What’s for Dinner?: Bible Study Planning for Individuals and Groups



As a mom of five, I’ve heard that question a million times. Sometimes I can rattle off the answer because I just grocery-shopped. Lately, though, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and may stall with an answer, “It’s a surprise!” I look at the clock and I look in my frig. Suddenly, I pretend I’m on the FOOD Network Show, Chopped, and I race against the clock with whatever is “in my basket.”

Often I feel the same way when ladies ask, “What’s our Bible study?”
A few of my dinner planning techniques help our ministry team come up with an answer.

First, what are the needs of the women? Not necessarily what they crave, but what do they need? Are they struggling with materialism? Are they hungry for God’s word but don’t know where to start? Just like I need to consider my child’s health and physical needs (more dinner veggies to make up for the PopTart we grabbed on the way to school), consider what spiritual needs your women have.

Second, when I am shopping for ingredients, the closer it is to the original food form, the healthier. A ready-to-go rotisserie chicken is healthier than the frozen fried chicken-shaped nuggets. Ask yourself the same about what you’re serving in your study. Is the Word the main ingredient? Or, are the lessons part of a breaded, frozen, Bible-shaped study?

But let’s be honest. Just because I have the right ingredients, I may not know how to cook it like a pro. Top Chef teachers produce glorious dishes on our podcasts and bookshelves, but most of us ladies are the “one pot meal” kind of cooks. Our churches don’t have unlimited resources or enough teachers, so we plan according to whom God’s given our local church. Our Bible study menu choices depend on what’s in our basket: time, gifting, and experience.

For instance, we may use a DVD Bible study if the leader is working full time and can’t prepare a lesson but can facilitate discussion. Or, we invest in a study curriculum and have someone willing to follow the trusted recipe and serve it up to a larger group. Recently, we began a “beginner cooking class” for ladies wanting accountability simply to read their bible five days a week.

Unfortunately, I’ve found it easier to prepare food for a crowd than for one. Likewise, do you find that it’s easier to plan a group Bible study than your own personal study?

Now that most of my children are out of the house, I tend not to cook so much. I tell myself, it’s cheaper just to give in to my teen’s request for Chinese take-out.

Eventually, my clothes become snug from all the processed foods. I feel guilty as I toss out old veggies that went to waste because I forgot they were in the refrigerator. My family no longer eats together. And, although I’ve eaten three meals that day, I feel exhausted.

When we skimp on personal Bible study time, our hearts can feel much the same—simultaneously bloated and anemic. Perhaps we’ve been eating processed biblical truths packaged in trendy topical books. Or maybe like a rude dinner guest, we keep looking at incoming texts when He’s served us a healthy plate. And as a Bible study teacher, I can neglect my personal bible study in order to cook up outlines and applications for others.

I need to ask myself, “What’s for dinner?”

What’s in my basket? The fresh ingredients of truth are always available on the pages of the Bible. When I visit my local farmers’ market in the summer, I’m inspired to cook with all the brightly colored vegetables they’ve displayed. I may not know how to cook them yet (is that a weird kind of squash???), but their hues and shapes make me want to learn.

God’s word is always in season—the purple peppers of the Epistles, the sweet red watermelon of the Gospels, and the fresh, fuzzy peaches of the Psalms are always available to try. Develop a taste for God’s produce. You can’t mess up His ingredients! Ask yourself, what haven’t I read lately? If you last read from the New Testament, try an Old Testament book next. Keep a trusted commentary nearby like a saltshaker to bring out the flavor of the text.

How much time is on the clock? Pick a plan according to your season of life. Do I need to wake up thirty minutes earlier? Should I find a nearby space to read and pray on my lunch break? Can I hold my toddler twins in my lap for one minute while I read and ponder one Proverb a day?

What recipe will work? No one was born knowing how to boil an egg. Find someone to show you if you can’t figure it out. You may have to get creative to create this habit of personal study. Would it help to use a Bible app on your phone or computer? Will journaling help you focus on what you are reading? Can you put your Bible and reading glasses by your coffee pot before you go to bed? Change up your system until you figure out what works. Keep cooking.

And, never stop asking yourself…”What’s for Dinner tonight?”

Susan Tyner in on staff at Christ Presbyterian Church in Oxford, MS, and enjoys serving as the Mid-South Regional Advisor on the PCA’s Women’s Ministry Team as well as an Advisor to the RUF Permanent Committee. Susan, and her husband Lee, have five children. Stirring a pot of soup, dancing in her exercise class, and reading a book are her favorite things to do between the laundry and the dishes.

leonie wise