Mar 07

Reflections from the Women in The Word Conference


Teaching the Bible and leading Bible studies is a joy and skill that God has called many women to in their churches, but it is a task that can feel a bit daunting or mysterious, if we aren’t taught how. The Women in The Word team has a vision to help equip women in leadership positions (paid or unpaid) in churches throughout the Greater Vancouver area, to grow skills and gain confidence in studying and teaching the Bible in the various places they minister in. This last January, women from 19 different churches, across 6 different denominations, came together to learn specific study tools to guide their interpretation and application of scripture.

I’ve had the privilege of serving on this team for the past 6 years, and it was my joy to bring along a few of the small group leaders at Christ City Women’s Bible Study to grow together in our skill and vision as leaders. Elizabeth came with me to the conference, and she’s written up a reflection on some of the insights she took away. May this be an encouragement as you read, to see how God is at work breathing life into the study and teaching of his Word among women across the region, and in our very own church.

Kendra Gerbrandt

Reflection by Elizabeth Simonyi-Gindele

            On January 26 and 27, a few women from the Christ City Church Network attended a Women in the Word workshop. The purpose of the workshop was “a time of feeding together on God’s word, of fellowship… and building foundations to better read and teach God’s word.”

            I felt slightly intimidated going into the workshop, but as one of the presenters stated at the outset, “the Bible is for ordinary women to teach ordinary women.” I quickly felt at ease as I met many other “ordinary” women like myself with a love for God’s word and a deep conviction about the importance of understanding it, teaching it and centering all ministry on it. We were reminded that Bible study and teaching is hard work, but God’s word is mighty, and with God’s help as well as skills we practiced over the two days, ordinary women can do this work.

            At the workshop we learned key things to know (convictions) and key things to do (tools). During the teaching addressing these convictions and tools, I noticed two recurring themes: prayer and humility. This challenged me to stop and reflect on my heart’s attitude as I approach a text of Scripture. Do I read, study, and seek to understand the Word with an awareness of my total dependance on God and an attitude of submission to Him and to the meaning of the text? 

            One of the key convictions addressed was the principle that “we must let the Bible shape our frameworks rather than letting our frameworks shape our ‘interpretations’ of the Bible.” We are guilty of allowing our frameworks to rule when we use Scripture to support our own ideas or we pick texts of Scripture to support a topic. When we do this, our teaching becomes dull and focused on “me”. Instead, our frameworks must be ruled by Scripture, and this happens as we allow Scripture to shape and mold us.

            Another principle we learned at the workshop was the Pathway to Preparation. This principle states that “we must follow a proper sequence to studying the Bible and preparing to preach or teach.”. Since joining the ladies Bible study at Christ City, I have been learning to apply this principle. Under the guidance of Kendra Gerbrandt, the study we do at home, the group discussions we participate in, and the teaching we listen to are all based on the Pathway to Preparation. This has given me a framework to follow, and it has breathed richness and understanding into my reading and study of God’s word that I have never experienced before. Following the Pathway to Preparation strikes me as a safeguard for “correctly handling the word of truth”. 

            The initial step in the pathway is simply observing the text and asking what it says. At the Women in the Word workshop, I learned new and practical tips for this step. For example, it’s helpful to take the text out of the usual format we see in our Bibles and paste it line-by-line into a document based on phrases or sentences. By doing this, repeating words, key patterns, ideas and, finally, the structure becomes evident. One of the workshop presenters suggested writing out the text longhand as a means of slowing down to observe and connect with it by physically forming every letter and word. 

            During the workshop, I appreciated the necessity of discovering the structure of a Biblical text. Structure is vital for grasping the intent of the author, the meaning of the text, and ultimately, how God is revealing Himself. I had never considered that the very structure of Scripture is inspired by God. Realizing the importance of structure and how it helps me grasp the meaning that God is communicating, I am motivated to read God’s word deliberately and thoughtfully instead of skimming across the surface or trying to apply it to my life immediately. At the end of the breakout session, where we carefully observed Titus 1 as a small group, we were encouraged to grow in the skill of finding structure and along with that to “Pray. Pray. Pray.”. 

            Scripture is a grand narrative of God’s redemption and at the climax of this story is Christ’s cross and His empty tomb. Last year at the Christ City ladies Bible study when we studied “God’s Big Story”, without realizing it, I learned the second step in the pathway, which is finding the meaning of the passage. Over and over, Kendra helped us understand the meaning of the text we were studying by first asking us where it fit into God’s big story. Another key to understanding the meaning is considering context. I’ve always looked at context as the passages immediately around the text, but at the workshop the importance of considering the larger context of the book and then how the book fits into the whole Bible was emphasized.

            The third step in the pathway of Bible reading and study is connecting the text to the gospel. This principle states “if we are to teach the Bible as Christians, we must show a legitimate connection from our text to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The purpose of this step is not “to discover where Christ is mentioned in every text, but to disclose where the text stands in relation to Christ.” It thrills me to read Scripture through this lens and it causes me to worship! At the workshop, we studied Titus 1, written post-Christ’s life on earth, and brought rich truths straight from the text about the Triune God, the gospel, and its implications for the life of the church.

            The final step in the pathway is making application or considering what the passage meant for the original readers and what it means for me today. In our breakout groups we had followed the entire Pathway to Preparation using Titus 1 as our text. During this final step, we sat in quiet for fifteen minutes and looked over our notes, focusing on Paul’s main point and the gospel connections we had drawn from the passage. We pondered what God was wanting each of us to see in the text and then turned to a heart-posture of prayer. Some women were quietly jotting notes, others moved to the sides of the room to stand alone, and many had their eyes closed. Then we moved into pairs to share how God was speaking to us through Titus 1 and we prayed with each other and for each other. 

            The Women in the Word workshop culminated in deep fellowship as we shared our thoughts and prayed together. There is joy to be found in studying God’s word in community with other women. God also used this final part of the workshop to convict me about a lack in my life. I confess that in my own Bible study, I don’t sit in quiet for fifteen minutes, prayerfully seeking God and discerning how He is speaking to me. In reality, I do well if I make it to two minutes of prayerful application time! In the weeks since the workshop, I have been asking God to help me slow down and be quiet in His presence as I read and study His word. I long for a deepening relationship with God, and the Women in the Word workshop reminded me that God also longs for a deepening relationship with me. He has spoken and revealed Himself in His word, and I am so thankful for opportunities like this workshop and the ladies Bible study at Christ City where I can read and study in community with ordinary women who long to know God and be transformed by Him too.

“Make every effort to present yourself to God as one who is approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15