One of my biggest frustrations in parish ministry was trying to get people to come to Bible Study.
I remained convinced that studying scripture together is an essential component to congregational renewal. My experience was that if you asked people, they were all for the idea of having Bible Studies. But very few people actually came.
There are many reasons for this. Some people are intimidated by Bible Studies and think they already need to have more knowledge than have to participate. Some people are introverts and are afraid they will be called upon to talk.
Mostly, I think, people just don’t have time.
People today are pulled and pushed in so many directions between work, family, and other obligations that church activities, even those as essential as Bible Study, tend to get pushed to a lower priority.
Rather than scold and shame people for not making scripture a higher priority in their lives, we could try new ways that work better with their schedules, interests and learning styles. Social Media is one of the tools we have that can help people fit Bible Studies in their lives.
Here are a few options:
Create a group on Facebook and invite people to participate when it’s convenient. Have everyone read a text and post some questions inviting reflection on what they’ve read. No time limit. This also helps the more introverted folks participate. Introverts need time to think about what they want to say and often by the time they think of what they want to say, the group has moved on.
Pick a text from an epistle or a bible story and challenge people to retell the story or message in a 140 character tweet. This is a good activity for youth, many of whom are on Twitter. Be sure to choose a hashtag and encourage everyone to use it.
Instagram is images. Lots of people are more inspired by images than words. Last Lent many churches had a photo a day challenge where each day a word from scripture or the season was offered and people were invited to post a photo or image that illustrated that word to them. Again there was one hashtag used to allow people to see all the images posted on that theme.
Pinterest is another image driven platform. Boards can be shared. You could create a board based on a book in the bible, or even one verse and invite participants to pin an image or even article that pertains to the text.
All of these ideas can be used alone or in combination with a face to face group study. You could use the Pinterest Board to supplement a regular bible study. You can invite people to live tweet an in church bible study to include those who cannot be present.
These are only a few suggestions to help you think outside of the box beyond what we traditionally imagine bible studies to be. The idea is to get people into scripture. There are so many ways to accomplish that. Feel free to add to comments ways you have used social media for bible studies.
Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson
Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA