Although the main reason to go to a women's Bible study is to learn more about God and how to live your life as a Christian, another major element is to build relationships with other women. At the completion of a Bible study, all the participants should feel like they have developed a relationship with one or two other women who will walk with them through life. If you are the facilitator of a women's Bible study, there are many actions you can take to help those relationships to develop.
Choice of Study
Choose the Bible study carefully. There are many options available but the study you choose could actually help to foster relationships. Talk to the women who might be participating in the study to learn about their struggles and needs as Christian women. Then choose a Bible study that reflects the needs for the majority of the women. This will help the participants to connect with one another from the beginning and foster the development of accountability relationships. However, be careful not to alienate anyone by choosing studies that focus on marriage or children too often.
Even if everyone in your group is already acquainted with one another, there is always more to learn about each other. At the beginning of the first meeting, play an ice breaker game with the women to help them feel more comfortable with one another and to begin to learn the names of all the women. They may discover connections that they otherwise would never have known about.
Code of Conduct
All women should feel safe to share their feelings and life with each other at the study. It is highly important to establish a trusting environment. After playing an ice breaker, ask the women what type of Bible study environment they would need to have a successful woman's study. Ask them to write their ideas on sticky notes and post them to a large poster board. Ideas might include
Starting on time
Refraining from gossip
Not discussing anything that is said at the study outside of the study
Praying for one another
Sharing "air time"
Then organize the ideas into similarities and discuss each idea with the group. If you want, you can take create a large poster that lists the ideas and bring it to each session to remind people of the norms for the Bible study.
Women bond over good food. Take turns bringing snacks but be supportive of one another. Many women are trying to lose weight and others may have a food allergy. Agree to keep your snacks healthy and allergen free so that everyone can enjoy the snack. If you have bakers in your group, challenge them to find new recipes to transform a traditionally high-calorie food into a low-calorie food. Other women will appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness and feel like they are supported by the group.
Never skip prayer time! This is more important for building relationships, getting to know one another, and supporting one another than anything else you will do during the study. If you have a large group, break into smaller groups to pray for one another. You can have women write their prayers down on a small piece of paper and then pass them out randomly for each woman to pray over. Or, if you have time, you can ask for prayer requests out loud and record them. If the women are comfortable, they can take turns praying over the requests and if they are not, then you should pray out loud for each request. Then make sure the prayers are sent home. Each woman could take a prayer request home and pray over it for the week or you can send out an email with the entire list.
Most women cringe at the mention of accountability partners, so make up a cute term for it and use groups of three instead of two so that it is less threatening. Encourage them to share Bible verses, call and text each other, and get together for coffee. Walking through life together requires reaching out weekly and being there for the small moments as well as the big.
Call Anyone Who Is Missing
When a woman misses a session, make sure to call or contact her in some way the next day even if you know the reason for her absence. Also ask her Bible Buddies to get in touch with her. A phone call is more personal and meaningful than a text. Let her know she is missed.
Get Together as a Group Outside of Bible Study
Contact outside of Bible study is essential for developing relationships. Get together as a whole group for games, movies, potlucks, and birthdays. Also support one another. If someone has a big event such as a graduation or retirement party, then as many women should go as possible. Or, if someone is sick, offer to make meals for their family or run errands for them. Encourage everyone to be supportive and involved with one another.
Post-Study Service Time
Plan a special fellowship night for when the study is completed. The best way to grow together is to serve together. Work together to organize an event to serve your community. Some ideas include
- Making and delivering cookies to neighbors
- Organizing a free clothing giveaway
- Hosting a spaghetti dinner for a local homeless shelter
- Gardening for an elderly woman
- Sewing pillowcases or blankets for an orphanage
Growing relationships takes time and effort. Encourage the women in your study to reach out to one another, but remember that you, as the facilitator, set the precedent. If you make the effort to develop friendships with the women in your group and plan time to spend together, then they will likely follow your example. For other ideas of how to improve your bible study, talk to local churches, like Church of Christ, to see what elements they think are important to include in bible study groups and meetings.