Below you’ll find the show notes for episode 42, The Benefits of Bible Study Homework, from the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Podcast.
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Is Bible study homework necessary?
Our discipleship series continues today as we tackle tough questions about Bible study homework.
- Is it really necessary?
- How much is too much?
- How can we encourage women to complete their Bible study homework?
How do your women feel about Bible study homework?
Do they hate it? Fail to get it done?
You’ve probably heard these Bible study excuses:
- I’m too busy.
- I don’t like to do homework.
You or your women may even think Bible study homework isn’t necessary. Why not just meet once a week, listen to a teaching or video, and then discuss it? Isn’t that better than nothing?
Something may be better than nothing, but I’d like to think as leaders, we set the bar a bit higher.
We may assume our women already regularly study God’s Word during their personal quiet time. Unfortunately, research tells us otherwise. According to the State of the Bible 2021, only 16% of US adults read their Bible daily.
Your women are not studying God’s Word as much as you may think they are.
Let’s start by looking at what God says about His Word:
- Is living and active (Hebrews 4:12)
- Revives our soul (Psalm 19:7)
- Is for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Should be stored up in our hearts (Psalm 119:10-11)
- Is sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10)
- Renews our mind (Romans 12:2)
- Is a light (Psalm 119:105)
Being in God’s Word has many benefits, but how often do we really need to be in the Word.
Is daily Bible study biblical?
A couple of years ago, as I prepared for a keynote talk on Joshua 1:9, God directed my attention to the two verses right before it (Joshua 1:7-8).“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
There is a connection between our success (not necessarily monetary success) and God’s Word.
The idea of meditating on scripture day and night seemed to hint at studying the Bible at a minimum of twice a day.
As I dug deeper, I discovered that the Israelites would have known the phrase “day and night” to mean always. Not just twice a day, but continuously.
Joshua’s success was dependent on knowing God’s Word and obeying God’s Word. His strength and courage came from God through the Book of the Law (which would have included the first five books of the Bible).
Back to the Bible has some eye-opening research.
People who engage with the Bible 4 times per week or more are:
- 228% more likely to share faith with others
- 407% more likely to memorize scripture
- 59% less likely to view pornography
- 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness
And those are just the highlights.
Bible study makes a difference!
If one of our ministry goals is spiritual growth (and it should be), encouraging regular engagement with God’s Word through Bible study homework should be a priority.
How much Bible study homework is too much?
Some of the women in your group may have large chunks of time available for Bible study homework, and others will struggle to find ways to get even the smallest amounts of Bible study homework done.
Offering homework that allows women to go deeper if they have the time can be helpful.
Bible study reading and homework that require an hour every day may not be realistic for most of your group members.
Yet, we don’t want the homework to be so brief that women can complete it easily in one sitting. We hope that they will engage with God’s Word on multiple days (beyond Sunday mornings and once a week at Bible study).
If you’re looking for a Bible study with a manageable amount of homework, I encourage you to check out my READ Bible Study for Groups. The weekly worksheet guides women through the study of one chapter of the Bible each week, and it can be completed in less than 20 minutes a day (there’s a 4, 5, and 6-day suggested pacing included). Group facilitators lead women through the worksheet during their discussion time (women love the discussion time).
How can we encourage women to complete their Bible study homework?
There are many things we can do to encourage our women to complete their homework.
- Set an expectation that homework is to be completed. Some Bible study leaders make the mistake of telling women it’s okay if they don’t do the homework. While we should welcome women to attend if they don’t do the homework (God’s Word does not return void), they will get much more out of the study if they do the homework.
- Send an email in between meetings with a reminder of the homework assignment and a note of encouragement. You might share how the homework that week has been a blessing to you. Or give them a heads-up if there’s a day that may take a little more time. Be their homework cheerleader!
- Provide ample time to discuss the homework during your Bible study meeting. Some of your women will complete their homework because they want to be prepared for the discussion. But if you don’t discuss the homework, women will stop completing it. Leave enough time to discuss the homework, even if that means shortening your prayer or teaching time. Part of engaging with God’s Word is talking about it. Many women aren’t used to talking about God’s Word so give them time to practice.
- Help women find time in their schedule for homework. With rare exception, we all choose how we spend our time, and most have pockets of time that we could spend differently. Social media can be a huge time suck for some of your women. Challenge them to do their Bible study homework before checking their phone. Some of your women might need to get up 30 minutes earlier. Some of your women may need to trade TV time for time in God’s Word. Sharing how you make time to get your homework done may be helpful.
- Offer Bible studies that include homework that is meaningful and manageable. Women will lose patience over fill-in-the-blank homework or homework where the author hands the answer to them on a silver platter. Homework should be challenging, but not so challenging, that women who are new to studying God’s Word cannot answer any of the questions.
In my book, Rethinking Women’s Ministry, I share about my friend Melissa. Melissa’s very first Bible study ever was a homework-heavy Bible study. There were hours of homework, and it was necessary to look at several different scripture passages every week. Just finding those verses in the Bible was challenging for Melissa. It would have been easy for her to give up, but she didn’t. She may not have attended every week, but she tried, and she stuck with it.
Our Bible study leader certainly encouraged Melissa to work at her own pace and never made her feel less than for incomplete homework. I believe it was the fellowship and friendships she was developing in our group that kept her coming back week after week.
We all have to start somewhere.
The goal is not perfection, but growth.
Bible study homework is one way to encourage strong, healthy growth in the women in our groups transforming their relationship with God and others.
Is it ever okay to not give your women homework?
Well… offering a Bible study during the summer is one situation in which you might want to purposefully offer a Bible study option that does not include homework. Knowing that they are going to miss a week or two of a 6-week Bible study due to summer vacations and activities might be enough to deter them from signing up. If your church is big enough, you might want to offer both homework and no-homework options.
If you’re looking for a no-homework Bible study about women in the Bible, consider Ordinary Moments. Extraordinary God. a new 7-week study available at CTA – Christ to All. You can find a review of that resource here.
Today’s Toolbox Task:
- Prayerfully assess your homework policies.
- Take steps to encourage your women to complete their homework.
Bible study homework can produce great spiritual growth and transform relationships with God and others.
Thank you for reading.
Leading in women’s ministry can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! You’ll find support and ideas you can use in the Women’s Ministry Toolbox Community Facebook Group. We’d love for you to join us!
You may also want to read:
Teaching Women to Read the Bible
Three Keys to Consistent Bible Study
How to Be a Great Bible Study or Small Group Leader
Why I’m Tired of Bible Study Books
How to Launch Your Next Bible Study Session
Tips to Increase Your Women’s Bible Study Attendance
Bible Study Facilitator Training