10 tips for hosting The Bible Course
Ready to start running your Bible study group? Here are 10 tips to help you host The Bible Course – either virtually or in person.
1. Think of yourself as a host
The Bible Course uses a host/guest model where the role of the course leader is not to provide additional teaching or instruction, but simply to host the course sessions. This takes the pressure off and enables you to focus on providing the best participant experience possible. Now how do we do this? Check out the next tips.
2. Create a relaxed atmosphere
Research has shown that those who are relaxed learn better, retain more information, and participate more frequently.
So, what can you do to create a relaxed atmosphere from the moment people arrive? If you are doing a Zoom meeting, try to greet every participant who joins, and mediate small talk during the few minutes while people are joining the room.
For an in-person meeting, food and some tasty refreshments certainly help. And you can invite others to contribute too!
If you’re feeling adventurous, encourage your group to find and prepare recipes that tie in with the topic of the week. Share the recipes and exchange photos of the ‘Bible recipes’ prepared by the group with each other. Check out some ideas here.
3. Give a warm welcome
Start each session with a warm welcome. Include a brief explanation of how the session will be structured and any other housekeeping matters. And make sure that everyone has a course manual.
After session three, consider inviting a guest to give a one-minute recap of the story that’s been covered to that point. Perhaps drawing out the Bible storyline and recalling key books, events, and characters. But use a stopwatch to make sure the recap doesn’t run for more than a minute, in order to avoid delays to the rest of the session.
And finally, make sure that everyone can see and hear the shared screen, then press play to start the first video, sit back, and relax.
Bonus tip: By the way, to make sure that the session runs smoothly, make sure that all of the technology is working fine long before the guests have joined.
4. Connect the dots
Help the group transition through the different sections and stick to your start and end times. For example, suggest a quick break after the first video and before the group discussion, and always let the guests know what’s coming next and how long that section will take. Learn more about how a typical session looks like here.
5. Facilitate discussion time
We suggest a maximum of eight people in a group, so everyone gets a chance to speak. If you have more than eight people in your group, you should recruit an extra facilitator or two – 1 facilitator for each group of 8 people – to help you facilitate discussion time (so make sure they read this blog post too).
The aim is to engage everyone in a focused and enjoyable session – a discussion of relevant Bible passages guided by the questions outlined in the manual. As group facilitators, make sure to review the reading and the manual questions beforehand so that you are prepared.
And before you begin, reassure people that no one will be put on the spot, no question is too simple, and everyone’s opinion will be respected.
Make sure everyone can find the right pages in their manual and the Scripture reading in their Bibles. You can invite one or two people to read the passage out loud but avoid putting anyone on the spot. Then simply follow along using the manual questions, and everything should flow very smoothly.
However, from time to time, you may need to steer the group. For example, if the discussion strays away from the Bible passage, gently steer it back by saying something like, “Let’s now see how these ideas relate to the Bible passage we are looking at.” and restate the question from the manual.
If one person in the group becomes too dominant, steer the conversation towards others by saying something like, “That’s an interesting insight, thank you for sharing. What do other people think? What thoughts came to mind after you read this passage?” If a debate arises within the group, make sure everyone feels respected regardless of their beliefs, and be especially careful of those who are new to the Christian faith. It is far more important to win the person rather than the argument.
If a question comes up and you don’t know the answer, be honest and say, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I will look into it this week and get back to you.” Then ask the question again and make notes to make sure you remember what you need to lookup.
Finally, keep an eye on the clock. You only have around five minutes for each question, so keep things moving along at a good pace. In an open and relaxed environment, the group discussions will become the highlight of The Bible Course.
Bonus tip: Zoom offers the option to divide the call into breakout rooms, but you will need to set this feature up before the meeting starts: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476093-Enabling-breakout-rooms
6. Keep things moving
After 25 minutes, the course host should gather everyone up again for the start of the second teaching video. It’s important to keep things moving at this stage, so you don’t run out of time later. Once the second video has finished, the session concludes with a personal reflection exercise which lasts for 10 minutes.
This is a crucial moment to consolidate the session as a whole and give breathing room to the guests. Encourage everyone to turn to the relevant page in the manual, consider the Scripture verse, and write down some reflections. This section is deliberately flexible, but we suggest you give everyone 5 minutes on their own for quiet time, and 5 minutes to share their thoughts, and if appropriate, pray in pairs or groups of threes.
7. Wrap it all up
The host can then wrap up the session with a couple of sentences to summarize the big ideas, and enthusiastically remind the group to engage with the daily readings, highlighting the page in the manual that contains the list of Bible passages.
8. Follow up
Between sessions, it’s essential to follow up with guests.
Some may struggle with the pace of the course, and you can encourage them to stick with it – remind them that what may seem unclear at the beginning will get reinforced and become clear by the end. Others may need help to engage with the daily readings. Make sure to encourage all the guests to come to you with any challenges, so you can solve them together.
Finally, if people miss a session, make sure they have access to the video teaching so that they can catch up – every session builds upon the last one. And because there is a lot to take in, some guests may also want to watch the sessions again to reinforce their learning, so ensure that they have access to the teaching videos.
9. Consider next steps
Often, when The Bible Course finishes, groups have formed real friendships and grown together, and don’t want it to stop. Even before your group reaches the final session, consider how you will follow on from The Bible Course.Session 8 finishes with some great ideas for the next steps, both for individuals and groups.
10. Pray, plan, pray again
With these ten tips in mind, take some time to pray and plan as a team, so you are ready to run The Bible Course. The key to a great course is to pray and to plan, and then to pray again.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Heb 4:12
We pray that as you run The Bible Course, the Word of God will come to life and transform many more lives in Jesus’ name.