There were tears in many eyes as Barbara, always an encourager, told us how much we had meant to her. It was our group’s last meeting of the year, and Barbara was moving away.
Before she came to our church, she had never been involved in a women’s Bible study, but her wisdom and love for the Scriptures had been evident. Over the years, Barbara became a small-group leader and then a Bible teacher, connecting with women in our church through her warmth and transparency.
In Dubai, we have a women’s Bible study leadership problem. Dubai isn’t a place where people stay. It’s a stopover—an exciting and profitable place to be for a while. We regularly have to say goodbye to leaders. To keep our program running, we need to reload each year.
Maybe you’ve had to say goodbye to your share of Barbaras too. Whether your leaders are moving away, having babies, or taking a semester off, your church—like ours—frequently needs new women’s Bible study leaders.
Here are four things we’ve learned to look for.
1. Committed to the Church
The church is the bride of Christ. One day, she’ll be presented to Christ “in radiance like a most rare jewel” (Rev. 21:11). Bible study is one of the means God can use to polish the jewel. Therefore, women’s Bible study shouldn’t be independent from the church but should build it up.
This is why we look for women who are committed to the church. They already have ministries among women: encouraging others, sharing the gospel, spending time together. These women know others in the church. The elders know them and send other women their way. They’re Titus 2 women, training others in the warp and woof of life.
Naomi is a good example. The mother of three almost-grown children, she surrounds herself with women. She gives them rides to church. She meets with them during the week. One young woman who needed a place to live moved in with Naomi and has lived with her for the past eight years. Women join our church and grow spiritually because of Naomi’s influence.
Bible study leaders who commit themselves to the church have fruitful ministries beyond the weekly meetings. They’re like glue that holds people together. They unify women and build up the entire church.
2. Delights in the Scriptures
One of the most exciting things about women’s Bible study is watching women get a taste for Scripture and crave more. They’re no longer content with just studying the passage for the week. They start looking up every cross reference listed in their Bibles. We want every woman in Bible study to show these signs of savoring the Scriptures. Don’t you?
This happens as the Holy Spirit works through God’s powerful Word, and it happens through contagious leaders. Love and delight can’t really be taught. It must be caught.
Our leaders should be women intent on understanding the meaning of texts and serious about applying them to their lives. A good leader’s affection for God’s Word also means she is constantly learning and studying it herself. She’s eager to grow in her knowledge and wants to share it with others.
I think of Ranjini, an empty-nester with a full-time job. In addition to leading a small group, she meets regularly with unbelievers to study the Bible and leads her employees in devotionals at work. She’s constantly strategizing about how to get women studying the Word and understanding it more deeply.
The Bible describes itself as “sweeter than honey” (Ps. 119:103), “more to be desired . . . than gold, even much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10). Leaders who delight in the Scriptures can encourage others to taste the honey they find sweetest and show them the treasure that truly satisfies.
3. Isn’t Afraid to Lead
“All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Every word is true. In Bible study, we use our minds in reliance on the Holy Spirit to understand the meaning the author of the passage intended. We then apply that truth to our hearts and lives.
This means there are right and wrong interpretations of Scripture. In a group Bible study, we must not deteriorate into batting around what we feel the passage is saying. We search together for the truth. Our Bible study leaders shouldn’t be afraid to point to the text of Scripture to correct wrong answers.
Anna is the most gracious woman I know. She’s a medical doctor and is beloved by her patients. She cares for others physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and they feel it. She also studies the Bible rigorously. She thinks deeply and doesn’t let untruths slide. Anna’s gentle but firm explanations of truth mean other women go to her for biblical answers.
Certainly a leader shouldn’t be a lioness, ready to pounce on wrong answers. But Bible study leaders should be prepared to biblically explain why an answer is wrong and gently guide women toward the right answer.
4. Considers Her Ways
Women who lead Bible studies become role models for other women in the church. It’s the nature of handling the Scriptures. So we should choose leaders who think biblically about being women, sisters, wives, mothers. friends, and neighbors. They should be women who know they’re sinners and apply God’s Word to their own hearts.
Kate is a godly wife and deals gently and kindly with her children. She reaches out to neighbors and encourages friends. She thinks about what it means to follow Christ in all aspects of life and this thoughtfulness flows out of her as she counsels others in the church. Kate considers her ways.
The Titus 2 woman “teaches what is good” and trains other women in the church “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (vv. 4–5). In a Bible study, we “teach what is good.” And it’s the perfect opportunity to model the Christian life that comes out of a dedication to God’s Word.
Saying goodbye isn’t easy. Barbara is irreplaceable. (So were Monica, Kim, Yuri, Sandhya, and others.) But as we wait on the Lord in prayer, we’re confident he will raise up the godly Bible study leaders we need and give us wisdom to find them.