2. Listen. The first week I opened with, "Tell us why you are here?" They made jokes about being made to come or the hope of good food, but then Kelly and Bethany confessed being involved in Young Life and youth group in high school. They had not returned to "church" since then and missed it. When it was Katie's turn, she held up her Catholic Bible and blurted out, "I am a Bible study virgin!" Everyone burst out laughing, and it wonderfully eased the expectation that anyone was an expert and clued me into the fact that I needed to stick with the basics.
3. Be flexible. At first the girls wanted only to open our Bibles and talk about one chapter a week. Yet by the third meeting, the discussion waned and seemed to need structure. Jill asked if I could provide a few questions to guide the conversation. I ordered a book online; it enriched our discussions to the point where we often went past the time limit.
4. Provide peer support. That same summer I also attended a book discussion group with three women my age that inquired, prayed, and encouraged me as I shared about my Gen Y meetings. My friend Sharon accompanied me many weeks. It reassured me to have someone else to field questions and then debrief with on the drive home.
5. Apologize. Not a meeting went by without someone bringing up hurts or disillusionment regarding "church." At the first meeting Marina shared her attempt to attend a woman's Bible study but felt judging eyes even as she entered the room. I wept and asked for forgiveness for myself and the church at large.
I will always remember the summer Bible Study of '08. I learned that simply being available and vulnerable made up for much of my uncoolness, and that unconditional love (and a lot of laughter) goes a long way.
P.S. Wondering what the girls are doing now? They continued the Bible study this fall without me, choosing to take turns leading it themselves.