begin with basics

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“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

When considering how to start a Catholic Bible study in your parish, things don’t get any more basic than beginning with prayer. Before you do anything else, take a few minutes to ask for God’s guidance as you make decisions about particulars related to the type of Bible study that you want to establish.

Turning to God’s Word Bible studies are patterned after the Church’s centuries-old practice of lectio divina, a method of reading Scripture that sees God’s Word as an invitation to deeper dialogue between God and Man. Our website offers more information about lectio divina as well as an in-depth explanation of how lectio divina is foundational to the Turning to God’s Word approach to Scripture. When we pray before beginning to read the Bible we are respectfully acknowledging that we’re accepting God’s invitation. It doesn’t matter whether our prayer is formal or informal. Many established Catholic Bible study groups open with some version of the well-known prayer to the Holy Spirit, and that prayer is equally suitable when asking for divine assistance to discern questions related to starting a study. There is no better way than prayer to begin with the basics.

what kind of Bible study group interests you?

The first decision is whether you want to approach Bible study on your own or as part of a group. Many people find that participation in a group is more fruitful than taking a solo approach. There are two reasons for this: 1) We’re more likely to remain committed to a Bible study if others are involved, and 2) It can be difficult to have an inspiring discussion by ourselves. Other people help us to open our minds to new and interesting viewpoints and interpretations. Turning to God’s Word Bible studies are designed to work best when private preparation is paired with group discussion. We understand that not everyone can meet this ideal all of the time, so our studies include accommodations for individuals whose busy lives make it difficult for them to do a lot of advance preparation or even to join a group. We strongly recommend doing some preparation in advance and associating with a group whenever that’s possible, but if you’re weighing doing Bible alone or not doing Bible study at all, take heart: Turning to God’s Word offers suggestions for making efficient use of your time doing minimum homework. Look under keys to great discussions, as well as tips for starting your own Bible study for one.

how are you going to promote your study?

An established Bible study group probably already has a promotional plan in place. First-time Bible studies usually need some help getting off the ground floor. If you want your study to be associated with your parish, be sure to show your study materials to your pastor and ask for his support. Turning to God’s Word Bible studies carry an imprimatur, so priests usually are happy to promote our materials. Submit an item for your parish bulletin and parish website, and put up a poster in a prominent place in your church or parish hall. Be sure to include particulars—when and where and what time your group is going to meet, what book of the Bible you’re studying, fees for participants, and contact information.  Visit parish groups (Knights of Columbus and the Altar and Rosary Society) to introduce your study to more parishioners. Encourage members of your study to bring visitors to meetings, and issue personal invitations to your friends, family members, neighbors—anyone you think might be interested.

when, where, and how often are you going to meet?

  • Many who express interest in Turning to God’s Word Bible studies already are members of a prayer group or other faith-sharing group. In this case, your group probably will continue to gather at the same time and place.
  • If you’re thinking about starting a new group, you’ll need to decide what time and place will be most convenient for the demographic you want to serve. We know of young mothers who meet for Bible study while their children are in afternoon play groups, a men’s group that meets for breakfast, and a young adult group that meets in a restaurant. Parish groups usually meet in their churches in the morning or evening—or both. Some smaller groups meet in private homes. Professionals often arrange to get together for Bible study over the lunch break.
  • If you’re planning to meet at your church, obtain permission to use the space on a regular basis and make sure that your group is included on the parish calendar of events.
  • Most groups meet weekly, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. If meeting once or twice a month is a better fit for your group, that’s what you should do.

who’s responsible for setting up and cleaning up?

If you’re studying in a restaurant or coffee shop, this isn’t an issue. If you’re meeting in your parish church, you many need to set up or take down tables and chairs. If your group is large, consider arranging for some members to come early or stay late to help.

do you want beverages or food?

Some groups wouldn’t dream of meeting without coffee, others find any food or treats to be disruptive. Decide what will work best for your group, and develop a plan to cover costs and to schedule any necessary preparation and cleanup. Some groups that don’t regularly serve food still like to have potlucks or parties to celebrate holidays or the completion of a study.

who’s in charge?

If you’re setting up a new Bible study, others will assume that you’re in charge. Established groups probably already have someone who handles such details as scheduling, setting up the space, collecting money, ordering materials, notifying members of cancellations due to bad weather. If you’re not interested in taking on all of those responsibilities, you’ll need to enlist reliable people to help you. Some larger studies have a study leader who is in charge of the overall program and an administrative assistant who handles most of the finances and basic communications.

do you want to offer childcare?

For many groups, childcare isn’t a concern, but for others it can be an important consideration. If your group would benefit from having childcare available, you should work out the particulars in advance, keeping in mind that there probably are strict regulations in place about who can supervise children on parish premises and at parish-sponsored events.

what about holidays and time off?

Setting up a calendar that covers the duration of your Bible study will allow you to designate weeks off for holidays and spring break. In harsh climates, you might need to determine a policy ahead of time to notify people about cancellations due to bad weather.

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For information specific to using Turning to God’s Word Bible studies and to learn how to facilitate successful discussion groups, be sure to read focus on Scripture, keys to great discussions, and Bible study for one. You also can contact us with additional questions and concerns.