“Hey, why not come by my place this week for that women’s Bible study I’ve been telling you about?” my former roommate and good friend Jes offered for what was probably the fifth time in as many months. I shifted uncomfortably for a moment, desperately searching for a polite excuse I could use to get out of attending. I’d successfully avoided attending the weekly evening study for months, despite my friend’s persistent and relentlessly optimistic invitations. But this time, she had me cornered. I could not conjure up a single alibi. In fact, I had just told her I wanted to come over to see her new place soon and had added, “I’m free literally every evening this week! Name a time and I’ll be there!” With no recourse, I reluctantly agreed to show up for the women’s Bible study. I’ll pretend to enjoy it just this once and then I am so out of there, I thought privately to myself.
Why was I so reluctant to attend a “women’s” Bible study? I believed in Jesus! I enjoyed reading the Bible! Heck, I even enjoyed group Bible studies from time to time! In truth, my avoidance had nothing to do with the reason for the gathering and everything to do with the gender of those attending it. As someone who primarily hung out with “guy friends” and who didn’t fancy myself very “girly,” I thought I probably had nothing in common with most other women. Why would I want to surround myself with nothing but females for an entire evening?
I could just picture what this girly Bible study would be like, and in my imagination, it was a total nightmare. I had conjured up an image, pieced together from the stereotypes found in movies and television shows, and from my limited reluctant attendance of other girls-only events like bachelorette and home product parties. Once established in my brain, this image, rooted in stereotype, grew more ridiculous by the second. I knew it was probably a far-fetched mental image, but I couldn’t help picturing it and recoiling involuntarily whenever I heard the words “women’s Bible study.” In my mind, at such a Bible study, Women would arrive with immaculate hair and makeup wearing their most flattering clothes. The hostess would greet them, showing off her magazine-worthy house and offering decadent hors d’oeuvres. From there, the pressure would be on to outdo and impress as each woman struggled to present her best version of herself to the other women. The evening would quickly devolve from a superficial and unsatisfying Bible study into catty and derogatory gossip about men and other women. I would sip my tea and nibble my overdone hors d’ouvres quietly in a corner and try not to join in the negativity, I promised myself. Then I would go back to my regular life, happily devoid of such contrived, estrogen-exclusive events.
When I arrived at Jes’s tiny but cozy studio apartment that chilly October evening for my first women’s Bible study, I discovered immediately that my imagination had done me a disservice. Instead of immaculately dressed women perched primly on the edge of their chairs in somebody’s well-groomed living room scowling at me over their teacups full of spite and judgment, I found five or six laid back women unwinding in their jeans and sweatpants sprawled on their stomachs across the floor and lounging in Jes’s bed eating cake and drinking coffee. As the women laughed, told stories, and caught up on each other’s lives, the atmosphere was less “Stepford Wives” and more “Babysitters Club.” Girls just being themselves in a comfortable setting, devoid of pretense and expectations. I began to think that maybe I would participate a little beyond drinking tea in a quiet corner.
Then the Bible study itself started, and I immediately felt the joy and passion the study leader, Amanda, exuded for the Word as she lead us in discussion. While we certainly got off topic several times, it was never for the sake of idle gossip. Rather, we realized through these side-tracked discussions that we were passionate about discussing several other Biblical topics, and we eventually made a list of topics to tackle in future studies. As I sat and discussed the Bible with these women, I felt renewed in Christ’s love and reinvigorated to learn more about and grow closer to Him. As someone who already knew that Jesus had lived, died, and risen from the dead for me, and that I was going to heaven when I died, I had let my faith grow complacent in the contentment of that knowledge. I didn’t have a regular excuse to nurture that faith beyond attending church regularly. In the company of these other women, however, I found myself growing excited to learn about and discuss His Word again.
I was enjoying myself so thoroughly at Bible study that I completely forgot about my reluctance to spend time with a group of “only women” until it came time for prayer requests. At the end of our study, we went around the room and each woman raised up a request so that the other women could pray for her throughout the following week. As the other women in attendance shared their requests, I contemplated what I might ask this group of women to pray for. At first I thought of other people who might be suffering and in need of prayers in my social circle or church congregation. Who was sick? Who was dying? Who needed our prayers? I definitely took note of those people and uplifted them to the group. Then I thought of somewhat superficial life circumstances I faced that would be relatively “safe” to share. Hmmm...maybe I could pray for help looking for a job or stamina as I finished up grad school?
Then, all at once, it came to me what I needed to pray for while in the company of these other women. Something that had been on my mind nearly constantly and was affecting just about every aspect of my life. Something I’d already been praying for continuously in my private prayer life and discussed with my husband. At the time, I would have never felt comfortable voicing this something to my pastor or to the men in my congregation or social circle. But this group of largely young, married women would understand. They were largely in a similar place in life and I just knew they would relate to the stress that financial uncertainty and lack of jobs can place on a very young couple during a post-college transition. They would relate to eating ramen for every meal and running themselves further into debt every month as they struggled to find good, steady, employment. They would relate to reaching that place in marriage where the “honeymoon stage” wears off and reality begins to set in. A few of them would even relate to the stress and fear and uncertainty and “how are we going to survive?” questions that come along with finding out you are unexpectedly pregnant with your first baby at the same time you are experiencing all of the above.
So I took a deep breath and asked for a prayer for what I felt was a root cause and key contributer to the stress I found oozing out of my pores daily. I asked that they would pray that God would bless me with increased intimacy in my marriage. Mental, spiritual, and yes, physical. It was all severely lacking in the face of stress and severely needed if we were going to make it through intact. (Five years and almost four babies later, I’d say God answered that prayer by helping us through that particular struggle)
It was at that moment, when I found myself asking a group of what was essentially total strangers to pray for my sex life, that I realized the value to growing spiritually alongside a group of women. When we allow ourselves to be raw, open, and vulnerable about our hopes and our struggles with other Christians, we invite opportunity for growth, prayer, and accountability that just can’t happen if we keep these things to ourselves. This level of raw vulnerability is often impossible to obtain in large, social church settings. It’s tough to impossible to stand up in front of an entire congregation and confess your sins or request help with personal struggles. Nor does the entire congregation always need to know about a personal struggle. Sometimes sharing information with everyone would be counter productive to spiritual growth. This is where Christian women can be particularly beneficial to other Christian women, especially in small, intimate settings like women’s Bible studies.
It has been almost five years since I first attended that women’s Bible study at Jes’s house, and we have continued to meet in the evening after our kids go to bed on a weekly basis ever since. Throughout our time studying God’s Word together at our women’s Bible study and our inclusion of prayer requests, we have shared so many intimate struggles and hopes with each other that are unique to women or that women can best understand and relate to. It amazes me how many things we likely would have suffered about in silence or faced entirely alone or with only secular advice to help us through if it weren’t for our ability to share with and receive spiritual support from other women. We have encouraged each other and directed each other to the God’s love to help each other cope with infertility, miscarriages, body image, problems with extended family, death or illness in the family, mothering our children, balancing work with home life, reproductive health issues, depression, giving birth, uncertainty, and many other topics that women are able to deeply empathize with, understand, and lend spiritual encouragement.
When we first discussed creating this blog, we wanted to create an intimate space to share and grow spiritually as women through the support and godly wisdom of other women. We wanted to uplift, support, and encourage those women who may not be able to attend a weekly women’s Bible study of their own. We were inspired by Titus 2:3-5 and hope to continue placing an emphasis on women to women fellowship and mentorship through this blog.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to too much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:3-5)
I regret now having wasted so many years of my life avoiding other women! I hope if you’re considering attending or starting a woman’s Bible study for the first time as I was, that you’ll give it a shot! When we started our study over five years ago, only a few of us knew each other, while the rest were total strangers, so don’t let that factor hold you back!
If you are unable to find spiritual encouragement locally and would like to pose a tough or intimate question to us or our readers feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org With your permission, we may anonymously share your question on the blog with the opportunity for HHH writers and our readers to share any advice or encouragement that they might have.