I’m familiar with women’s bible studies and studies geared toward youth, senior citizens, men, and young couples. But a neighborhood bible study is different. Instead of drawing on gender or age similarities, it brings together people who are living in proximity to one another. Neighbors. Those people who see each other when they are out walking, doing yard work, or at the local grocery store. When we decided to offer our Institute teachers and classrooms to teach others the word of God, it was with our neighbors in mind. When people learn the word of God together, relationships deepen and change for the good.
“It’s a good way to meet our neighbors and get to know them better,” said one of the neighbors who attends the study. “It is nice to have a relaxed atmosphere that makes everyone feel comfortable enough to participate with questions or comments,” she added.
Although the bible study is held in a classroom, the atmosphere is far from intimidating. “The informal atmosphere of the study makes everyone feel comfortable, regardless of the level of people’s biblical knowledge, their age, or their background.”
This past Bible Study session, we spent 10 weeks in the book of James with three different teachers (Grant Dailey, Laurie Kagay and Shaun Galford) each facilitating one three-week period. Some of the comments from participants were: “I like having a variety of instructors who taught directly from the bible, focusing on the text,” and another remarked that she appreciated the several teachers. “Even though they were teaching from the same book, their personality and life experience added a different kind of inspiration to the lesson.”
One of the best results of this Neighborhood Bible Study is how it’s growing. Each new person that joins the study comes because a neighbor invited him or her. “My neighbor has been telling me how much she enjoys the Bible Study. Is there any space for my husband and me to come?” is a question I received this week. When people find something good, word spreads. In the gospel of John, after hearing Jesus speak Andrew “first found his brother Simon…[and] he brought Simon to Jesus… Likewise, after Jesus spoke to Philip, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth’” (John 1:41,45).
We feel blessed to continue offering this opportunity for neighbors to walk a couple blocks and have a more informal opportunity to learn God's word from studied teachers. It just makes sense to do it alongside the people you see and live among everyday.