No one expects problems in a Bible study. However, people enter churches and Bible studies for all kinds of reasons, and whatever problems they experience in life come with them. As a Bible study leader of almost 20 years, I have only experienced a dangerous incident once, but it pays to be prepared because it will catch you off guard.
Always have some basic guidelines for the women to follow. When I was challenged, I was more than grateful to have something in writing to fall back on.
The biggest fear of any leader is how to handle the unexpected. If God calls you into leadership, He will also equip you. Someone who disrupts a Bible study or women’s meeting is a hurting person. It is important to handle her with calm, dignity, and respect, while reassuring the other group members that you are in control.
The following steps should prepare you as a leader to remain in control and assure a satisfying experience for all:
Bathe your ministry in prayer. No detail is too small. Be well-prepared for every lesson and consider any controversy that might arise. Nothing substitutes for excellent preparation. Lay the groundwork for how the group will be run from the first meeting. A short list of expectations and basic guidelines for each person to keep in their notebook is essential.
Any personal information shared should be considered confidential. Step in if someone shares something she may regret at a later date or that infringes on the privacy of a loved one. Offer to meet with a troubled member outside of class and find scriptures to help with her problem. If necessary, consult with a pastor or suggest they meet with a pastor. Don’t give advice you are not qualified to give.
Anticipate questions that might lead to a difficult situation and role-play, either with someone or in your mind, as to how you would handle it. Appropriate humor can often diffuse a tense situation, but make certain you cannot be misconstrued as poking fun. Never belittle someone’s feelings about something they care deeply about. If someone is upset, a brief statement of empathy or sympathy and the offer to speak with her after class may be enough to allow the group to move forward. Stop all gossip immediately.
If someone monopolizes the discussion, assure her that you appreciate her contributions, but everyone needs to have a turn to share. Make clear your goals to finish on time and complete every question in the lesson. If necessary, speak outside of class, enlisting her help in allowing others the opportunity to share.
Encourage quiet members
Encourage quiet members that they have something valuable to contribute and suggest planning ahead of time what they will share. They can even notify you ahead of time to make certain you give them the chance to answer that question.
Step in Immediately if Necessary
If someone challenges your authority or disrupts the class, step in immediately. If necessary send another class member to find a pastor or someone in authority to help you. Reassure them of your interest in their opinions and offer to listen after class. If you feel you feel under attack and uneasy about being alone with someone, offer to help her obtain an appointment with a pastor. (I once had to be escorted into and out of the church for weeks due to a disturbed woman who felt I was refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through her to the group.)
Always remember that when you accept leadership of a group, it places you in a position of responsibility before God for the spiritual welfare of the group members. Leading a well-organized and smoothly operating group where everyone’s needs can be met is one of the most rewarding callings that anyone can have. Most problems can be prevented or handled with finesse with a little preparation.
About the author
Norma Gail’s debut contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, set in Scotland and New Mexico released in April 2014. She has led weekly women’s Bible studies for 19 years. Her devotionals, poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, FaithWriters, and the New Mexico Christian Novelists. She is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 38 years. They have two adult children.
Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith. Learn more here.