By Patrice Burrell, Crosswalk.com
I came a bit early to make sure I was at the restaurant to greet the ladies upon their arrival. As I pulled up, someone was already in the parking lot, just as eager as I was to finally get to come together. After meeting virtually all fall, we decided to gather for lunch after church one Sunday. Even though some of the ladies had never met in person before the pandemic, you would have never known this from observing everyone's heartfelt greetings upon making their way to our table.
These ladies are participants in the women's growth group at my church I have the pleasure of facilitating. But more significant than this, they are also my sisters because we function like a family. Maybe you have heard the term small groups or life groups at your local church. Whatever you call them, they are designed as a way for women to come together and study the Bible around a particular theme or topic. However, the benefits of joining such a group are not limited to only gaining greater knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
When we recall how the early church came together, it is interesting to note their gatherings often took place in small, intimate groups. Acts 2:42-47 provides insight into believers' fellowship during that time. This passage tells us:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
Over the years, it has been my joy to lead and participate in many women's small group settings for Bible studies - both virtually with mega ministries and in person with my local church. I keep returning to lead as a participant because I have learned the value of being connected to these groups. It is one of the most extraordinary experiences of our personal growth and development as Christian women. I want to offer you some reasons you should make 2022 the year you join a women's Bible study and consider the benefits you can receive from authentically engaging in this kind of community.
1. Support and Stimulation
We find people who will relate to us in this small community because we share a common desire to know God's word. They will often understand our life experiences because they have (or have had) similar experiences of their own to share with us. The ladies in our Bible study groups support each other as we keep showing up week after week. These are the people who will encourage you and empathize with you as we all attempt to live out the scriptures we study.
2. Fellowship and Friendship
Everyone desires acquaintance. Fellowship with other women in our Bible study community provides camaraderie and allies we can connect with over common interests that start with God's Word and evolve into other life areas. We discover women who will cheer us on and celebrate our victories when we have reasons to rejoice. We encounter women who will share our joys and mourn with us in our times of grief and sorrow. These women will, in some cases, become our dearest friends. These are the women who will love us unconditionally and non-judgmentally. They will aid and assist us in our times of need and advocate for our best interests, all because we have been in community with each other.
3. Accountability and Acceptance
Being in a Bible study small group community will afford us opportunities to interact with women who prompt, prod, and promote our spiritual well-being. Since we meet regularly, we can hold one another accountable with love and compassion. We can also inspire each other to continue growing as we accept each other and where we are. This motivates us to want to do better and be better in every way.
Maybe you have been contemplating joining a women's Bible study. Here are some practical ways you can embrace your new community with clarity, courage, and confidence:
Pray for It
Literally ask God to lead you to the places and people you are supposed to experience this type of community with. Pray that you would have an open heart and mind to receive and reciprocate the blessings of being a part of a women's Bible study,
Look for opportunities to authentically engage when you gather. You will not have all of your fill-in-the-blanks perfectly answered during every discussion time. You may not know all the answers to every question that will arise. And that is okay. Just be willing to remain honest and vulnerable. Sometimes you may be a little scared of what others may think about you or the way you express your thoughts, but just do it anyway. It's worth the risks and benefits that come as a result.
Now, after you've prayed for it and sought it out, when God places you in community, keep an open spirit to receive it through the imperfect women you will come to know and love. God knew the ladies you would connect with for that time. He is aware of each individual's personality and preferences. So allow the Holy Spirit to do the job of leading and guiding as unity through Christ will be the bridge that binds everyone together. Understanding that sometimes it can look messy, but even in its messiness, the strength of Christ-centered community cannot be diminished.
Another note on receiving - sometimes it comes in the form of an unexpected invitation. Maybe you did not pray for it, but it has been extended to you. Sometimes it takes just as much courage to receive and accept that invitation to join a women's group than if you had initiated the process yourself. Allow the Holy Spirit to tender your heart about the opportunities he sends into your life to connect with other women. And what better way to do that than by studying God's Word together?
Patrice Burrell is an author, life coach, and worship leader who loves practicing the presence of God through a lifestyle anchored in spiritual disciplines. Championing women to live authentically and pursue God passionately, she is called to lead others to the grace of God, rooted in the truth of Scripture. As a Bible teacher and preacher, she exhorts women to remember their true identity is defined in Christ, not culture. When not serving at her local church with the small groups and singles' ministries, Patrice enjoys visiting local Orlando attractions, going to the beach, and finding unique ways to explore her writing creativity. You can connect with Patrice on her blog,Warrior Woman Blog, on social media in her Facebook community,Warrior Women, and @patriceburrellministries on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her debut book, Warrior Slay, a devotional book on the power of worship and prayer. https://linktr.ee/