Cooking up a Bible Study - Part 4 : Serving the meal
Don't let bad service ruin a great night.
I'm sure you've been to a dinner where everything was fantastic - the food impressive, the tableware beautiful, the drinks excellent – except that the atmosphere was more suited to a funeral than a party. One person says something awkward, which is then followed by a long, horribly uncomfortable silence. In the end, you have little desire to go back for another meal. Unfortunately, even the best planned Bible studies can end up like this.
To avoid a painfully awkward atmosphere and to create a more effective Bible study, you'll need to encourage participation, keep an eye on the clock, and find a good balance of seriousness and fun.
Encouraging participation is really pretty easy, but you'll need to work on it every week. Make sure you get everyone talking early in the study. This can be as easy as asking each person to share what they have been doing at school that day.
Don't be afraid to address questions, especially some of the simpler questions, to some of the quieter group members. From time to time, you may even need to actively prevent the most dominant members of the group from answering every question.
During the study there will be times of silence. This is not always bad. However, when there is awkward silence because nobody understood your question or no-one wants to answer, then you have a problem. Rephrase your question, make a joke or move on.
If someone has a question, comment, or disagreement, they should be encouraged to air it. If someone wants to suggest an answer or counter-argument, they should be encouraged to do so, with the understanding that the Bible's point of view will have the final say.
Finally, watch the body language, as it will tell you a lot about your group's level of involvement. Make sure members are seated close together so everyone can easily see and hear what is being said at all times.
Keeping an eye on the clock is one skill any study leader needs to learn.
With food, chatter, the study, prayer, and other activities, you could have quite a bit to fit in and you don't want to leave anything important out. I suggest getting straight into the study after a very brief chatting time – you can always break in the middle for some food, or leave some decent time for it at the end.
Understanding a passage and applying it should both have equal importance in any study. There is no point in understanding every single verse, but leaving no time to discuss how this knowledge should change beliefs and behaviour. So, allocate a time to each of the sections of your study and keep your eye on the clock.
Finally, do your best to find a good balance between serious study and fun. This is a youth group, so you can afford to keep things a bit lighter than an adult Bible study.
Occasionally, you will need to make things more serious – ask everyone to turn off their mobiles; stop a distracting side conversation; or talk to a serial latecomer about their commitment - but even this can be achieved in a lighter way.
This generation will often make decisions continuing about an activity, rightly or wrongly, on how much they enjoy it. The process of reading and understanding the Bible can, and should, be both serious and enjoyable, but it is up to you to find the balance.
If you've worked hard on both the content of the study and the delivery, the cooking and the serving, you are creating the best opportunity for your group members to learn about the Bible and to be changed by it. Nice work, but don't let it go to your head. Get ready for Part 5 – Compliments to the Chef.