Just because I am capable of putting folks at ease in a gathering, especially funerals, I don’t particularly enjoy this gift. What I really don’t enjoy is anytime I’m *forced* to sit in a circle and smile over icebreakers. I audibly wretch at the word “icebreakers” thanks to too many over the top corporate team building outings back in the day. Even more annoying is when the group is expected to quickly bond over a common love for Jesus no matter backgrounds, ages or life stages.
And bible study bonding is the worst.
Just because we believe the same tenants of faith does not automatically qualify us for life-long friendship. Or does it?
People, even God Girls, aren’t guaranteed to clique.
And why do I feel saying that out loud buys me a one way ticket for h-e-double hockey sticks?
I dread the first day a bible study starts up with those circle of church chairs hosting a new name tag at each spot. And gag me if I spot slips of paper for icebreaker questions. Ugh. Now don’t get me wrong. I can play the game – all sarcastic in my head while pleasant in my tone. Please. I’m from the South where “bless her heart” has a whole other meaning then worrying about showering someone with actual blessings. But if it’s the condition of the heart that counts, then when Jesus loving girls gather with the expectation to quickly bond, I’m usually rotten to the core. What a field day I set up for the devil. What a legacy I could possibly miss out on. What a joy stealer I am when I allow apprehension to win out over authenticity.
So to my fellow polite bible study good girls, let’s rally around a few points and agree the change is necessary if we want an authentic gathering with real results. And this goes for encouraging genuine group events be it at church, our homes or in our bible studies.
1. Just because we are there together does not mean we are similar. Period. Do we have the same hope in the same heavenly Father? You bet. Does that mean I should assume your biblical knowledge is on par with mine? Absolutely not. For example, the moment you ask folks to open their non-electronic Bibles to a certain verse the light hearted chatter stops and awkwardness, embarrassment, even shame can take over. As a leader myself I have had to inform someone that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Don’t snicker. It’s the truth.
2. Stop defaulting to watering down Jesus to make sure we don’t offend in our Savior lovin’ ways. Trying to please everyone will result in helping no one. Asking “fun” questions about your favorite trip taken or your dream house sounds innocent enough with a room of women to break the ice. Hearing answers about Bora Bora along with a wish for more closet space because switching totes of summer clothes to winter clothes is “such a hassle” makes for nice coffee table talk. In a church setting where one lady in the group is raising her grandchildren after battling breast cancer again while taking a city bus from one of her two jobs to your study makes tropical destination chatter an embarrassment. True story.
Ask the tough questions of how Jesus has met you at your lowest low or how your new group can pray for you out the gate. Women can talk clothes and travel with any other friend all day long. When you are with believers get to the tough stuff first and start encouraging one another right away. The devil would love for you to keep describing your dream kitchen with the Viking stove or farm sink so stop the silly stuff and get to the heart of it. Time is being wasted for the woman who has to catch the next bus back to reality.
3. Brokenness is universal. Just this morning I read Facebook posts on refugees drowning to death, sickening details of how babies are aborted and an updated list of childhood sex trafficking statistics right here in the USA. Add in another post by one friend who is downright lonely processing the empty nest syndrome and one by another girlfriend who is drowning in a sea of depression after unexpectedly losing her father. Utterly drowning. Everyone has a battle waging within her and most of the time it’s our own mind beating us up.
Look at that circle and see beyond the Michael Kor’s bags and name brand bible carrying cases. See the decades long eating disorder, the woman with the child who cuts herself, the wife cheated on yet again, the lady fearing the doctor’s call. Look into each other’s eyes, grasp hands as you pray and practice active hearing with engaged body contact. There’s a reason that “listen” and “silent” use the same letters. Hear more than words, see more than matching outfits. If we are but a blip on the radar screen of life, then let’s light up that blip so it shines brightly pointing others to Him. Otherwise it’s just a lukewarm light relegated to a comfy circle inside a safe church with meaningless chatter.
4. If baptism is an outward sign of an inner commitment then shouldn’t we be getting our dunk on in the town square? I mean, why waste it on the other belivers sitting there applauding another commitment driven talking head video? They’ve already signed up and are part of the battalion for Christ so why aren’t we soldiering up to speak the message to the masses? There’s a sign as you exit the parking lot of a local church that reads “You are now entering your mission field.” I love that sign. So ask yourself, at the end of the day, are you spending your time praying the saved out of heaven or do you focus more on praying the sinners in? Look for opportunities to serve God outside the church. In fact, recognize that you are the church wherever you go.
Ask the least likely to attend to go with you to a bible study or do a book study on a biblical character or trait together. Start peppering your answers with God talk that’s authentic and real for audiences other than believers. Look for how to be the church outside the walls and when we are inside the walls how to magnify His purpose in us. Pray for the woman who grates on your nerves. And pray that you can love her like Christ does so when you say “bless her heart” you actually mean it.
If you liked this post you might also like my post on Why I wouldn’t give even my unfriendliest friend the pink slip.