Back to Posts
Feb 5, 2014

The Most Important (And Forgotten) Part of Every Bible Study

Karyn O'Neel

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
— Matthew 25:35.

Jeff showing hospitality at the National Catholic Bible ConferenceMany of you will be starting a Lenten Bible study soon, and if you are helping with hospitality, you may already be thinking about ice-breakers and coffee pots. You’ll be greeting newcomers with a smile, handing out name tags, and possibly providing refreshments (for those who aren’t fasting!)

But as you know, hospitality is more than meeting the physical requirements of being a hostess or host. It’s about being Christ to others. Creating a warm and friendly environment is one of the most important elements in your study.

You may think that your role is insignificant because you’re standing behind a table, or picking up cookies at the store. It certainly can be time-consuming, but through your gift of serving others, and giving of yourself, there comes a joy that cannot be measured. As a member of the Bible study team, you stand in Christ’s place. As Mother Teresa put it, he wants to “shine on others” through you.

Set the Mood

For some participants, this may be their first experience, they may even be a little intimidated by the thought of Bible study. The welcoming tone you set will ease any concerns participants may have.

For example, you could start with the atmosphere. Is everything clean and neat? How is the temperature? Is there a focal point in the room where you could place a candle or icon?

Having coffee and tea available fifteen minutes early often helps people feel welcome. Greeters can make others feel comfortable by asking a question, engaging in friendly conversation, or joining them at the table.

Break Bread Together

Depending on the length of your study, plan one or more special gatherings, such as a potluck or picnic, to help build relationships. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sharing a meal facilitates the building of new friendships and strengthens old ones.

Consider having a celebration at the end of your study to thank God for the blessings and friendships that have formed as a result of your time together.

Get Creative and Colorful

Some groups get creative with hospitality, like dressing up in The Bible Timeline colors, offering color-coded snacks and seeing if participants can arrange colors in order. Maybe your group does something like that.

The point is, that the spirit of hospitality should be a hallmark of all our parish programs, and especially for Bible study. People come to learn, but they also come to be a part of something. Whether (and to what extent) they feel welcome will have a big impact on their participation.

How do you know when your hospitality is working?

You will see smiles and hear laughter as the groups finish for the day. Participants will leave committed to putting the Word of God into action and will be eager to return the following week. They might even volunteer to help you!

How do you create hospitality in your Bible study below? Let us know in the comments!

Has Ascension's free media strengthened your faith?
You can now offer ongoing support for this content with a recurring gift.
Support Ascension

Get your favorite Ascension content sent right to your email!

  • We have a wonderful and intimate bible study group at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, with attendees from several parishes throughout the diocese.

    It is a small room so space is limited to only about twenty people. I’ll never forget the first day I walked into the room. I attend a different parish and I had just moved to the area. I didn’t have time to pre-register for the study on Psalms so I thought I would just take a chance, show up, and if I could I would join.

    Our facilitator, Mary Blessing (you have to love that name!) welcomed me and said there was one seat left, and it was mine. I really felt it was meant to be.

    There are home-baked and store bought goodies on the table (which we do without during Lent). Another table holds electric candles and statues of angels as well as books like Catholic Bible Dictionary (Editor Scott Hahn) and other books relevant to our faith and our study. For the study on the Epistle of St James, Pearls of Wisdom, there was a seashell on the table with an additional pearl added each week.

    Before class begins at 7:30, there is a social hour for everybody to catch up with one another, sharing our news, joys and sorrows. We begin the session with prayer and join in song led by a singer/guitarist. Our first session always begins with our introducing ourselves and saying what we’ve been up to in the previous months. Our last session ends with a group picture. We’ve had special celebrations to commemorate those who have moved on.

    Even though I was a newcomer and stranger to the group in 2012, I had never felt such an experience of warmth and welcoming and love. They are my family in Christ.

    • Dear Marianne,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to write about your great experience. I love how your study group meets beforehand to catch up and the little details like the added pearl in the seashell.
      Kudos to Mary Blessing and the team at Immaculate Conception for creating an environment that welcomes the stranger and makes him or her feel like family!

  • I am an attendee and am very impressed with the genuine warm welcome offered to everyone. When I joined the Great Adventure Bible Study at our Cathedral, I was warmly welcomed and they checked that I knew where everything was (I was one of the minority from the one of the parish churches). I liked the way that the lady serving tea greeted people before asking if they would like tea or coffee. We moved into groups of 12 which seems too big but I can understand not turning anyone away. The day after the first session, we all received an individual email from the facilitator thanking us for turning up and saying that they look forward to seeing us next week.

    • Dear Liz,
      As you mentioned, those little kindnesses and attention are what hospitality is made of…

      Individual emails from the facilitator are another really nice way of making everyone feel noticed and accepted. I really encourage that!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Keep up the great work at the Cathedral!

  • >