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5 Tips for Successful Interdenominational Bible Study Groups
No matter what religion you've embraced or what your personal beliefs may be, your friends and neighbors may have chosen another path. While you could study the Bible with members of your own flock, joining an interdenominational Bible study group could be enlightening. People join nondenominational study groups for a number of reasons including: to bond with their friends, to gain a better understanding of different faiths, to become more tolerant, or to stay close to God despite the lack of a formal Bible study group offered in their own religion.
However, it's important to take some steps to ensure that your studies are productive and don't turn into a platform for debate. Below are 5 tips to make your interfaith Bible study group a success:
1. Set ground rules. Your group by its definition will consist of members from a variety of religions. For example, a Christian Bible study group could be composed of a mix of Catholics, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Lutherans. If you've joined an interfaith study group, it may consist of Christians, Jews, Unitarians, and Muslims. No matter what the mix may be, it's important to establish ground rules at the beginning. Your first meeting should start with establishing these rules with each member pitching ideas and agreeing to the group's rules.
2. Keep an open mind. While you will disagree with many of your fellow participants' beliefs, allow others to speak without immediately shutting yourself to their points of view. This doesn't mean suspending your own beliefs or allowing your own faith to waiver. By listening with an open mind, you will become more tolerant and gain a greater understanding of different perspectives.
3. Ask questions. You may be surprised to find that your Christian beliefs or practices are quite different than those of another Christian from a different denomination. Make it a point to ask questions and you will broaden your own understanding. For example, if you grew up memorizing verses of the Bible and a fellow participant doesn't know a single verse despite years of Sunday school, ask questions. While that person may not know Bible verses word for word, she may have a greater understanding of the Bible's lessons than you realize. And if she doesn't? That's okay, too, as you're all here to learn.
4. Rotate roles. Consider rotating roles so that each participant has the opportunity to select a passage to study or lead a Bible study session.
5. Find common ground. Your group will likely establish an "agree to disagree" ground rule to deal with those inevitable, unshakeable beliefs. Despite any differences that may come up, there's always common ground. Find it and return to it often. Think you can't find common ground? The fact that you've all come together to get closer to God is a good starting point.
A diverse Bible study group consisting of participants from a variety of religions can bring you closer to God and to your fellow members while also exposing you to other points of view. Respect, tolerance, and curiosity go a long way in making your interdenominational Bible study group a success.