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Women see changed lives via small group Bible studies

NASHVILLE ,Tenn. (BP)–Joyce Aylor did not grow up with a strong Christian foundation in her Texas home, but she did attend church functions and enjoyed reading publications such as Biblical Illustrator.

Aylor, however, wanted more than the information offered by a typical Sunday School lesson or Biblical Illustrator article from the longtime Southern Baptist publication. She wanted to know “all of what God had to say,” so she became involved in women’s small group Bible study.

That was more than 20 years ago, and Aylor’s passion for Bible study has only grown as she continues to participate in and lead small group Bible studies. She now serves as director of women’s Bible studies at the Nashville-area Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn.

“I’m just as hungry as [other women] are for the Word,” Aylor said, explaining why her involvement continues after more than 20 years. “I think I learn more when I’m teaching it.”

The first goal of Bible studies is to ignite a passion for God’s Word in participants, but most women initially show up for the social aspects of gathering with other women, she observed.

“I think they know they can find a little bit of the Word and a lot of fellowship,” Aylor said. “I want to reverse that.”

Over the years, Aylor has conducted countless Bible studies organized into various formats. The inductive study technique, like that championed by best-selling author Kay Arthur, enticed Aylor into deeper study, and it remains her favorite format.

This approach requires students to rely on the Bible as their main source of interpretation and application rather than extended analysis and commentary from the study’s author. Many published studies using this technique include workbooks that further promote active participation.

“You have to be intentional with [Bible study] if you’re going to get a changed life out of it,” Aylor said.

Workbook-based studies began gaining popularity about a decade ago. While weight loss and fitness studies such as “First Place” are still popular, women have begun to embrace studies more geared toward spiritual health.

“Women are looking for something a little deeper in their spiritual walk,” said Donnie Baldwin, buyer of product and church supplies with LifeWay Christian Stores. “They want something more for their spiritual lives.”

Gabbie Maxner manager of a LifeWay Christian Store in Birmingham, Ala., said she has helped many women find the right study for their groups during the seven years she has worked in LifeWay stores.

Maxner said Beth Moore’s materials are the most popular women’s studies because the best-selling author and teacher finds a way to make biblical material relevant to women’s everyday lives.

“Beth Moore has probably tapped into an aspect of biblical teachings that really speaks to women,” she Maxner, adding that women began calling the store about Moore’s new study, “The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” about five months before its June 1 debut.

Moore’s new study focuses primarily on chapters 12-50 of Genesis as it guides women through the lives of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. She highlights God’s blessings, covenant and promise, and how those transformed the lives of Abraham and his descendents.

Baldwin said he expects as many as 10,000 small groups to participate in Moore’s new study this fall.

“[Moore’s] No. 1 gift is she’s a great speaker,” Baldwin said. “Women are looking for studies that hit them where they are and are relevant to what they’re doing today.”

The weekly schedules of many women consist of everything from board meetings and client dinners to soccer games and school and church functions. Still, women are making time for the fellowship and spiritual growth opportunities a Bible study offers.

Lynn Truitt has been teaching women’s Bible studies for more than 15 years. As the director of women’s ministry at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., she has the chance to see firsthand the benefits of women gathering around God’s Word.

“I just love seeing women get in God’s Word,” Truitt said. “It really is the only thing that can change a life.”

Aylor acknowledged that each woman must determine the type of study that best fits her needs and preferences. For that reason, some churches offer a variety of studies throughout the year.

At Clearview Baptist, for instance, Aylor said she likely would teach Beth Moore’s The Patriarchs in the fall while another teacher probably will teach an inductive study. Currently, Aylor is leading a First Place class on Sunday evenings.

“If a person’s life has been affected so that person is no longer under the stronghold of a particular sin, that’s a successful study,” Aylor said. “Changed lives make a successful study.”
For more information or to purchase “The Patriarchs” or other Bible studies and materials, visit a LifeWay Christian Store or LifeWayStores.com.

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  • Brooklyn Noel