20 Year Journey of Finding the Perfect Bible Study: What Is an Ideal Small Group Bible Study?
When I was young my family moved around quite often within the city of San Diego. We were raised Christian so frequent relocations meant we would often jump around different community bible studies as well. During this period of about 10 years we had the chance to participate in over 15 different groups focused on the Holy Bible and Jesus’ teachings. Through my fair share of experiences of different bible studies, I realized how of all the 15+ bible studies, not a single one was carried the same as another. As what seemed to be working well for one bible study, would be lacking in another and vice versa. So it made me think of the question — if we were able to remove the shortcomings of each one, what would an ideal bible study look like?
One of my first few bible studies I attended was actually a Catholic bible study. My family came across this one through a family-friend acquaintance who consistently encouraged my mom and I to join one of her studies. Though young, at this time my understanding and expectations of a community bible study was open since I did not know too much about what to expect and would not consider myself too religious. Reluctantly, we both decided to join and to my surprise, I actually found the gatherings to heighten my curiosity in learning about the life of Jesus and the Bible. However, the bible studies were only meeting once every two weeks. Personally, I felt this was not enough because the pace of learning was a bit too slow for my interest in learning. It helped me realize an ideal bible study would meet frequently and consistently throughout the week.
A few years later, my family moved from the inner-area of downtown San Diego to a more suburban area. Keeping our interest in wanting to learn more, we eventually found ourselves part of a very welcoming Christian church and community. Naturally, we joined one of their bible studies and this time it was a bible study that was meeting consistently twice a week! Excited, both my mom and I carried much excitement to attend them. However, over time our zeal began to dwindle. Despite the frequent meetings, the substance of the bible study was strongly lacking. The meetings themselves pretty much summed up to food, friends, fellowship. Granted it was enjoyable, but it made me wonder, ‘why attend bible study or church, if it was all for this. Couldn’t I get this anywhere else?’ So, it helped me realize an ideal bible study must not lose the fundamental purpose of why we attend a bible study — to study the Bible.
More recently, through my fair share of poor experiences in bible studies I developed a tendency to be a bit more picky when it comes to what I expect a Bible study should look like. Up until this point, I was looking for devotionals for men that could consistently meet and focused on teaching the Bible. I shared this with one of my close friends, and she began to tell me all about the one she’s been attending for the past couple of years and recommended for me to try it out myself. Since she was so close to me, I trusted her recommendation and gave it a shot but I quickly discovered that this was not what I was looking for. We gathered in a circle going “in-detail” on what different verses meant. We took turns reading a verse and then took turns stating our opinion on the verse and sometimes even referenced different biblical commentaries. I remember leaving feeling so more confused than before joining. A problem that became apparent through the inconsistency in the interpretations being made. So, it helped me realize an ideal Bible study needs someone who can properly teach not with opinion but accordingly to the Bible.
Perhaps joining different community Bible studies is something we experienced. At the moment we may find ourselves comfortable or even tied to it for personal reasons but what is most important is not to settle on one that is clearly lacking. Rather we should continue to seek for that one ideal one until we find one that is ideal. It took me 20 years to find one, but I do not regret my efforts at all. Because what is at stake? Is it not eternal life?