Why isn’t there a thriving Bible study culture in your church?
People will show up for Bible studies that add value to their lives.
People will stop showing up for Bible studies that don’t add value to their lives.
There is a high chance that if your church members don’t like the Bible study topics you choose, it’s because they didn’t see the value. That’s a bad sign.
Here’s some good news for you:
You can build Bible studies that attract people and build sermon engagement.
First, I’m going to give you three small tactics to change your Bible study culture. Then, I’m going to give you a go-to list of Bible study ideas that will attract members and build community.
What not to do in a Bible study
Before you add anything to your Bible study, you need to make sure you’re not making these common mistakes that keep attendance low.
1. Don’t treat your bible study as a small group
Many churches treat Bible studies and small group Bible studies as the same thing—a recurring social get-together where Christians chat about life (and maybe the Bible). That’s called “small group.”
A Bible study is focused.
A Bible study is about something.
A Bible study informs people.
Think of it this way:
A Bible study is like learning how to exercise from a personal trainer. A small group is like going to the gym and applying that knowledge to your routine.
A Bible study is meant to be a focused engagement on understanding what God says. A small group is meant to help Christian communities apply what God says in personal, case-specific situations.
If you blend the two into a single meeting, no one will continue to show up. People who want to understand God’s word will think the meeting is too fluffy and social. People who want to build community will think the meeting is too stuffy and intellectual.
Keep your bible study a Bible study. Keep your small group a small group.
If you do this, you’ll increase attendance at both.
2. Don’t always focus your Bible study topics on a single book
Here’s a great way to cut your Bible study attendance in half:
Call your Bible study “The book of Romans.”
All the cerebral people will love it. No one else will come.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have a Bible study on the book of Romans. It means that you should pick a theme in Romans—for example, “Forgiveness”—and make the Bible study idea about that.
Then, share a 12-week schedule on how you will study the theme that is secretly structured by the book of Romans.
- Week 1: The need for forgiveness (Romans 1)
- Week 2: Our attempt to earn forgiveness (Romans 2)
- Week 3: How God forgives us (Romans 3)
- Week 4: How we receive God’s forgiveness (Romans 4)
- Week 5: How deep our need for forgiveness goes (Romans 5)
- Week 6: How to become a forgiving person (Romans 6-7)
- Week 7: How to share God’s forgiveness (Romans 8)
- Week 8: God’s plan of forgiving sinners (Romans 9-11)
- Week 9: How to forgive our enemies (Romans 12)
- Week 10: Forgiveness and the government (Romans 13)
- Week 11: Forgiveness and difference of opinion (Romans 14)
- Week 12: The goal of forgiveness: Personal relationship (Romans 15-16)
Notice how the natural flow of the biblical text moves from theory to practice. The Apostle Paul understands that cerebral people need biblical knowledge and Christlike love. Paul also understands that practically minded people need a biblical understanding of love and foundations for that love.
Just because you’re studying a text, that doesn’t mean you have to say “We’re studying the text.”
Study the biblical text. But when you invite people to attend the Bible study, showcase its practical application by ...
… sharing the central theme ...
… and sharing the entire outline for the study.
This will Bible study topic will interest people, because people are interested in having value added to their lives. If you can show people the value by getting specific about what exactly you’ll be studying, they will be interested.
3. Provide snacks and drinks for attendees
Many Bible study organizers make Bible study as unattractive as possible.
“Show up. Study. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t eat. Don’t drink.”
Most Bible studies are attractive to robots, not real, flesh-and-blood human beings.
If the Bible is worth studying, then the studying is worth catering.
Get a fruit tray. Get plates. Get forks and knives. Get a little meat/cheese plate.
Build interest around your Bible study lesson.
Build buzz around your weekly cheese plate.
Interest + buzz = Bible study attendance growth.
Bible study ideas to boost engagement
Here’s the truth:
People don’t just want information from a Bible study.
People want Bible studies that apply to their lives.
These Bible study ideas will help your church to deeply understand modern issues through a biblical lens.
Most Christians have a very mixed relationship with money.
The poor want more money.
The rich struggle to know how to use it responsibly.
Everybody feels guilty about wanting more.
Especially in church—most people just feel guilty when they don’t put enough in your church offering. The church’s culture of addressing financial issues is odd.
Here’s the good news:
Your church can create a healthy culture of addressing financial issues that is based on the Bible and aimed toward helping people create financial freedom and become generous.
Explore this article on Bible verses about money as the place to develop a good Bible study lesson on money that can rescue your church from an awkward relationship with money.
People are often confused about how to give to their church. What access should they have to the church’s financial documents? What do they get from giving? Is it okay to tithe with time and talents instead of money?
Take the confusion out of tithing and overcome common barriers members have to partnering in God’s mission of disciple-making through the church.
Use this article to construct your Bible study on tithing.
Pro tip: Don’t make it a guilt trip about giving. Make it an opportunity to educate Christians on how economic generosity is an essential component of one’s spirituality—of their walk with Christ.
Most people who attend Bible studies are highly motivated to self-improve. These Christians are likely in leadership positions outside the church.
Kill two birds with one stone.
Enrich your members’ knowledge of the Bible and make them better and more ethical businessmen and businesswomen. This will increase their witness for Christ in the workplace.
Use these articles to build your Bible study on leadership”
Pro tip: Leaders give.
Leaders are generous. When you teach your church members a biblical perspective on leaders, you are teaching them that people who want to lead in the church give to the church.
America is moving toward a “gig economy,” and many people have a side hustle.
This means that most young people are entrepreneurs who own their own businesses and do fee-for-service freelance work.
Teach a Bible study on how biblical wisdom guides best business practices, work ethic, and Christian witness in a changing and uncertain marketplace.
Use this article to build your Bible study on business.
Pro tip: This topic, in particular, will attract a lot of young people.
People are blinded by toys.
Marketing is getting better and better, and people are more and more inclined to spend money on themselves.
Teach a Bible study on how having a “stewardship” philosophy of money can free people of self-obsession and build a healthier relationship with money and material possessions.
Use this article to build your Bible study lesson on stewardship.
Lastly, do a Bible study on technology.
You might think that this would draw a young crowd, but this will more likely draw an older crowd. Boomer and “Greatest Generation” Christians have high biblical literacy, but low technological literacy.
Bridge that gap for them.
Teach a balanced perspective that helps people to gain confidence in using technology that rescues people from old-school Luddism and new-school tech-obsession.
Use this article to build your Bible study on technology.
Pro tip: Update yourself (with this article) with the latest tech trends that are changing how churches work.
Themost important factor in Bible study growth
There is one factor that will either cause your bible study attendance to explode or die:
Your church management software.
Are you stuck using a “Gmail thread”?
Are you relying on “church announcements” every Sunday?
Even worse—an ever-expanding text-thread?
If you rely on these methods as your primary modes of communication, your Bible study will not substantially grow.
Here’s the good news:
You can use a church management software (like Tithe.ly’s ChMS) that schedules your Bible study, allows people to register through your church-specific app, and sends push notifications and emails to all interested members.
People don’t look at their “FYI” emails.
People don’t read 5+ unread message group-threads (and they’re annoying).
People do look at push notifications and they don’t find them annoying.
Use Tithe.ly’s ChMS at your church to rapidly increase member engagement, Bible study attendance, and the efficiency of your church.
Your members will really appreciate it, and it is a more excellent and efficient way to steward the resources of the church and carry out Christ's call to rightly handle God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15) and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).
Get your church using Tithe.ly’s ChMS church management software today. It’s easy to sign up, and it will make your life and ministry much easier.
Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.