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Give them Competence. Give them a Whole Book Retreat.
Devote your next women's retreat to a whole book of the Bible. Part 2 of a 3-part series.
As a middle schooler, I hated running track. The main reason for my aversion was that I wasn’t good at it. I just wasn’t, “a sports person.” But of course, the main reason I failed to improve was that I avoided practice. Just showing up up made me feel too awkward and insecure.
It turns out that this vicious cycle can limit growth in all kinds of learning, when our anxiety about performance prevents us from seeking progress. Ever hear yourself say you’re, “just not a math person?”1 2
Well, what happens when a woman “just isn’t a Bible person?” God’s word becomes an extracurricular - good for some, but not for all. Maybe she’ll feel guilty that it isn’t a priority (“I know I need to, but I just don’t have time”). Maybe she’ll be annoyed by her lack of understanding (“what does this even have to do with my life?”). But in my experience, the objections boil down to one little riddle: she doesn’t enjoy the Bible because she doesn’t know how. And she doesn’t learn how, because she doesn’t enjoy it.
Good teachers lift the burden of perceived incompetence by offering relaxed, playful environments for students to practice fundamental skills. They know that students who feel safe to take risks in learning will experience greater satisfaction, leading to greater attempts and, eventually, greater competence. 3
This is absolutely true in Bible study. When we practice the tools of sound interpretation in a positive environment, we are more likely to enjoy the process, see the payoff, and persevere. We may never become experts. But we can all become joyful learners.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more playful and relaxed setting for this endeavor than a weekend women’s retreat. Free from the demands of work and home, energized by fun activities (and so. many. snacks.), women on a whole book retreat can collaborate toward greater understanding. And then they can help each other apply what they’re learning to the hardest, most intimate problems of life.
This investment will pay dividends in months to come, as women return ready to take on more. I’ve seen whole book retreats used to kick off church-wide study groups and personal Bible-reading plans, with great gains in attendance and spiritual growth. Just be prepared to offer quality options when they return.
Looking for a speaker? I’d love to hear from you.
Strauss, Valerie. “Stop telling your kids you are bad at math. You are spreading math anxiety ‘like a virus.’” The Washington Post, April 25, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/04/25/stop-telling-kids-youre-bad-at-math-you-are-spreading-math-anxiety-like-a-virus/., accessed June 27. 2022.
Abbney, Terrence B. “The Importance of Perceived Competence in Fitness/Exercise Programming.” The Sports Digest, vol. 15, no. 3, 2007, http://thesportdigest.com/archive/article/importance-perceived-competence-fitnessexercise-programming, accessed June 27, 2022