November 20, 2017
How to Start and Sustain Parish Bible Study
The good news is that Bible study is already happening in every parish. As the pastor prepares the weekend homily, as lectors practice to proclaim the Word, as catechumens gather for faith formation, as religious educators instruct the young, as those who attend daily Mass offer their faithful attention, as parish leaders quietly use the Scriptures in their personal prayer—the Catholic faith community is reaping the rewards of Bible study. No parish has to invent the concept of Bible study from scratch, for it already exists. What parish leaders can do is create opportunities for guided and more purposeful explorations of Scripture. This will ensure that the supreme Christian vocation “to encounter, pray, and live the Word” (Lineamenta for the 2008 Synod, no. 24) is being nurtured in the fullness of Church Tradition.
Defining Your Purpose
Bible studies are not created equal. Some function like prayer groups with no regular facilitator, while others involve classroom-style exegesis led by a trained catechist. Bible groups with faith formation as their primary goal often employ a discussion format with light facilitation. They may also be steered toward preparing the liturgical ministry team for their service to the community. So before writing the bulletin announcement inviting people to join a Bible study, be sure to determine the purpose of your gathering.
No matter which approach your parish takes—and there’s no reason to limit your community to only one—every Bible study should be grounded in the conviction that the Word of God is fundamentally God speaking with us. Authentic communication involves sharing information; some catechesis is required to unlock Scripture’s many meanings. Genuine communication also involves self-expression. The Bible expresses God’s love in action yesterday, today, and forever. Finally, God speaks to make an appeal for our response in faith. No communication is complete without a reply (see Lineamenta, no. 9). Read more