What really keeps us engaged with the discipline of studying Scripture.

This summer, churches everywhere are weighing which Bible studies to offer in the fall. With all the busyness typical of our lives, churches face the question: What gets people to commit to faithful participation in a weekly Bible study? Though many may start, few of them finish.

The first time a publisher showed interest in my Bible studies, they told me I would need to shorten them from 11 weeks to 6. Women wouldn’t commit that long, I was told. Nor would they do homework unless it was kept simple.

I knew this was not the case. Every week I watched women turn out in large numbers to the study I led. I was not a big-name Bible teacher. My approach was neither clever nor adorable; we were just doing line-by-line study.

During weeks when my teaching was below average, I wondered myself why women kept coming. But after almost 20 years of leading studies, I realized that we need not lower the bar to draw participants. Actually, the opposite is true: People commit better to studies that ask more of them than simply showing up.

Amid a push for catchy themes and culturally relevant approaches to teaching the Bible, the timeless elements that actually cultivate sustainable Bible studies seem so unimaginative that they often get overlooked: structure, accountability, and predictability.

These elements foster commitment more effectively than the factors we assume are most critical for success: exceptional teaching and solid content. I’ve seen groups meet consistently for years to discuss average or poor content simply because these other three elements were in place. But when they undergird a capable teacher and good content, they create spaces where people are willing to commit, and where mature discipleship can occur.

Structure: …

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