by Elizabeth Hunter

I am the one who reads the instructions at my house. You know the saying, “Measure twice, cut once”? As a teenager, I learned from both plywood and fabric what happens when one takes up saw or scissors without measuring carefully enough.

When I got married, I learned that my spouse, on the other hand, favored more of a “just go for it” approach. Admittedly, he was better at eyeballing distances and measurements than I was. He would look at the pieces for a while, and then go confidently forth. Nothing wrong with trying it out, especially if you have time, but if he got stuck, back he’d come to me, asking me for the instructions. So I would oblige, and try to look at the instructions alongside the work. Did this or that piece really belong there? If it did or didn’t, what should happen next? Did each step really have to happen in that particular order?

Each time I’d think, and sometimes I’d say, “Wouldn’t it be easier to read the instructions at the beginning of the process? And then maybe, just possibly (actually, not really, because not following the directions would make me more anxious) adapt from there?”

Maps, instructions, recipes and guides help me to see the pieces and parts as a whole. Missing a part, attaching the wrong fastener or cutting material incorrectly could result in an epic fail. I’ve been there, when the muffins I made look magazine cover-worthy but taste awful, because somehow, I forgot one tiny, essential teaspoon of salt. I’ve seen faith the size of a mustard seed move mountainous tasks. And I’ve seen the lack of just a small pinch of salt fail to move muffins.

Instructions and guides have a role to play. If nothing else, they help us to plan and prepare, so that we can be more present in the moment. Given this, the Gather staff want to provide you, our readers, with helpful Bible study leader guides (see pages 28 and 42). Past authors have used many different approaches. In this issue, Bible study author Angela !Khabeb wanted to provide a leader guide that worked for her Just L.I.F.E. Bible study sessions. She also worked hard to provide helpful tips for Bible study and group discussions in general. This was her idea, and I think she does a bang-up job.

Leader guides help me not just because I like knowing what I’m getting into. They also help because sometimes when we read Scripture, we can get lost or stuck for too long on a particular part. We may miss seeing something important for group dynamics. We may wonder how it all fits together. The Gather leader guides are there to help us see the Bible as a whole and to help us gain a fuller picture of the body of Christ, as we work our way (albeit imperfectly) through getting to better know God and Scripture, to better love and serve God and
neighbor, and to joyfully, bravely put our faith into action. And if you’re like me, as you do so, you may appreciate a gentle voice of wisdom calming any anxiety about how it’s coming together, reminding us that God’s grace is really the glue holding all of it, and all of us, together.

Are there things or elements you would like to see us consider including in Gather leader guides? Please consider sharing your thoughts about leader guides (even if you do not serve as your group’s leader), by sending an email to: [email protected]

Thank you for your partnership in ministry.

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.

This article is excerpted from the July/August 2021 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.