How I Started a Scripture Study Group (Even Though I'm Shy)
As a quirky, say-it-like-it-is type of gal, I am also someone that has more down than up days and a bushel full of self-doubt. This was especially true a few years ago, when I moved to Utah from Minnesota and found myself isolated and lonely. My children were older than those in the majority of the families around mine, and I wasn’t finding closeness with the ladies at church. I also did not have an assignment at church, which would have given me the chance to be involved with other women. I felt empty and missed having female connections.
One of my sons had recently left on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I wanted to be able to send him uplifting thoughts from my scripture reading and words from our leaders. I remembered how participating in a scripture study group in Minnesota helped me apply the scriptures to my life and also overcome social anxieties. I decided to start a scripture study group with a few ladies in Utah. But getting it up and running was difficult for a couple of reasons: What if the women in my congregation said no? What if no one showed up? What if my lack of scripture knowledge and study habits became embarrassing? I felt vulnerable asking. Self-doubt can sometimes be paralyzing when it comes to initiating something like this. As I agonized over these questions, my experience in Minnesota kept coming back to my mind, giving me the courage to reach out.
I had lived in Minnesota for six years before I felt like I found my place among the women in my community. Those six years might have dragged on, except a sister asked if I’d like to join a scripture study group. These five ladies quite easily became some of my closest friends, and those friendship are intact today, despite many of us moving to different states. Lyea, from the Minnesota group, said:
“The scripture group I joined was made up of my very closest friends. Focusing on our love of the Gospel together felt like Heaven. They were such incredible examples to me of goodness and true love.
The road back to Heavenly Father is not easy and can seem very, very long at times. But traveling the road with my friends seemed more like a road trip than a trial, test or sacrifice.
I was my best self during that special time.”
I realize that making friends isn’t necessarily the ultimate goal for scripture studying, but maybe it should be one of the goals. After all, Jesus called His disciples “friend,” and we are closer to heaven when we share God’s love with others.
Even though I don’t attend church solely for social reasons, something is definitely missing if I don’t feel connected with the women at church. So with the memory of my Minnesota study group lingering in my mind, I approached one of my closer Utah friends about starting a scripture study group. When I found out she was on board, I mustered the courage to ask more sisters, until there were about six of us. Some said no, some didn’t even reply to my texts, but some said yes!!
From the very beginning, I started to feel a kinship with these amazing women. We have been able to share deep experiences, sage advice, and interesting perspectives, drawing us closer together and closer to our Savior. It is hard to describe the feelings I have developed for these sisters, feelings that started blooming even in the early weeks of our meetings. I often go home with tears of happiness that I have found a place that helps me feel connected with others at church.
But more important than all this is my renewed love for my Savior. I find myself immersed in the scriptures and the words of my church leaders on a regular basis. I am able to piece little nuggets of information together that pertain to situations in my family. I have "aha" moments more often. This gives me hope that I will come to better understand my Savior and His plan.
Sometimes I’ve asked myself how this is different than just going to Sunday meetings. I mean, what’s the point? But like Kim from my current study group said: “I think the biggest blessing has been being able to get to know women from my [congregation] on a spiritual level. It has made the bonds of friendship seem deeper and closer and because of that, meetings on Sundays are even richer.”
If a scripture study group sounds appealing to you, I would recommend the following practical suggestions in getting started:
Be flexible! We started out by rotating homes, but after some time, we found that meeting at one sister’s house was easier for her with her small children. We also took the summer off and restarted with a bang in September, better than ever. We try to re-evaluate on a regular basis and just do what works.
Communicate. I started a private Facebook page where we post upcoming meeting topics and articles that are pertinent to the lessons. No one is technically in charge, but because I initiated the group, they often look to me to get things started.
Think about service. Last year, we participated in the 12 Days of Christmas for a hurting sister, and this year we are going to tie a quilt for a sister who has cancer while we have our discussion. If this works out, we’ll do more service like this on a regular basis because “we’re just sitting on our bums.”
I often tell my children that I'd rather look back and say, "I can't believe I did that," rather than saying, "I wish I had done that." Starting a scripture study group has been one of those things in my life - I'm so glad I reached out rather than letting fear hold me back. As it says in 2 Chronicles 15:7: "Do not give up, for your work shall be rewarded." This has certainly been true for me.
Small Seed Copy Editor: Megan Grant
JoAnne grew up in Utah and has lived in various parts of the country and world, but ultimately moved back to Utah. Because family is where it's at. She loves traveling like no ones business, photographing God's creations, and of course, her family. Her cat isn't too bad either. She has an abiding testimony of Jesus Christ, which has seen her through thick and thin.