Charles Dickens’s last novel was The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s fitting that “mystery” is in the title because it is a mystery how it ends. This book was published in installments. Twelve installments were planned, but Dickens up and died halfway through the project. Edwin Drood may have been murdered … and John Jasper may have been the culprit, but no one knows. We’re left hanging in suspense.
Ever leave your Bible study group hanging in suspense?
You’re leading the group, and for 45 (or 90) minutes, you’ve engaged in discussion around the Scripture. You’ve explained the finer points of the passage, they discussed its meaning, and … whoa, it’s time to wrap up. A quick prayer and you’re out the door.
So what’s missing?
We leave our groups hanging in suspense if we never lead them to consider how the passage applies to their lives.
The goal of a group Bible study is not merely to learn what the Bible says. The goal is to apply it. Learning Bible facts alone may help us on Jeopardy, but seeing how to live out the Bible will help us in jeopardy.
Let me offer four ways to help your group make application.
- Reserve time for application. Save the last 5-10 minutes to discuss what group members can do with the truth they’ve studied. Guard that time, because without application, the group study is incomplete.
- Scrap your plan as needed. I know, you’ve worked hard to create an earth-moving Bible study, but if you’ve only got 10 minutes left to cover 30 minutes of material, chunk it. But I’ve still got four more verses to cover. Don’t cover them. Lead them to focus on applying the verses they did cover. Even if you only cover one verse, make sure they leave with ideas on how to live out that one verse!
- Guide them, don’t tell them. Your job is not to tell them how to apply the passage, but you can lead them to discover ways to apply it. Sometimes I’ve done nothing more than ask, “So what? What do we do with this passage?” I engage their thinking. As they respond, I may need to challenge them to consider specific, practical ways they can live out the truth. “Love others more” is a nice application idea, but I encourage them to talk through specific ways they will love others more.
I would share a 4th idea, but I’ve run out of time.
Lynn Pryor is the team leader for a great group of people who produce Bible Studies for Life. He also serves as a transitional interim pastor in the Nashville area.