christians find resources and answers in today's practical church life.

From Grace To You here are some short essays on the mechanics of the small group study fellowship:

Elements of Productive Bible Study: Believe
Elements of Productive Bible Study: Meditate
Elements of Productive Bible Study: Teach

LifeWay has a series of free articles that outline the elements of leading a good Bible discussion at home,

How to Lead a Successful Discussion-Driven Bible Study (Introduction)
  1. Prepare Yourself Mentally and Spiritually to Lead
  2. Develop a Discussion Plan that Works
  3. Handle Conversation Hogs and Rabbit Chasers
  4. Connect Between Group Sessions
  5. Start a Group Strong by Answering Why? Who? and What? First
This is a leader recommended book though Westminster Bookstore:
Iron Sharpens Iron! Leading Bible-Oriented Small Groups that Thrive
Small Bible-study groups are great places for Christians both to interact with God's Word and to share their lives with others. They provide relaxed and informal settings which facilitate growth in grace and understanding. Orlando Saer provides a realistic and practical guide for anyone leading or wanting to lead such a group. This book will give you the tools you need as a leader to see your group thrive.

Now that I have done my duty grounding you and offering resources as to the reasons for and how-tos of leading a small group study in your home, here are a few curricula you may find useful.

The first thing to do is browse for materials at a trusted store. If you've decided to go under the auspices of your pastor/church, he/they can direct you. If you are on your own, then you find that the materials offered at various brick and mortar bookstores or online can be wild and woolly. LifeWay offers much, but much of what they offer is heretical. Picking through their offerings would be fraught with time-consuming danger, even for the most discerning. I like Westminster Bookstore which has a Reformed bent to it. Shopping at their online store one would be less likely to come across heretical materials.

Concordia University is a Lutheran University in Portland OR and branches elsewhere which has a pretty good online bookstore attached to it. You can try for materials there. I have not done a ton of business through Concordia so as always, think, pray, and discern for yourselves.

Also, Amazon is helpful for their reviews as well as their recommendations. One thing that is sometimes useful is that as you browse and buy books at Amazon, the logarithm behind the search function begins to "know" what you like and pairs your search with like-books from your browsing history, your purchases, and others' as well. 'It' makes recommendations for you. If all you do is buy Beth Moore and Lisa TerKeurst books then that is the kind of book that will be recommended to you. After a while of browsing and buying solid books you can then begin to trust the recommendations a bit more and explore them. This is a screen shot from my recommended section:

Here are a few leader friendly, seemingly doctrinally solid, and engaging to the participant materials that yielded up when I searched for "small group Bible study curricula" at Westminster Books and elsewhere. I say seemingly not to cast aspersion but to let you know I have not read these books nor done any studies through them. As always, choose wisely.

The Practice of Godliness Small-Group Curriculum: Godliness Has Value for All Things 1 Timothy 4:8. Jerry Bridges

I have read the Jerry Bridges book The Joy of the Fear of God and it's good.

TULIP: The Pursuit of God's Glory in Salvation (John Piper Small Group, 2009)

For women, by women, there are Bible Studies with Lydia Brownback, a recommended writer from both Challies and Leslie Wiggins at Discerning Reader. This synopsis of Brownback was written in 2008
Lydia Brownback is the author of several books. She served as writer-in-residence for Rev. Alistair Begg and as the broadcast media manager for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. A regular speaker at women’s conferences, Brownback also blogs at The Purple Cellar. She holds degrees from Syracuse University and Westminster Theological Seminary.
There is Todd Friel's Drive By series. The Drive By Theology series has a study guide to accompany it. The Drive By title indicates that the theme is developed in numerous short audio lessons one can listen to on a short drive to work, say, no longer than 10-20 minutes. In the case of DB Theology, Steven J. Lawson is the main lecturer. The study guide accompanies the audio series. It is good for small groups because each lecture is short, leaving time for group discussion, and the .pdf curriculum helps the leader facilitate. There are various uses for the curriculum, as mentioned here in the introduction
How much you learn from this curriculum will depend on how much you put into it. You can go all out and turn this into a year-long project or simply use it as a way to look into a few of the things that catch your interest. If you want to understand more about how different denominations within the Church view the ordo salutis, spend some time looking at their teachings. Whether you are using this as a family study at the dinner table, a self-improvement project, a summer project for your kids to study, or a Bible curriculum for your homeschooler, you will find exciting things as you learn about how God has revealed Himself to us in the pages of Scripture
I also recommend Chris Powers, an artist who makes animations and creates doctrinally solid study guides to go with them. His materials are free. You can download The Word of the Cross study guide here. It is also available in Spanish. The Supremacy of Christ is available too, and it also has a Spanish translation.

John MacArthur's new book Parables is a wonderful read, and a new study guide/workbook will be available on March 1, 2016. The Publisher's synopsis says,
This workbook has been designed to enhance readers' experience of reading the book and is intended both for individual use and for study in a small-group setting.

So now that you know of some of the organizations, people and teachers that come recommended with study guides for small groups, and can continue to search on your own, I hope the Lord leads you to a good one and that your small groups thrive. Fellowship is important and I admire anyone with the gift of hospitality and teaching who bring people together under their roof to exalt Jesus and learn more about Him.

Though the IF:ladies make hosting a groups study look inviting and easy, with their softly photographed flower-laden tables and their 4 easy question cards, but hosting a group is not easy nor should it be taken casually. Also, the ladies make hosting a Bible study look at once inviting and impossible-to-achieve.

Sure. My backyard looks like that.

It's the Lord's own word you're gathering to learn more of, after all. So it shouldn't be casual or easy. But the Holy Spirit gives aid and comfort, leads and directs. HE is in charge of our souls pointing us to Christ, and anyone who wants to lead people to that end will find help from Him. That is a guarantee, because He promised to do so, and His promises never fail.


The End Time: IF:gathering review part 1

TruthKeepers: it a movement of God?

Sola Sisters: Strong warning about the IF:gathering


  1. Elizabeth,

    You have hit on my own passion with this post. I teach Inductive Bible Study to women in my own church, and I can't begin to tell you how incredibly illiterate women are when it comes to the Bible. While studying the Gospel of John, one woman was actually confused over John 1:1-2. This dear sister asked how Jesus could have been at the beginning during the creation since He hadn't been born yet. I was speechless for a few seconds. This woman had been in church since she was a little girl and seemed to have no idea of the Doctrines of the Trinity or Christology, basic tenants of Christianity. Sadly, this is very typical in most American churches today. So many people don't realize that reading the Bible and studying the Bible are two very different things. The joy that occurs when the women in my class explain, “Oh, I never knew that verse meant THAT! That is so very rich,” is music to my ears. The Word is a treasure trove of rich Truth that brings growth when we take the time to dig it out. I pray that your readers will take this post to heart and get going for when we are full of the Truth of God's Word, we indeed find ourselves truly abiding in the Vine and bearing much fruit. Thanks for your faithfulness.


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