How to choose a Bible study for a group

How to Choose a Bible Study for a Group

Are you thinking ahead and wondering what study to do next with your Bible study group? Maybe you are praying about starting a Bible study group and need to know where to begin. Choosing a quality Bible study guide for your group can make your experience either a great one or a frustrating one. This is especially true if you are leading the lessons. In this post, I will share with you some valuable suggestions for choosing a Bible study workbook for your group.

Start with Prayer

Ask Jesus to help you to choose a quality Bible study for your group. Depend on Him to show you what to do. He knows your group members and their needs. He is faithful! Read “Yes, You Can Lead a Bible Study” to get encouraged.

Choose a “Bible Study” not a Popular Book Study

Popular books that contain some Bible verses in them are not Bible studies, even if they have discussion guides in them. Those can be valuable learning tools but not as a Bible study.

What counts as a Bible study?

  • Look for a written Bible study that covers whole books or sections of the Bible in an organized fashion. A written study guide should help you learn by reading the Bible verses then answering specific questions based on what you just read.
  • Make sure it focuses more on what you are learning from your study of the Bible passages rather than on reading commentary from the author. Bible study should always be Christ-focused, not personality-driven or author-focused.
  • All of my Joyful Walk Bible Studies are prepared Bible studies that are Christ-focused with limited commentary.
  • Most of the women’s Bible studies here on fit this description as well.

Are you new at leading a Bible study lesson?

Look at the format of the study. Can the questions be used as a guide for leading the discussion? A well-written Bible study guide will make it easier for you to learn how to lead a Bible study lesson.

What if a popular Christian book has a leader’s guide?

A popular book containing some Bible verses in it is not a Bible study, even if it has Bible verses in the book. Those can be valuable learning tools but not as a Bible study.

Choose an “Inductive Bible Study”

There are two methods of Bible study —inductive and deductive.

1) The INDUCTIVE METHOD follows three steps: observation, interpretation and application. The process is more easily understood by answering three questions:

  • What does the passage say? (Observation: what is actually there)
  • What does it mean? (Interpretation: the author’s intended meaning for the audience that would read or hear it)
  • How do I live this out in my life? (Application: making it personal)

This is the best way to study the Bible. Look at what is there. Learn what it means and teaches you. Then, live it out in your life. See “Four Steps to Inductive Bible Study.”

2) The DEDUCTIVE METHOD starts with a topic or theme then selectively chooses Bible verses to “prove” whatever the author wants to prove, especially if it is a current fad or cultural position. Check the front of the study guide to see if it says it follows the inductive process.

There are two cautions about using this method of Bible study:

  • Caution #1: You can use this method to selectively choose Bible verses to prove anything that you want to prove.
  • Caution #2: This method feeds the “look-imagine-see” way of looking at the Bible. One looks at a verse or passage, imagines what they want it to say, and then “sees” what they have imagined. Many types of false teaching through the years have started with this kind of “look-imagine-see” process.

That is the deductive process, an unreliable method for studying the Bible.

Most of the women’s Bible Studies here on follow the INDUCTIVE METHOD of study. They can be trusted to lead you to biblical truth.

Consider Your Familiarity with the Bible

Is this your first time to lead a study?

Choose a Bible study guide that is short and easy to lead.

Are some women in your group new to the Bible?

Choose a Bible study designed for beginners. Look for basic lessons with simple questions and applications that are easy-to-understand. Start with a study of Jesus Christ from the gospels. Here are a three on that I recommend: Graceful Beginnings (for new Christians), Painting the Portrait of Jesus (the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the gospel of John) and Satisfied by His Love (women Jesus knew). These will fit well in a limited discussion time of an hour or less and are easy to lead. See my post on Helping Bible Study Newbies for additional insight.

Do all the women in your group already have some Bible study experience?

If that is true, you have lots of options. Be sure your choice uses the “Inductive” process as described above. Bible studies designed for Christians who already have some experience studying the Bible have longer lessons with questions that assume you have a working knowledge of the Bible. Once again, make sure they are Christ-focused more than author-focused.

Consider the Time Available for Your Group to Meet

  • If you have 1½ to 2 hours, you can usually cover one lesson per session without rushing through the lesson.
  • If you have only an hour or less, choose a shorter study or a study that can be divided into two sessions. That way you will not feel rushed trying to get through all of the questions in a short time. You want the group time to be a learning experience, not just a challenge to get through the lesson.
  • If your group members have limited time to work on a lesson, choose a shorter study—something that can be completed in one or two sittings. Then, they won’t get behind or discouraged when they cannot keep up with the study. Shorter studies are also great for using during a lunch break at your workplace.

Choose Something that Interests You and Will Grow You in Your Faith

  • Ask yourself what would be the best focus for you in your life right now or for your group. Then, consider what you have already studied and what might be the best thing to build onto that. Choose your Bible study based on these.
  • Your passion about the study will motivate you to dig in and learn for yourself. It is important that you feed yourself from the Word of God before you try to lead others in a discussion. The joy of what you are learning will be infectious to those in your group.
  • Choose the study and run with it rather than trying to please everyone in the group. The truth is that will not be able to please everyone. Pray about what is best for the group.
  • For those who have already studied that book of the Bible you chose, suggest that this is the time for them to help someone else understand it. Remind them that Bible study in a group is not all about “me.” It is about the whole group learning together. The Word of God is alive and active. If she is open to it, she will learn something new.
  • If someone who has been in Bible studies for years complains that the one you chose is too easy, suggest that she invite a friend or coworker who is new to the Bible to attend this one. Then, she can be the mentor for that person. That is part of “lifestyle disciplemaking.”

Ask Questions When Considering a Video-Driven Study

Wonderful gifted teachers have made their messages available through Bible studies that have accompanying videos. You can always learn something from gifted Bible teachers. But when it comes to choosing a Bible study for your group, here are some questions to ask and things to consider before choosing a study that requires watching a video to complete it:

Does the study lead everyone to dig into the Bible for themselves to learn?

Is the personal Bible study time actual study of the Bible according to the inductive process or does it contain mostly thought and reflection questions? Can someone learn from the Bible passage through the study without watching the video at all? If yes, sounds like it might be a good study. If no, avoid it.

Will the cost and access to the videos and books be easily shared by the group members?

Video-driven studies are convenient but can be expensive. You must still purchase a workbook for every participant plus buy access to the videos. You must depend on technology to work perfectly every time. Will that be a challenge for you? Will it fluster you if showing the video does not work during your group time?

Can the group members watch the videos on their own time through an app or website and then share what they learned during group time? 

It may be hard to find a video-driven study that can be used in an hour or less during a typical lunch hour at work or during an evening study at the end of a hard work day. The videos are generally too long to allow for much group discussion at all. It is difficult to build community when you are just watching someone else talk. And watching a video together is not a good substitute for interaction within the group. If the group members can watch the videos on their own time through an app or website and then share what they learned during group time, then that study might work.

As leader, will you feel restricted to focus your discussion on whatever is taught in the video?

It is better if you can dig into a lesson yourself than focus on what your particular group needs the most from the study. Again, look at the personal study portion to see if it covers the passage well. The video should be like “icing on the cake” not the cake itself.


  • Choose a scripted Bible study not someone’s book.
  • Make sure it uses the inductive method: Observation, Interpretation, Application.
  • Consider the amount of time you have to give to it—yourself or your group members.
  • Choose a Bible study that matches your familiarity with studying the Bible. Choose something that interests you and will help you grow.
  • If you choose a video-driven study, make sure it leads you to learn for yourself from personal Bible study and not depend on the gifted teacher to give you the truth. The video should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

Get the above information and more in my “Start and Lead a Bible Study Group Booklet.” If you want to read a book of the Bible and discuss it, look at the suggestions in the “Leading a Bible Study without Using a Study Guide” checklist in that booklet. My handbook “Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader” is a resource for you to use to answer most questions about leading a small group. For more help to start a Bible Study group, read my blog, Launch: Start and Lead a Bible Study Group.

Related Resources

Melanie Newton is the founder of Joyful Walk Ministries, an online ministry that helps women learn to study the Bible for themselves and grow their Bible-teaching skills to lead others on a joyful walk with Jesus. Melanie has written many Bible study guides (available on and her website) and presented insightful messages to large groups of women. All of her BIble Studies are available as books on Melanie is wife to Ron Newton (“Integrity at Work” ministry), loves to be outside in her garden, and enjoys her yearly fix of boiled crawfish.

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