Protestants, what does "Bible Study" mean to you?


there is a thread somewhere else on Bible Study in Catholic parishes, and what people are looking for. It seems that the term means different things to different people.

I have heard people refer to many events or occassions as Bible Study:
sermon based on biblical text, where congregation looks up passages cited by the preacher

lectio divina - slow, meditative reading of a short scripture passage ending in prayer and contemplation

planned reading of a selected book of the bible in a study bible with notes, referring to a good commentary as your read, either alone or in a class or small group

small group discussion of a book or section of the bible, often initiated by a video presentation, using a published workbook of some type

college level class taught by an expert where participants take notes.

small faith sharing groups where a passage is proclaimed, often from the Sunday lectionary readings, and everyone has a chance to reflect and share how the Word proclaimed applies to their own lives.

in a youth ministry setting, any activity, game, guided meditation, etc. that is based on a scripture passage and aims to aide youth in reflecting on the message and making life applications.

So I am asking any Protestants of any, or no, denomination, to tell us what “Bible Study” means to you. What do you expect or look for when you sign up? What feeds you? Who do you prefer to lead a study, clergyman, lay expert or lay facilitator?



I wouldn’t refer to these as Bible Study… More like a Lesson. We can learn from these things but the leader did the studying and is just passing on what they learned. the third one there sounds to me like “Sunday School” which again… is learning lessons taught by someone who already did the studying. Anyone leading this type of thing should be an ‘Expert’ in their topic.

I’d say these are all different types of Bible Study and all can be very profitable at different times. The video/workbooks can be more of a sermon depending on how it’s produced but the majority of those I have attended were not lessons but studies.

I go in expecting to be led in studying. By this I mean the setting of the study will determine what we are studying and possibly the method (structured workbook? Chapter-by Chaper?) but I also expect it to be more informal, It will be normal and expected for meand everyone else to ask questions, answer others questions, discuss the passages and look for ways we can understand the material better.

Anything that I haven’t already thoroughly studied. If I’m not the leader, I should be learning as well as sharing what I know. If the material is the same thing I’ve studied constantly for the last few months, it’s time to move on.

I’m ok with anyone of the ones you listed leading a study so long as they are familiar with the material and are not new or backslidden Christians.


I agree with Syele, she had an excellent response to your question, especially the differentiation between a sermon/lesson and a study.


Some of the studies conducted by some of my protestant friends rely too heavily on

1] a shorter, lighter bible;)
2] quoting J. Vernon McGee etc
3] no catechism or direction from their Church

They don’t have the advantage we do of using the

ECF and actually listening to what they wrote or said
The Catechism
Documents like Dei Verbum etc

I have also noticed the tendancy to memorize appropriate verses with no reference to the OT for support or understanding.



Ditto. Where did you get that dancing elephant? I love it!!


Hi MrS,
With all due respect this is not what the OP asked for. She was asking protestants the question. Could you please not turn this into anything else? PLEASE:D :thumbsup:

Thank you and God Bless


Syele - This seems to be the core of your answer:

I go in expecting to be led in studying. By this I mean the setting of the study will determine what we are studying and possibly the method (structured workbook? Chapter-by Chaper?) but I also expect it to be more informal. It will be normal and expected for me and everyone else to ask questions, answer others questions, discuss the passages and look for ways we can understand the material better.

It sounds like a good method, much like the one I use in the groups I lead.

Question about the structured workbooks or lessons: Do you design your own, does your church supply them, or do you get them “off the shelf” or otherwise get them from somewhere else, like on-line or from a Christian bookstore? What are some of the series you’ve used to good effect? What is the usual cost outlay (if any) per participant?

Also, how long is your typical session? Are they ongoing, or for a limited number of weeks (or both)? Do you have them mostly in homes, or in the church grounds before and/or after services? What kind of training do the leaders get? Are they mostly volunteers, and, if so, how do you keep them trained and motivated?

Finally, would you (and/or your church) classify these types of Bible studies as “spirituality” (like prayer groups) or “religious education”?


As a former Protestant, these were the style of presentations that I was used to seeing as Bible studies.

When I was with the Plymouth Brethren, we also did what we called “word studies”, where we would take a single verse (typically, a proverb from the Book of Proverbs) and go through it using Strong’s Concordance to find all of the key words in the verse, and where they were used elsewhere in the Bible. It could take as much as two hours to really get all the meat out of that one verse. It was also a really interesting way to approach the Bible - this was the beginning of my road to the Catholic Church. :slight_smile:


Usually these are like Beth Moore or Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby with a video and a work book and after the video you have Bible study and then complete the workbook as “homework”. Average cost of rthe workbook is around $12, Churches generally pay for the video and help those who can’t afford workbooks.

About an hour, some are two hours… depending on the group, some people like to talk. IF your group is really talky set a per person time limit.

most are limited. The work book ones tend to be 8-12 weeks, meeting once a week. Most studies are for a limited time preiod. It varies alot. There are some groups that have met every week for years and years, they just change topics regularly.

Sometimes they are during “sunday school” time… meaning during a service whern the atendees can go to a service before or after the study. Others are in Homes or on wednesday nights at the church.

They tend to be volunteers sometimes a pastor or Co-Pastor will lead one. At most of the churches I’ve attended there was a training program all volunteers would have to attend before being allowed to be a leader. These programs are pretty much a “Basics of Christianity” type course designed so Study leaders are not teaching false doctrines. We are a church that has “Cell Groups” also known as “Life Groups” in some places. These groups meet once a week during the school year and break over the summer. Once a year there is a “Life Group training” where anyone interested in leading can attend if they have completed the leader training. it’s about a three hour session. People tend to do it one or two years and then allow someone else to take over… less burnout that way, plus the summer breaks help. We have an average of 20 cell groups a year and out Church has about 500 members.

I’ve only ever seen them Classified at church as Bible Studies or life groups (or other names for life group) I would say it’s a cross between the two… It’s more spiritual than a sermon or lesson but it is a form of education as well. Studies generally open in prayer and some worsip songs (about 10 min) and then
begin the study.


Thanks, Seyele. That’s very helpful. :slight_smile:


this has been so helpful, thankful, exactly what I need to know. The reason is, in addition to planning bible studies that will attract Catholics, we want to offer those that will meet expectations of those who have come from a Protestant tradition. it has been my experience in RCIA that those who come into the Catholic Church from a Protestant background often have a quite sophisticated knowledge of and appreciation for Sacred Scripture, and would not be satisfied with some of the “bible lite” programs offered by some so-called Catholic sources.

May I also ask, what criteria would you use in judging the authors of the workbooks or other resources used in the study, and what authority, training, background would you demand in a leader? Do you rely on authors or publishers you have used before, for instance, or those approved by your church leadership.

Also, what is your position on “special interest” studies such as those aimed at housewives, businessmen, youth etc.

do you prefer to participate in studies offered by your own congregation or denomination, or are you open to attending a study presented by another group if it piques your interest?


I swiped it off the county Republican website- I’d seen it before, and just thought it was so dang cute! :slight_smile:


I’m always happy to help people study the Scriptures! :smiley:

Generally we look to Church leadership to approve materials. Otherwise we look at the Statement of Faith of the Authors, Some publishers are known to only publish things from a particular denomination so that is an indicator, and occasionally the character of the Author. An example of this was the big deal over the Weigh Down Workshop. Tons of Churches started offering it, the Statement of Faith was ok and nothing (or very little) in it was found questionable at the time, but then the Author (Gwen Shamblin) made some Statements about her faith, claiming she did not believe in the Trinity and most churches dropped the program rather than have such a person touted as a leader. (I haven’t used that program but am under the impression the materials themselves did not ever deny the Trinity. But there was concern future materials might since it was the belief of the author.)

I covered the required training for leaders of the Bible studies in a previous post. Most are lay people who have been Christians for awhile and are respected members of the Church. IF you mean those who create Bible Study Materials, the materials are generally judged based on the content and how Doctrinally sound they are, rather than the amount of education of the writer. The materials for leader Training are either produced by the denomination or by the church pastor.

These are great and often get people to go to Bible Study when they would not have gone to a mixed group. They also are often helpful in covering personal applications of Scripture that do not apply to everyone in General. These are used most extensively with teens and college ages kids because of the unique challenges they face daily at schools.

I would feel most comfortable going to one at my own church because I’m familiar with the people, the doctrines and the leaders. However if I saw something that looked really interesting offered by another church or group that was compatable with the doctrines of my own church I would attend.


Check out this website too… it has lots of articles on how protestants start small group ministries:


Actually, your Bible studies are very similar to the ones we have at my church.


We also have videos, workbooks, and homework. Our studies are usually about 12 weeks long. We attend on Sundays, between Masses in the church community center. There is another Bible Study group, which I do not attend, that is in the homes of the members. I live in a small apartment and would not be able to accomodate all the attendees, so I only go to the one that is held in the church community center. We have a layperson who leads the studies, and we take a summer break between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We also have breaks for two weeks around Christmas/New Year’s and Easter.

We always open with prayer.

There really isn’t any difference in how your church and my church do the Bible studies.


Sadly, the Catholic Parishes I used to attend never appeared to hold Bible Studies at all.


I can not speak for Every protestant denomination. Bible study as i am used to, is doing an exegises on a passage, we did this by first asking who wrote it, why was he writting it,what did the author want the people reading the letter to understand, is he talking about an eternal principal or is it just a local custom etc,then we would ask if the rest of the bible agreed with our conclusion if it did not we would go over the text again.


I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking, but I cheat. When I lead a Bible study, usually, I go from the notes I’ve made when preparing for the messages I’ve preached.

Because that’s a little more detailed than your average Bible study, it gives me more resources to draw on and it gives the class a little bit better understanding.

And, of course, it makes it much easier for me.

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