The problem is, no one but me seems to believe it. Ever since my staff worker encouraged me to fill out that leadership application at the end of my freshman year, I have been surrounded by people who are constantly calling me to lead stuff.
And just what has that led to? I now find myself leading a manuscript Bible study at my church. Every Sunday I get to watch a group of 10 or so adults (ranging in age from mid-twenties to mid-eighties) explore the Gospel of Luke in ways they never imagined.
From There to Here
That first leadership application my freshman year led to a week at Chapter Camp learning how to be a small group leader. That led to two years of leading small group Bible studies in my dorm at Texas Tech University. When I looked at the other small groups, those two years of small group leading looked like a failure. In any given week, there were maybe two other people with me studying the Bible, out of a dorm full of hundreds of men and women.
That experience confirmed to me my non-leader status. And yet I kept having opportunities to try again.
After college I lived in Colorado and led more Bible studies through my church’s young adult ministry. For one of the groups I used InterVarsity resources to take people through the Gospel of Mark via manuscript study. Yet again, in comparison to other studies, mine was a failure. No more than three people showed up on any given night, and after five or six weeks, people stopped showing up altogether.
I’m definitely not a leader.
Now I live in Madison, Wisconsin, where I work at InterVarsity’s National Service Center and belong to a Lutheran church. I deeply enjoy the rhythms and cycles of the Church calendar—Advent, Lent, Easter—as well as the opportunity to sing hymns with an amazing organ accompaniment on Sunday mornings. Yet my heart longed to see more Bible study happening.
Surely someone—and by that I meant someone else—would volunteer to lead one, right? I didn’t want to be the presumptuous upstart who tried to start something new in my 160-year-old church.
Adding to my uncertainty was the fact that, since I work for InterVarsity, I’m surrounded by amazing Bible study leaders like Lindsay Olesberg (Urbana 12 Scripture Manager, author of The Bible Study Handbook, and now Director of Scripture Engagement). It’s so easy to compare myself to them and find myself lacking. If I can’t lead a Bible study at my church as well as Lindsay, why bother? I asked myself.
But the idea of bringing manuscript Bible study to my church would not leave me. And then, one fateful day, I sat under Lindsay’s teaching. Afterward she encouraged me to find places to lead. I knew then that God was not going to let my idea (which really was his idea) of bringing manuscript Bible study to my church languish, and I obediently volunteered.
Learning to Love Leadership
So in January, men and women at my church began digging into Luke. And it turns out that I love watching them read familiar texts with new eyes. I love seeing people who think they know the story of Luke learn something from the passage that they have never noticed before. I love surprising members of my church family with the living, God-breathed Word in ways they’ve never experienced before.
The week that included Jesus’ genealogy (Luke 3:21-38), for example, I opened the class by asking how many people usually skip over long lists of names in the Bible. Everyone in the room raised their hand. But we didn’t skip it—Luke, after all, has it in there for a reason—and by the end of the class, I heard people saying that they’d never had so much fun studying a genealogy.
It’s made me think: Maybe, just maybe, I’m a little bit of that leader that people keep seeing in me. Maybe all leadership doesn’t look the same. Maybe God can use the way he’s wired me and gifted me to lead in a way that is uniquely mine.
As the end of the school year approaches, or as graduation looms near, what can you do with all that you have learned through InterVarsity? Can you lead a summer Bible study for the youth group at your home church? Yes, you can. Can you offer to lead a Bible study at your church for the summer? Yes, you can. When you move to take that new job, can you plant yourself in a new church and offer to facilitate a manuscript Bible study through the book of Mark? Yes, you can.
Take it from someone who’s not a leader.
Helen is the granddaughter of one of the founders—and the second president—of InterVarsity in the U.S. From student leader to staffing one of our camps, Helen has been involved with InterVarsity in one way or another for much of her life. She has finally settled into her role at InterVarsity’s National Service Center as a grant writer, which she loves, and has no regrets about giving up her chance to be in a country western band.
Did you commit to lead an evangelistic Bible study at Urbana? Start one this summer.
Or check out how other InterVarsity staff and students are using their gifts and knowledge to lead: