One of the ways you can live out your faith at work is through leading a workplace Bible study.
We’ve been talking about the importance of loving your neighbors and some different ways you can be a good neighbor this summer. However, if you work full-time, then your closest “neighbor” for 40-plus hours per week is the person in the office next to yours. They are your next-door neighbor for at least a third of your waking hours, and you probably interact with them more than you interact with your neighbors at home. That means you also have more opportunities to talk with them about Jesus.
However, starting a workplace Bible study (or sharing the gospel at work) can be intimidating. You might feel ill-equipped to lead, or be concerned that it could somehow get you in trouble with your employer. There is no need to fear (2 Timothy 1:7), though, and no reason to be anxious (Philippians 4:6-7). You have the Holy Spirit as a helper (John 14:26) and God’s Word as a guide (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We’re also here to help, with some tips from Watermark Members who have (collectively) decades of experience in leading Bible studies at work.
Make the Most of the Opportunity
First, don’t underestimate the opportunity you have to minister to your coworkers.
When you work at a for-profit company, it can be tempting to think that people who work as pastors or missionaries are the ones who are really making an impact for God’s kingdom. After all, they are “in ministry” or “on mission.” However, you can also do ministry and be on mission in ways that they cannot.
For starters, you have your own mission field in your workplace. You already speak the language and understand the culture. Instead of Googling the price of flights to far-off countries, realize that there are coworkers sitting just a few feet away who also need Jesus—and you’re literally paid to be there with them every day.
You also have the benefit of not being known as a “pastor” or “missionary.” Some people are reluctant to talk with pastors, because they don’t want to be preached to or feel convicted of sin. You, on the other hand, are more like an undercover agent on a secret assignment. Your coworkers don’t know that you are a pastor; they think you are an engineer or a salesperson or that girl from accounting. They are therefore willing to engage with and listen to you in ways that a professional pastor could only imagine.
You have a great opportunity to reach people in your workplace, so make good use of the time you spend there (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Tips for Starting a Bible Study at Work
So, how do you make the most of the opportunity? Here are some tips on how to lead a Bible study at work:
- Pray. Pray for your coworkers. Pray for help. Pray that you would be faithful to take the next step.
- Be a great employee. If you are worried about how your employer might react, start by being the best employee you can be. They’re not going to get upset at their hardest-working employee just because you choose to lead a voluntary Bible study during your lunch break.
- Don’t do it on company time (unless you have permission). Also, don’t think that you have to get permission if it’s on your own time. You are free to do what you want during break times, or before or after working hours.
- Find a co-leader if you can. That’s not a requirement, but if you do have a believing coworker who is willing to help, two are always better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
- Realize that the attendees may be all believers (and that’s OK). Bible studies lend themselves more towards discipleship than evangelism, because believers are more likely to be interested in studying their Bibles. Curious nonbelievers might come to your Bible study seeking the truth, and that’s great! But it’s also great when you can encourage, equip, and care for fellow believers.
- Ask questions. Don’t think that you need to be a great teacher or spend hours writing down a lesson plan before each meeting. Instead, spend your preparation time coming up with a list of questions you can ask about the passage you’re reading. The questions can be about observation (“What is happening in this passage?”), interpretation (“What does this mean?”), or application (“How can I apply this to my own life?”). Try to have open-ended questions, and not something where there is a clear right or wrong answer (so that you don’t have to correct people when they are wrong). During the Bible study, your main role is to ask questions and encourage discussion. Ideally, the person leading the study would only talk 10-20 percent of the time; let the participants do most of the talking.
- Don’t think you need to have all the answers. You can’t know everything, and if you think you need to know everything before leading a Bible study, you’ll never get started. So, when someone asks you a question about the Bible and you’re not sure of the answer, just admit that you don’t know the answer. Tell them that you’ll look into it and try to find an answer before the next time you meet.
- Don’t get into arguments. Other than the essentials of the gospel, there are areas where there is room for disagreement. Don’t let the study get bogged down in endless arguments about nonessential things (Titus 3:9). Instead, let people know that there can be different interpretations and then move on.
- Lead by example. If you want people to be honest, open, gracious, loving, and engaged with the Word, then you need to model that for them. You go first, and others will be more likely to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1).
- Don’t be afraid. It is very unlikely that you will lose your job or get in any kind of trouble at work solely because you led a Bible study or shared your faith with coworkers. if you did lose your job for sharing the gospel, what a way to go! Consider it joy (James 1:2-4), pick up your cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23-26).
- Trust God with the outcome. What if you start a Bible study and no one comes? Success in ministry is not about the numbers; it is measured by your faithfulness. And it’s not your job to save anyone; only God can do that. Be faithful and trust God with whatever happens.
Where to Begin
If you are wondering what to study in your Bible study, the obvious answer is “The Bible.” It can be as simple as picking a book in the Bible (the Gospel of John is a popular choice) and going through it chapter-by-chapter. You can also pick a relevant topic, such as love, peace, or work itself, and look at what the Bible has to say about that subject. Some people who are reluctant to come to a Bible study might be more willing to attend a discussion on anxiety, for instance.
There are other books and organized studies you can lead people through, along with resources you can use to answer questions and improve your own understanding of the Bible. Below, we’ve included a few (mostly free) resources you can find online, along with tips from Watermark Members who have gone before you in starting their own workplace Bible studies.
Start simply, but simply start. If you want to lead a Bible study at work, then figure out what your next small step is, and take that step this week.
Workplace Bible Study Resources
- Watermark Women’s Bible Study and Summit Men’s Bible Study curriculum
- Watermark’s Online Equipping Courses
- RightNow Media video studies (Watermark Members receive free access)
- Sonic Light study notes on the Bible by Dr. Constable
- The Bible Project study tools and reading plans
- GotQuestions.org answers to common biblical questions
Workplace Bible Study Tips
Compiled from Watermark Members who have experience leading Bible studies at work:
- Start small. “I learned firsthand what it meant to ‘Start Simply and Simply Start.’ Only four people out of 40 showed up, which I was initially discouraged by. But that ended up creating more meaningful relationships and some opportunities for more one-on-one conversations.”
- Set a schedule. “Have a defined beginning and end to what you’re studying. Example: ‘We will meet for 5 weeks to go through Ephesians, and then we will reassess.’”
- Be consistent. “Put something on the calendar that is consistent. Don’t feel like everyone needs to be there every time – it won’t work. Pick a day and stay committed to it. The people who are bought in will begin to work their schedules around it.”
- Be prepared. “Being prepared was crucial – including learning the context of the biblical passage. A lot of my prep involved reading through commentaries and generating good questions that would spur discussion.
- Be transparent. “The biggest thing I have learned is being transparent and applying what we are reading to myself. The ultimate goal is to humble myself and be vulnerable with the group to show how often I mess up and don’t get it right, and the many different reasons I need Jesus in my life.”
- Live it out. “As a key leader in the company, I have to live out the gospel by giving my employees confidence not only in the gospel but also in my leadership. I’m not the best businessman, but living transparently and admitting my failures helps build trust. It reveals your weaknesses, which opens doors for the gospel to be heard.”
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. “A lot of planning goes into doing this well and being intentional, but the Holy Spirit is who changes hearts and lives. We have enjoyed watching the Holy Spirit disciple those in our study, and many are drastically different people than when they walked in years ago.”
- Don’t assume. “Never make assumptions as to where people are and what they understand of God or the Bible (even if you think you’re on the same page faith-wise). Because I work with several Christian women, this was an easy trap to fall into, but we’re all coming from different backgrounds and places in our walks with Christ. (I love all of the perspectives.)”
- Encourage participation. “We read the Scripture text out loud, asking for a different person to read each paragraph (the ‘popcorn’ approach). This helps those who might be reticent to share in the discussion portion; if there are no difficult names in the text, they can feel involved without having to contribute in a riskier setting. We also never ask anyone to pray who is not a leader or someone we are 100 percent sure is happy to pray in public.”
- Discourage domination. “We do have to navigate unbiblical theology at times, sometimes from strong personalities who will dominate the meeting if allowed. We have had to have uncomfortable conversations with people asking them to stop, and I even do that in the meeting if they continued after being addressed privately. This can be tricky when there are new or non-believers in the room, since we don’t want to discourage their participation. But I have seen ‘addition by subtraction’ when poor behavior is addressed in the right way and at the right time.”
- Be slow to speak. “It’s hard not to give group members the right answer or go on a ‘lecture’ about how much I know. But that limits their own wrestling with the Word of God. It’s always best to ask questions and to help them come up with the answers by letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Be patient to let folks discuss and debate, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our study of God’s Word.”
- Tell the truth. “Don’t be afraid to discuss the hard topics. People innately want to talk about the larger questions of life. They have questions – and as Christians, we have answers.”
- Pray for participants. “Taking prayer requests has been a great way to welcome new employees and pray for those on our staff, whether they attend our study or not. It has been so neat to see the Lord answer prayers for pregnancies, healings, comfort during deaths, peace through anxiety, and for our students’ families who are going through divorce, cancer, behavior issues, and more. New attendees have seen the power of prayer and actually gotten excited about it! I’ve also been able to follow up with coworkers who send prayer requests but don’t attend.”