The need to disciple Christians – especially new Christians – is very important. We are encouraged to do this in many places in the Bible – for example, Matthew 28:19–20 and 2 Timothy 2:2. The church often gives more attention to preaching and teaching. These are very important but, to enable people to grow in their faith, discipleship courses in small groups are also of great benefit. Such a course was developed at Kagando Hospital, Uganda by Louise Potts and Dr Emmanuel Luyirika to encourage people to study the Bible together in small groups. They developed a 14 week course, including an introduction to discipleship, studying the Bible, quiet times, how to disciple others and how to prepare Bible studies. The course proved a great success at Kagando – many leaders were trained and the course was translated into the local language, Lukonjo.
Here is an example of how to prepare for leading a group Bible study when there are no teaching notes available. Here we use, as an example, a passage from 1 Thessalonians 5: 16–18. However, these guidelines can be used for any Bible passage. This preparation must be done thoroughly before the Bible study – not during it!
1. Read and understand
Read the passage (1 Thessalonians 5: 16–18) through carefully, looking out for words which people may not understand. This is very important if people are studying in a second language. Remember that people may feel embarrassed to say they don’t understand. It is better to go over any difficult words.
Help people to observe what the passage is really saying. Use some questions to help people understand the message or the situation. For example…
- What are we to do in all circumstances?
- When should we be joyful?
Now that people understand the facts, they need to be helped to understand to interpret them. ‘Why did that happen?’ or
‘Why should we do this?’ are the sort of questions to encourage people to discuss in order to help them make sense of the passage. For example…
- What does it actually mean to pray at all times?
- Why should we be thankful in all circumstances?
- How would you feel if Paul had said this to you?
When people understand what the passage means, we need to look at our own lives and see if we are doing what the Bible is teaching. These are the sorts of questions which change our lives and really challenge us. For example…
- Am I thankful in all circumstances?
- Am I joyful always?
When we look at our own lives we often find there is a gap between what we are doing and what we have now learnt that we should be doing. This kind of question gets us to think about how to make this gap smaller. For example…
- What can I do to give thanks in all circumstances?’
- What can I do to be joyful all the time?’
These five guidelines can be used to help prepare a study from any Bible passage. If possible, give the study a title which mentions the things which you want to draw out of the Bible study.
Would it be appropriate to begin discipleship courses or Bible study groups in your church or place of work? There are some useful guides available in Christian book shops – or you could develop your own, as they did at Kagando.