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Fostering Friendshps Through In-Home Bible Studies

Hey friends! You can find me today at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom where I'm sharing about my experiences about the benefits of an established routine for older children. 
I'm so excited to have Cole, from Twinning Babywise here talking about something that I am pretty passionate about myself... and that's finding community around the Word of God. Yall, every time I read something that Cole writes I feel like she's my soul sister. Enjoy today's post! 

Five years ago my life was totally rocked when I unexpectedly became pregnant with my first kid. Over the next year, I experienced a complete overhaul of my identity. As I’m sure many moms can relate, the changes involved in becoming a mother weren’t simply getting used to life with a baby. I quit my job. I stopped going out. I got married. My body changed. My priorities shifted. And ultimately, I found my faith.
Somewhere along the line, I realized I was extremely lonely in my new role.
I tried a variety approaches to making friends. First I joined local mom groups. Not for me. Then I joined a few bible studies. They were good, and I enjoyed going, but most of the women in the studies I did were older and it failed to satisfy my need for peer-to-peer relationships. I joined MOPs. I started going to the YMCA. I talked to moms at the park. I started an unsuccessful book club. I put myself out there in every way I could think of, but nothing quite worked. I still hungered for those deep, fulfilling friendships.
Almost two years ago, after reading Dee Brestin’s The Friendships of Women and praying consistently for friendships, the idea came to me to start a bible study in my home. My hope was to use it as a means to find and build relationships with other young moms, but it was also a perfect solution to my existing childcare issue. The bible study I was attending at the time charged $15 a week for child care and this made it cost prohibitive long term. The concept was simple: free childcare, applicable topics, light homework, and weekly fellowship.
Starting that bible study might be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Working through scripture and topics related to our stage in life has cultivated friendships with this handful of women in a way I could have never predicted. We continue to meet every Tuesday morning and although we do follow along a reading schedule and discuss our assignment, some weeks counseling and encouraging a distraught or discouraged mom takes precedence. This is how friendships are fostered, and this is how God served up the strong, dependable relationships I was yearning for.
Now that you understand my why, I thought it might be useful to provide a little how for anyone who might be interested in starting their own in-home bible study. This is not a manual – by all means do it the way you want to! – but for those who are unsure or lack confidence, be encouraged! It’s not that hard. You can do it too.

The How-To

>How many women should I invite?This is the wrong question. The question is how many children do I want running around my house or backyard? Moms are no problem. They’re clean, they’re polite, and they generally just sit there and sip coffee. You need to decide how many kids you can accommodate and stop inviting moms when you hit the child maximum.
>Who should I invite?
When I started the study, I invited a handful of women I knew (some better than others), three of which agreed to come. I then asked those three women if they knew anyone else who would like to join, and from that two additional women joined (whom I did not know at all). This was a good mix.
After we finish each book, we give each woman the opportunity to either continue on with the next study or to bow out. Once we see how many women are returning, we decide whether or not to open the invitation to additional women.
>What should I be looking for when choosing who to invite?
I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way, but it’s fact so I’ll say it. It’s better for everyone involved if the children who attend are generally well-disciplined. Otherwise you spend the whole meeting refereeing the kids instead of discussing the study.
It’s also nice to have women who are at different stages in their faith. We have a few life-long Christian women and a few who are completely new Christians. This is good because it challenges both types.
>How should we choose a book?
We do it by vote. Typically I come up with a list of 4-5 options that appeal to me and then whoever is continuing on from the last study gets to vote on the book for the next study. We have done a variety of books – some actual bible studies and some more Christian-interest books. We try to choose ones that are applicable to our current stage in life – things that serve to improve us as mothers, wives, friends, and Christian women.
>Who leads the study?
I wish I could raise my hand here and yell out I do! I do! But sadly, I suck at this. My role at this point is just to keep the discussion on track (which in a group of 8 women ain’t no small thing). Many books include discussion questions at the end of the chapter. For the ones that don’t, we usually just go page by page through the reading, stopping to discuss any point that stuck out to us.
We follow no agenda. We literally sit down and start talking. When we’re done talking, we go home.
>What do I provide as host?
Coffee – hot in the winter and iced in the summer. That’s it. We used to have a light breakfast too (like a pastry and fruit) but then we spent the whole meeting trying to shoo kids away from the table. If you want the children out of your hair so you can actually discuss, don’t put food on the table.
>What do the kids do while we’re discussing?Because we live in southern California, we are able to meet outside 95% of the year. Actually, since I’ve started the study, I think we’ve only had to meet inside three times. I have a large table in the back that the moms sit at while the kids play in the yard. In fact, unless they have to go to the bathroom (and don’t judge me, but sometimes we make the boys pee outside), the kids don’t even come in the house. They arrive and go through the side gate straight into the backyard.
When we’ve had to meet inside because of rain, we keep the kids in one room (our family room) while we meet in the living room. We go over rules at the beginning of the meeting and set the older kids in charge of keeping the younger ones in line.
I’ll admit, if we had to meet inside for a large chunk of the year, I would significantly decrease the number of children participating in the study. At our highest, we had 8 women and over 20 children. That’s just too many to have inside my house regularly.
>What is the homework like?
This has ranged, depending on the study. Some studies have had very light homework and others have been more time intensive. I’ve found there’s a necessary balance. If there is too much homework, moms won’t even start it, but if there is too little, they procrastinate and don’t end up doing it either. A moderate amount of work (maybe 45-60min a week) is best for our group.
>When do we meet?
We meet every Tuesday morning at 9:30am. We go until we’re done discussing, which, depending on the number of interruptions, can be anywhere from 10:45-11:30.

You Can Do It Too!

So that’s a brief overview of how we do it. If you are interested in starting your own study but have further questions or just need a little nudge in the right direction, please contact me! This bible study has been such a life changing thing that I would love to aid and encourage other women to do and experience the same. And of course, there is definitely room for improvement, so if you have an in-home bible study and would like to share how yours works, I’d love to hear it. Come find me over at Twinning Babywise and share your story!
Cole is mom to four littles and likes to spend at least some of their nap time recording the joys of life at Twinning Babywise.
****You might remember that Cole has guest-posted over here before! Check out her guest post about putting an end to picky eating:

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