FORMED: Leading Bible study involves thorough research

by Teresa Young on October 9, 2023 in News

Regardless of the text, Bible teacher and author Elizabeth Woodson said there’s only one goal when leading a Bible study.

“The goal of our teaching is that people would know more about the Bible and know more about Christ. It’s not about us having all this fancifulness in how we present it, but what really matters are the inspired words of God,” said Woodson in her keynote address at the FORMED training event for Texas Baptists women leaders. “Our job is to point people to Christ, the one that has saved them and the one that makes them able to live in community with God both for today and forever.”

Offered online in an on-demand format over Sept. 22-23, FORMED was designed by Texas Baptists Women’s Ministry to equip women who feel called to teach the Bible. Woodson’s presentation gave practical steps for teachers to follow to ensure they are presenting a complete and accurate interpretation of the scriptures. She noted that the study is similar to what teachers are asking of their students, just at a deeper level.

“We’re putting all these elements into a pot and stirring it up to the point where we are able to have enough clarity to communicate the passage in one simple summary sentence,” she said. “Once we identify the main idea, how does it have any bearing on the lives of our people?”

Taking it step by step

Woodson broke the lesson preparation process into five clear steps: reading, researching, observing, interpreting and applying. Explaining her teaching style as expository – or breaking down a passage verse by verse in context – Woodson begins with a thorough, slow and intentional reading of the passage being studied, often in multiple translations and with a highlighter to mark anything that stands out.

She then begins the research portion, using study guides to gain insight into the background and context of the passage as well as its genre and where it fits into the entirety of the Bible. Observation is next, which takes a close look at the words used and the relationship between them, as well as the presence of transitional phrases.

The next step, interpretation, helps teachers make the bridge to application for learners. In this process, teachers look for the meaning to the original audience, other supporting passages, themes present, and, most importantly to Woodson, how the passage points people to the gospel. The application step then answers two questions: what the passage teaches us about God and what the passage teaches us about humanity.

“We have a text that is pointing to the redemption work of Jesus Christ, so we want to always center our teaching and our study on what it is teaching me about Christ and how can I share that with women,” she said. “A good knowledge of Biblical theology will help you do that. The Bible is not just 66 individual books but one large story, or metanarrative, that points to God’s redemption work throughout history.”

Jessica Prince, who leads women’s ministry at First Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, said the conference provided both helpful information and inspiration.

“This content affirms my calling to teach God's Word in a manner that helps our women recognize and desire to be students of God's Word on their own,” said Prince, who is also part of a teaching team for women in her church. “The vision and biggest calling for myself is that the women I lead fall in love with the study of God's Word and see His character on every page! There is nothing more encouraging to me than to sit across a coffee cup from a woman in our ministry and hear what the Lord is teaching her through His Word and how He is working in her life through what she's learning.”

Resourcing women

Dr. Katie McCoy, director of Texas Baptists Women’s Ministry, said FORMED is just one way the ministry provides valuable resources for women that can strengthen their theological knowledge and prepare them to minister in their churches.

Prior to FORMED, the Women’s Ministry also launched Theology Thursdays, a free “weekly theology class in bite-sized portions,” McCoy said. While the 30-minute sessions are live at 3 p.m., they are recorded and made accessible to registrants following the event. McCoy, who holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Southwestern Seminary and served on faculty there, will lead those sessions.

“We want to help women grow in confidence in their beliefs, to know and articulate Christian theology,” said McCoy. “Women’s ministry is drifting from being event-driven to formation-driven. Personal formation is becoming the emphasis among these ministries.”

She noted that additional training opportunities like FORMED are planned for the future, including a new version of a conference called WELL: Women Equipped to Learn and Lead, which will go from an online format to a weekend in-person conference set for June and October 2024. Other coming events include a conference on women and mental health in September 2024.

Learn more, get connected, and support Texas Baptists Women’s Ministry at txb.org/womensministry.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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