Unless you’ve been a guest in a Bible study group lately, you’ve probably forgotten what it’s like to be an outsider. It’s not fun.
Today people are visiting your church’s worship service long before they attempt to visit a Bible study group. Guests have all kinds of questions about what takes place in our groups. Although we know what happens, they do not. Unanswered questions lead to anxiety. Anxiety is a barrier to visiting a group. Not visiting a group leads to lower attendance. Lower attendance in groups leads to people falling away from active membership because they aren’t fully assimilated.
Here are 10 questions that are on the minds of the guests who may actually take a chance and darken the door to your group’s Bible study:
- Will I be asked to read out loud? The answer should be “no.” Never ask a guest to read out loud. You can ask for volunteers to read specific verses or portions of Scripture, but don’t put a guest on the spot. They may be unfamiliar with the Bible, and they may struggle with some of those hard-to-pronounce names. Just try asking a guest to read a verse with the name Mephibosheth in it and see what happens.
- Will someone ask me to pray in front of the group? This answer should be “no,” too. Like #1 above, don’t put a guest on the spot. You’d be surprised how many people are uncomfortable praying out loud and in front of others. The fear of public speaking is one of the highest ranking fears people have.
- How can I locate the passage being studied without looking stupid? Some guests will not be familiar with the order of the books in the Bible. They struggle during the sermon to find the passages and verses referenced by the pastor. Be sensitive to that and say things like, “Turn to Psalms 29…the way to find it is to divide your Bible in half…Psalms is about the halfway point.” Or say something like, “We’re studying from the book of 1 John…you can find it by going to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, and moving 3 books to the left.”
- Is everyone in the group smarter than me? Guests may assume that your group is full of Bible scholars – and it may be. That’s very intimidating for a guest when they aren’t as familiar with the Bible as you or your group members are. If a guest happens to answer a question incorrectly or mispronounces something, don’t call attention to it.
- Will it be any good, or will I be bored? Some people are afraid of getting a history lesson rather than help with their marriage – or advice on raising children – or learning ways they can deal with their boss – or how they could effectively confront someone. Make sure that as a teacher you connect the Bible to life and demonstrate how the Bible speaks to life today. Explain the history and background of the people and places mentioned in the Bible study to help people know the context, but don’t stop there.
- Since I already attend worship, why should I go to a Bible study group? Some guests will mistakenly think that attending worship is all they need to do. Help them see the value of investing another hour of their time in a Bible study group with a group of their peers.
- What options do I have? One size usually doesn’t fit all, so having multiple options for guests (if possible) is a good thing. Promote options and encourage guests to select a group to “take for a test drive.” Regularly promote your Bible study options through the church’s website, worship bulletin, and a flyer given to guests and the guest information desk.
- Do they really want me in there? Sometimes guests aren’t looking for a Bible study, they’re looking for friends. The question that is on the top of their mind is whether or not they will be embraced and accepted into a group. My wife and I had this question on our mind several years ago as we looked for a new church home after relocating to the area in which we now live. Unfortunately for us, the answer on most Sunday mornings was “Not really.” Group members didn’t speak to us, teachers didn’t follow up with us, and what should have been a joyful process turned into a very difficult time in our lives.