How to select a transformative Bible study that fits you

In January, women all over the country are deciding which Bible study to attend. Which one will guide you in your journey with Jesus right now? Which one fits your lifestyle in the season ahead? Which one will stretch you enough to challenge you but not so much that you give up and quit? Bible studies come in various shapes and sizes. When you choose, here are additional questions to consider:

Does this Bible study tell me what to think or does it allow me to think for myself?

Women who personally wrestle with biblical issues for themselves tend to stand stronger in the trials of life. They own their own faith and this pays off when they face the inevitable down times. Women who parrot authorities without thinking through how biblical truth applies to their own lives are called received knowers. They tend to falter when storms roll in. Be sure that the Bible study you select gives you plenty of opportunity to grapple with the text for yourself.

Does this Bible study distort God's Word by taking verses out of context?

When reading a novel, you would never rip a single line out of context to figure out the story line. You need what comes before and what comes after. The Bible is God's big story, composed of smaller stories, books of the Bible. Understanding each component of God's big story will provide a life-long biblical foundation and change the way you see yourself and everything else. Your relationship with God will deepen and you will develop wisdom, skill in everyday living. Make it your goal to internalize God's big story, one segment at a time.

Does this Bible study place me shoulder to shoulder with women God wants in my life?

In Proverbs 27:17 Solomon wrote, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (NIV 2011). The Bible pictures Christians typically interacting with different generations, learning from one another. But often we are so segregated by age that we seldom rub shoulders with women who are ahead or behind us on our faith journey. You may feel more comfortable with women just like you, but your spiritual growth may depend on an organic mix of ages and stages. Consider the enriching benefits of working through the Bible with women whose wisdom can guide you, whose perspective can enlighten you, and you theirs. Here in the United States, we are privileged to pick from a smorgasbord of welcoming Bible studies for women. But when you choose, be discerning. I've studied the Bible with women for over forty years, and I can't wait to get started studying Galatians over the next four months.

A mentor taught me early in my Christian life to be sure the study allowed me to think for myself, focused on whole sections of Scripture, and provided a place to interact with women who could mentor me, and her advice has made all the difference.

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.