If you lead a Bible study group, what are some of the words you would hope people would use to describe it?
Deep. Challenging. Engaging. Convicting. Hopeful. All great words. All characteristics worth aspiring to. But here’s another one I hope you’ll consider:
You want your group, whether it’s a Sunday school class, a small group, or something in between; whether you lead a Bible study for senior adults, for college students, or for children; you want your group to be welcoming. In fact, the gospel compels you to want your Bible study to be welcoming.
That’s because the gospel, but it’s very nature is a welcoming message. When we were strangers and aliens, God took us in. When we were without a home and family, God brought us into His. When we were without hope in the world, God adopted us as His children. In the ultimate act of hospitality, God provided a way to welcome us through the death of Jesus Christ. God is ultimately hospitable, taking on the cost and paying the price to welcome sinners in.
Because the gospel is a welcoming message, we are compelled to make environments like our Bible study groups welcoming in order to mirror the kind of welcome people of all ages can and will receive from God.
But there is one easy and quick way to destroy that atmosphere of welcome, one way to alienate the people in your Bible study group instead of welcoming them in:
It’s your language as a group leader.
I don’t mean using foul language, though I’m sure that wouldn’t be very welcoming either. No, I mean using words, examples, and stories based in the assumption that everyone attending is part of the Christian subculture.
We do this almost without thinking.
We don’t consider that words like sin, righteousness, Holy Spirit, and many others might not be familiar ones to our whole group. We don’t consider that names like Spurgeon, Lucado, Platt, Edwards, or Luther might not be dinner table topics with everyone. This is the way we speak inside the church, and any time we’re on the “inside” we tend to assume that people should adapt to us.
To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t use words like these. They’re good words. The right words. I am saying, though, that one way we can serve our groups well is by using a word and then offering a simple definition after it. Or even better, asking someone else in the group to offer a definition.
So watch your language, group leader. And as you do, you might find that you yourself need a tutorial in defining some of the words we tend to use so freely. If so, then it’s a double win – you are serving your group well and you’re pursuing your own continued spiritual growth at the same time.