Inspired by women in the Bible
Lay worker Bronwyn Coveney leads Alabaster Box, a young women’s fellowship aimed at 21 to 45-year-olds in the Teddington Methodist Church Circuit.
We have different formats each month, but they all begin with 20-30 minutes of chatting and fellowship followed by prayer. Afterwards we engage with the activity for the night which could be a Bible study, creating art inspired by Scripture, talks from notable speakers and organisations, or a bring and share meal.
Our favourite studies have come from Lifebuilder Bible Studies (IVP). Naturally the ones that we have prioritised for study have been Women of the Old Testament and Women of the New Testament. Having personally used some of the Cover to Cover Bible study guides (CWR), we may explore these in the future.
It’s hugely important for all Christian women to remember how inspirational the first Christian women were. We can draw a lot of strength and comfort from them. The Alabaster Box group has always been heartened by how the women we read about in the Bible have overcome the challenges they’ve faced – especially as they echo many of the problems we face today – by turning their eyes to the Lord, worshipping him in dark times and drawing strength from him. An encouraging example for us all.
Community Bible studies
Four different church denominations are represented at the Bible study held at Brickhill Community Centre in Bedford, which uses material from the international charity Community Bible Study (CBS). The 16-strong group is led by Debbie Thomas.
CBS provides training, support and the study material, which we have printed locally. Over a year we generally cover 30 lessons consisting of several questions which we take home and answer. We then come together on a Tuesday morning and, after refreshments, discuss our answers. Afterwards, we listen to a short talk on the passage and usually pray before we leave. At home we read the commentary in our study books before moving on to the next lesson.
If we don’t understand a point when studying at home, we may get the answer from the discussion, talk or commentary. The questions and commentary are written by different people and the talk is given by someone local, who again gives different insights into the passage. The studies look at what the Bible says, not what a particular denomination teaches and they are fantastic for bringing people from different churches together, stressing that we are all one body. CBS’ passion is “Everyone in the world … in the Word”.
Deep, loving relationships with one another, based on trust, have built up over time which has had the effect of deepening our relationship with God and our confidence (faith) in him, and allowing the transforming grace of God free rein in our lives.
Find out more about Community Bible Study at www.cbsuk.org
Women who are part of the informal women’s ministry at The Mission Church, Morriston in Swansea are also encouraged to join a discipleship group, says Dawn Fearn, who currently meets with two other women on a monthly basis.
In our study group, I have used Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes (Crossway) and Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden (IVP, USA). These are fantastic and solidly based in Scripture.
Discipleship Essentials gives a very useful structure and in-depth study, and they both open up topics of conversations.
We like a variety of material
Jane Follett, who helps to lead the weekly Manna women’s group at The Church of Christ the King, Kettering, describes how they choose their resources.
We look at the year as a whole and bear in mind what we have done in recent years, where we feel the Holy Spirit is leading, and also what we will be looking at for our [annual] Winter Glory conference.
We like to have a balance of thematic or Bible book and Old/New Testament teaching. Last term it was the book of Ruth, in the spring term Acts, with particular reference to the persecuted Church. In the autumn term of 2016 we looked at John, closing with an Advent special meditation. Prior to that we spent the best part of a year looking at the overarching story of convenant and redemption across the Bible.
Sometimes we use a small group resources book from CWR or Scripture Union, or a more detailed Bible commentary. Once a year we have a DVD or internet-based teaching. This gives the teaching team a break!
I’d suggest that having a good balance such as looking at characters, at Jesus, at books, at themes and a variety of resources keeps your Bible studies fresh.
Learning from Tom Wright and others
Sylvie Lowe is the pastoral care co-ordinator at Leigh Road Baptist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex and leads The Lounge, a weekly term-time group for women.
After an informal time of coffee, cake and fruit (the healthy option!) our study usually starts with a DVD followed by a discussion and prayer. Our aim is to grow in our faith together and so we use resources that take us a bit deeper than maybe a Sunday sermon might. Our discussions also help us to encourage one another.
Philip Yancey and John Ortberg have always been popular. Recently we used Tom Wright’s DVD based on his recent book Surprised by Hope (SPCK). Both the DVD and the guide (Zondervan) helped to give a clearer picture of what happens when we die, what the Bible teaches and also the various ‘add-ons’ the Church has picked up along the way. We had some good discussions.
We are currently using Dallas Willard’s DVD Hearing God (IVP, USA). We all appreciate his teaching, but we take our time as he packs a lot into each session.
DVDs from popular authors
Karen Joyce is on the leadership team of Zoe, the women’s Bible study group at Witard Road Baptist Church in Norwich.
There are a number of resources we have used in the Zoe group that have been excellent in terms of teaching and ministry. Some of the many DVD series we have used over the years include Christine Caine’s Unashamed and Undaunted (Zondervan); The Shelter of God’s Promises by Sheila Walsh (Thomas Nelson); Lysa Terkeurst’s What Happens When Women Say Yes to God (Harvest House) and Twelve Women of the Bible (Zondervan); The Magnificent Obsession (Zondervan), Heaven: My Father’s House and The Vision of His Glory – all by Anne Graham Lotz (check out www.annegrahamlotz.org); Joyce Meyer’s The Believer’s Authority (Joyce Meyer Ministries), and Louie Giglio’s Worship: That Thing We Do (286 Store) and Goliath Must Fall (Thomas Nelson).
All were excellent and gave us an opportunity for ministry and extra teaching. As we have a very large group, working from Bible study books is not practical so DVDs and in-house teaching work well for us.
Digging into Scripture
Lilian Allen meets with her monthly Bible study group in Belfast where they have recently started a Precept Upon Precept study on the Gospel of John using the Inductive Bible study method.
One of the great strengths of the Inductive Method is that the Bible is used as the primary source. By that I mean that you do not turn first to books or commentaries to understand the text, but dig out the truth of the passage for yourself using three steps: observation, interpretation and application.
Precept Ministries provide a great range of this type of study suitable for different groups or individuals. We each have the same study manual and will have completed about five hours of personal study before we come to the class. There are about 12 of us in the group, mostly women, and we have committed ourselves to the two years it will take to complete the course.
We have just finished the overview of the Gospel of John and we are excited, as we now know why John wrote this book. He tells us in John 20:31 that “… these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of God and that believing you may have life in his name.”
John’s love for the people and his desire that they would know Jesus has already affected us. We are excited to learn what God would say to each of us through this book.
We discuss the passages together and this is a very special time. The fact that everyone has spent time studying and applying the teaching to their own lives before class meets means that we glean insights and learn from one another.
We have often shared that because we are digging in Scripture for ourselves we are thrilled at what we learn, and we do remember it. We endeavour to apply what God has revealed to us through his Word and seek to walk worthy of our calling in Christ.
For more information about Precept Ministries visit www.precept.org.uk