According to The Barna Group research about one-third of Americans say they study the Word of God daily or weekly. Another third say they study the Bible, but less frequently. The final third are Americans who say they never study the Bible at all.
Most Christians who have grown up in the church know they should spend time reading and studying their Bibles. Unfortunately, Bible study is frequently one of the first disciplines believers set aside when they become caught up in the daily trappings of life.
Assessing the health of discipleship in your church Bible study is an important issue. Are congregation members actively involved in regular Bible studies?
Marshall Shelley, editor of Leadership, suggests that at least 60 percent of the people who attend worship services at your church should also be part of a small group for prayer and Bible study.
Here are seven practical ways to increase participation in church-based Bible study:
1. Introduce new classes.
If your members are struggling with understanding how to study God's Word, it may be beneficial to begin a stepped program of three to four tracks in which church members can be taught a systematic approach to Bible study.
Try offering classes at new times, as well. If you have members in your church who work third shift, try creating a special Bible study time for them. You could hold a Bible study on Thursday nights at 9:00 for college students. Maybe you could plan a Friday lunch Bible study for the business people of your congregation. Promote these studies to the best of your ability and invite some of your best teachers to lead them.
2. Evaluate Sunday school.
Perhaps you need to take a look at your Sunday school program. A well-planned and well-organized Sunday school program can be a powerful ministry tool. You may want to use Ken Hemphill's book Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur.
3. Initiate small group book studies.
Choose a single book of the Bible as a focus for the study group. Encourage the group to spend time working through the book at the pace they feel most comfortable. Do whatever you can to make the atmosphere of the study as conducive to learning and growth as possible.
4. Use small groups to teach Bible study methods.
Implement small group studies focused on teaching individuals how to study the Bible more effectively. Materials from Kay Arthur (Inductive Bible Study), the Navigators, or Howard Hendricks (Effective Bible Study), may not only teach your congregation how to study the Bible, but how to study the Bible in a group setting.
5. Create church-wide buzz over Bible study.
Generating more interest in Bible study across the congregation may get church members talking about, thinking about, and actually beginning Bible studies.
First, try adopting a church-wide standard translation. One indirect way you can help your congregation become more involved in Bible study is by adopting a standard text for church use. Encourage everyone to use the same translation in Sunday school, Bible studies, small groups and the worship service. This can help alleviate confusion for newer believers and generate renewed interest in biblical scholarship for older believers.
Second, promote the use of Bible software for computers and PDAs. At home, this can help with Bible study, and at work this may help in witnessing. Even something as simple as a scriptural screensaver can help people focus on the Word of God.
Thirdly, select a congregational reading plan. Many people do not know where to start reading the Bible, so they randomly flip through the Scriptures with no direction. If they were given a systematic reading plan, they would have the needed structure to help them get the most out of the Bible. Consider publishing a reading plan for the church that takes them through the entire Bible in one year.