A few months ago, many churches started their Fall/Winter Small Groups Campaign. Women flocked the sign up sheets, looking for the group that fit their interests and schedules. Names were written down, books were ordered, and the first meeting is a success. Almost every name that signed up was there. We laughed, prayed, met new friends and began to study together. Within a few weeks, the group was smaller, most Small Group leaders expect that they will lose a person or two. Life happens.
Right now, you are probably shaking your head. You’ve noticed your group has already dwindled some. You may be a WM Leader and the feed back from your small group coordinator (or leaders) affirms this to be true.
I’ve tried in the years past to figure out the problem. I have offered weekly studies, and ones that were every other week. I even tried a one a month study for those who are truly very busy. I have led a study on every day of the week (minus Sunday), in the morning, lunch time, late afternoon, early evening, and even tried to do one at the night owl hour. Interestingly enough, I saw the exact same thing happen. Good turn out in the beginning, slowly dwindling toward the end.
Then I attempted to look at the type of study. Thinking that perhaps a 21 week study was too intense, I found a shorter one… only 8 weeks. Same result. Video study? Same result. No video? Same result. Lots of homework, little homework, or no homework… didn’t matter. Same result.
If it isn’t the schedule for the study, or the type of study… there can only be two other reasons left.
- Women really are not interested.
- The issue is the content.
In trying to discover which one it could be, I realized it was actually both. If a woman truly wasn’t interested in attending a study, she wouldn’t sign up in the first place. She would come up with plenty of reasons to justify not putting her name on the sign up sheet. Therefore, it has to be that the study wasn’t meeting her expectation or her need. The content wasn’t what she was hoping for.
I also began to realize that she may not even know exactly what it is she wants or needs out of a study. She just knows that THIS one, and the NEXT one, and that PAST one wasn’t it. In the recent months I have become entirely convinced that our study and small groups have become less BIBLE STUDY and more BOOK STUDY. We are studying books about the Bible, or we are studying topics with biblical perspectives. We have stopped studying the actual BIBLE or at least not as much as we used to.
Somewhere we came up with the notion that we needed other people, experts, to help us understand the scriptures. So instead of studying it directly ourselves, we became reliant on other people to do the hard work for us. But, God has given us all the ability to understand His word. It isn’t a mystery that we can’t comprehend.
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11
The Bereans were not more noble because they had special knowledge or capabilities to understand. They were more noble because they didn’t take someone’s word for it, and instead studied it for themselves.
Because we have lost this habit of studying for ourselves, many women have fallen into a belief that they can’t. They don’t know HOW to study the scriptures, so they don’t. I would encourage WM Leaders to begin a movement of Bible Literacy in your church. Not only encouraging the women to read the scriptures for themselves, but also teaching them how to.
Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, is a great place to begin. Jen doesn’t interpret scripture for you, instead she gives you the tools on HOW to comprehend, interpret and apply the scripture on your own. She takes you through the process, and walks you through the steps in the book of James. This would make a great resource for your Women’s Ministry library, team members or a church wide campaign to increase bible literacy amongst women.