A couple of weeks ago I attended The Young Clergy Women Project conference in Austin, T.X. I have gone to seven TYCWP conferences primarily for the fellowship, but the content is invariably excellent as well. Led by Dr. Margaret Aymer, this year’s plenaries focused on how to design a Bible study that emerges from the questions of the community.
The first step in the process is to gather some of the community’s leaders and ask them to name the most pressing issues facing the community. This group then brainstorms some passages of scripture that could potentially speak to the selected issue and chooses one to study.
The Bible study facilitator then takes the passage and creates discussion questions about it with the issue in mind. The questions attempt to draw out and privilege the wisdom in the room. They address such angles as:
- what the scripture passage is about
- who’s in the passage and what they’re doing
- what the context (historical, narrative, etc.) is in relation to the selected issue
- how the passage speaks to the issue and the community’s context
The Bible study is not just an academic exercise, however. It ends by asking, “Now what are we going to do about the issue at hand, given our discussion of this passage?” The students name possible actions and choose an easily doable one to tackle.
The contextual Bible study would be an effective approach in any situation, but I believe it would be especially helpful in situations of conflict and/or transition. If you’d like a fuller explanation of this method, the Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research has a manual here.