Thursday, April 14, 2016

How We Started Our Neighborhood Bible Study

(our original group at my baby shower) 
This isn't the post that I had planned for today, but I've gotten several questions about this recently. So I decided it might be God telling me to go ahead with it and put it out there. Maybe one of you can use this information and take those scary steps forward!

Years ago - several neighborhoods ago, actually - the Lord placed it on my heart to start a home bible study. But I had it in my head that I was no leader and even more than that I didn't know anybody. So I ignored the call. For years, y'all, I ignored what God was asking me to do. As much as it nagged at me, it was just too impossible in my head. I think back to those times and wish I had been braver. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, I guess. 

Fast forward a few years and we went through our first campaign season. I saw God work in the most magnificent and hard ways I had ever experienced. I saw Him come through for us when we trusted fully. I felt His presence when I was more lonely than I could have imagined... walking through a season that not many people could identify with. And as hard as it was, it was really good. 

And then we moved here. 

And again I felt that tug to start a bible study. 

We had just moved into our neighborhood - one that was rich with years of friendships that had previously been made. B started kindergarten and I briefly met a few women through school. But they were already close, and again, Satan kept putting it in my head that I was a nobody. 

I felt isolated as I began to see these friendships unfold from my windshield in the carpool lane. I had just been through a miscarriage that none of these women knew about AND I was pregnant again. I didn't even know how I was feeling about myself, let alone how I was feeling about these other women. 

Yet God continued to press me. 

And eventually I began to whine to Him about how nobody liked me, so stop nagging me already about that Bible Study. But one day I felt a nudge in my heart, "get out of the car, Becky." 

And so I did. 

I got out of the car and immediately found this group of women who were, against all the initial thoughts in my head, A W E S O M E! At some point I was at the park with one of them and she mentioned to me how she wanted to go to Bible Study but her church is way down town so it just wasn't feasible. I felt my heart beating fast and I casually threw out the question : "What if we met at my house on a weeknight?" 

Y'all, she didn't reject me. Despite all the scenarios in my mind where this conversation would take place, I vividly remember pushing our kids on the swings (my nightmare) and talking about bible study. She didn't really even know me. And she was like, "yes!" 

Not only did she think it was awesome, but she ended up pursuing me. I truly believe that God placed her in my life so that this would actually get started. So that I was held accountable to actually trust. 

It would have been so easy for me to forget about it. For me to continue to push it into the outermost parts of mind and think about it "later". And then years from now I'd still be dreaming of it. But God knew that not only did I need it in that season, but the other women did also. 

To make a long story short, the Lord has shown up BIG over the last two years of Bible Study. There have been secrets shared, baggage lifted, weights carried, tears shed and laughter that fills our souls for days. It has been challenging, encouraging and life-giving for all of us. There are seasons that are busier than others and we change up our way of doing it. There are women who have been added and women who have had to take a break for a season or two. Everyone is welcome. 

I have a hunch that if you've made it this far, you just might be feeling a little tug on your heart too, but it feels like so much is holding you back. The weight of fear... fear of rejection, of offending someone, of seeming like you've got it all together when - of course - you don't. Can I share something with you? If God is behind you, these things aren't your responsibility. The bible tells us that He goes before you and, I mean, you are wanting to start a Bible study, right? 

Just believe Him and be bold. 

So here are a few tips to starting your own bible study, if you're praying about it and feel the tug on your heart.

1. Be brave. Take a second right now and right down the names a two or three women that you know in your community. It's scary to start mentioning the idea to others, but just do it. Start to throw it out there. Pray for God to put you in situations with people that you know would be into the idea. God blessed me with THREE women women who latched onto the idea and then basically did the rest of the inviting. The first night that we met, it was my first time to meet a few of the women there. It was a kindred community, and that's all that mattered. Monday nights ended up being the best for our group and we've stuck with that since the beginning. Yours will most likely look different. We meet at 7:30 after the husbands are typically home, but we almost always end up having at least one woman needing a sitter. My kids are in bed and sometimes they wander downstairs (but they've been threatened so they generally don't). Make it work for your community!

2. Choose a study that promotes vulnerability - especially when you're first getting started. We began with Restless. I cannot recommend that study enough! It really meets every woman where they are in all stages of life. It also promotes awesome conversation and provides videos so that you don't even have to "teach", just facilitate the conversation! It sounds scary, but I promise that if the women show up, they are longing for these conversations. I have more recommendations of what we've done at the bottom of this post! ***Your church might have DVD's available to check out through the women's ministry! It's a great place to start!***

3. Get talking. If you need help guiding conversation, IF: Table questions are such a great way to start. They sort of cut through the small talk and get to the hearts of everyone there. There are so many times where we get off track and end up talking about something that happened at school, but we always aim to get back on point. This takes a little practice and honestly, when there is something hard going on, I find that we do need to stop and focus on that for a while. And that's okay. Every season and every study will be different. The biggest thing is to provide a safe environment for women to wrestle with their faith, share their struggles and be encouraged that they are not alone. After all, that's probably want you are wanting out of this, and most likely that's what they want too!

4. Switch it up. Looking back on it, we've almost always alternated between a more substantial bible study and a book. For example, during the holiday season we tend to a do a book and meet only 4-5 times. But right now we're going through a study that is 9 weeks. Everyone is in different seasons and in our experience, this helps keep everyone engaged. The last thing I want anyone to do is burn out!

5. Remember that it does not have to be perfect. When we first started, Jeff was traveling all the time back + forth to Austin so we always met at my house. I think this is probably the best way to start. But this semester is the first time where we've moved houses and that's been a nice change of pace too (at least, for me!) There are nights where my house is less than cleaned up and I only have tap water and apple juice to offer for people to drink. There are nights when we all come in our pj's. Then there are nights where we cook dinner and sit around the table and eat - although those are rare. Right now we've been sitting outside under twinkle lights and enjoying the spring weather (minus the june bugs). Provide a comfortable environment, but don't get hung up on this! Think about what blesses you when you walk into someone else's home. Is it sparkling countertops? Chances are it's not! Snacks, a smell-fantastic candle and some worship music are a great place to start! Light a fire if it's chilly, provide blankets to make it cozy. Do your 15 minute refresh and you're ready to go. The conversation and the women are what you want to be focused on, not the perfect place to sit. If the time spent together is beautiful, comfortable and life-giving, the environment will naturally feel just so.

God only knows what I missed out on by delaying my obedience, y'all. And, as always, He took care of all of the details! He is so faithful and has provided such a sweet and beautiful place of fellowship and community through our bible study. I cannot encourage you enough to bite the bullet if it's been on your heart! I promise you won't regret it!!!! 

Here's the list of other studies we've done in the two years we've met. 

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