Motivating Women in Bible Study

Looking for ways to motivate the women in your Bible study group? You’ll be encouraged as your read our post from our guest blogger,Christina Zimmerman,Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay’s Leadership and Adult Publishing department as she addresses the age old issue in Bible study: how do we keep women’s attention throughout a Bible study whether it is 6 weeks or a semester long?  She gives us several important things to think about and incorporate into our Bible study group times.

bible-studying-pen-papger.gif"You are in your sixth week of facilitating or teaching a 13-week Bible study and find that half of the women are no longer attending on a regular basis or they have dropped out all together. “Is it me,” or “should I have done something differently?,” you may ask.

It’s true that life issues,like a need for a babysitter, the lack of transportation, family problems, and so forth may be distractions that prevent attendance. It’s true that the decision to drop out may be due to failure to complete homework because of one reason or another. It’s also true that there are a host of excuses that women use for not attending. But the problem—the real problem—is a lack of motivation. They are not motivated to attend the class. They are not motivated to learn. Addressing this need can help with other distractions and issues that pull women away from Bible study.

In Dr. Howard Hendricks’ classic book, Teaching to Change Lives, he says, “The number one problem in education today is the failure to motivate learners.” Educators seem to agree as the dropout rates among high school students continue to be an issue. Many of them have the ability to do the work but they lack application. There is nothing to capture and direct their ability and energy.

Dr. Hendricks believes that if this is also the case for people in Bible study classes, then it becomes the job of Bible study leaders to motivate their learners to learn and be self-starters. So how do you do this?

The need to motivate learning in education is not new. There are several teaching strategies for increasing motivation in the classroom already in use. Some have been developed for Bible study classes. One in particular is Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s Need Model. The key to this model is to develop lessons that respond to the felt and real needs of the women. Remember some of the distractions that pull women away from Bible study are felt needs like a husband losing his job, for example. This model could be a help in connecting women to viable solutions for life concerns; thereby, motivating them to keep coming back.

The Need Model is patterned after the teaching ministry of our Master Teacher—Jesus Christ.  Jesus used five steps to uncover and build the need in his listeners’ hearts. Once He did, motivation and excitement flourished. He demonstrated this five step model in John 4:5-30 during His encounter with the women at the well. This is what He did:

Step 1: Seize Attention
The first thing Jesus said to her was, “Give Me a drink” (Jn. 4:7). He got her attention because in that culture a Jewish rabbi would never talk to a Samaritan woman so she was shocked when He spoke to her. What can you do to capture the attention of your women on a weekly basis? Some come to class after a long day on the job or taking care of the family. So begin your class time by taking charge of their attention.

Step 2: Stir Curiosity
Now that you have the attention of the women, go deeper. Stir their curiosity so that they want more. Jesus did this in a most instructive manner. He told the woman at the well about a “gift of God,” “His identity,” and “Living Water” (Jn 4:9-10). Note that He did not start right into the lesson, but He threw out three different points to rouse her curiosity. How many worked? All three (Jn. 4:11-12). She was hooked and needed her curiosity satisfied. Each week ask yourself what you can do to rouse curiosity.

Step 3: Stimulate Felt Need
The real lesson still had not come. Remember it is the Bible study leader’s responsibility to develop self-starters. Jesus did this by stimulating the woman’s felt need. He led her to think about the issues in her life until she determined that she needed what He had to offer (Jn. 4:13-14). Determine what is first and foremost in the minds of the women you teach, and then link your lesson to their needs. Some felt needs may be related to their children, financial, friendships, illness and so forth. What they are thinking and feeling should be the launching pad for your lesson.

Step 4: Surface Real Need

Now the women should be ready for what you have prepared but you need to communicate to them the real need that will be answered by the lesson. Jesus intended to share with her the gift of salvation, but not until He made her aware of this real need (Jn. 4:16-20). Your women will need to recognize that the point of this lesson is the real need and will make a difference in some area of their lives.

Step 5: Satisfy Real Need
Only when the women are aware of their real needs should you proceed with the lesson, which will satisfy their real need. Jesus did this (Jn. 4:25-26). The result will be an interesting Bible study that addresses the needs of women.

This method may take more preparation time but it will be worth it when Bible study attendance and commitments to finish the study increase. The key is to make your lessons interesting and lead your women to embrace biblical truths that can change their lives".

CHRIS ZIMMERMAN.JPGIn addition to her work at LifeWay, Christina serves as a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She is a member of Simeon Baptist Church in Antioch where she teaches Sunday school and provides training for staff and ministry leaders. She is also pursuing a doctorate in Christian Education and Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has a passion for discipleship that leads to spiritual transformation, and helping others experience God in their hearts and lives.

Helpful Resources:

Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level

Hendricks, Howard. 1987. Teaching to Change Lives. Sisters, Oregon:Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Wilkerson, Bruce. 1992. The 7 Laws of the Learner. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Helpful Articles:


Three Keys for Motivating Adults in Bible Study

Using Life Transitions as Teachable Moments


  1. Judi Jackson says

    Christina, I really appreciate your emphasis on motivating learners. I’m a firm believer in capturing a person’s imagination so they’ll be more invested in the learning process. I never want to take away from the meat of the Word but I want to prepare ladies for that focus. We know the value of using games to introduce children and youth to a particular study, but perhaps have the unspoken perception that once you graduate high school, you better always be ready to learn, motivated or not. Let’s not outgrow our ability to play, and thus prepare people to be a fertile soil for the seeds of truth we desire to sow in study.

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