Three pillars of a Women’s Midweek Study: teaching, testimonies, and table discussion

Hilary Tompkins » Church Leadership Planning Study Mission Worship

Now that you have a Women’s Ministry organized, here are some practical tips for the nitty-gritty details of running a Women’s Midweek Study.

Would you rather study your Bible alone, or with other women who love Jesus and want to spend time in his word? Do you enjoy hearing other women’s stories of how they’ve dealt with grief, pain, and other challenges because Jesus has changed them? Does talking about God’s word with other women, digging deeply into Scripture, and hearing how it’s truth can be applied to your daily life sound interesting to you? If your answer to these questions is yes, then a Women’s Midweek Study is the place for you!

When a woman attends a Women’s Midweek Study at her local church, she should expect to receive excellent teaching from the Bible and an opportunity to interact with other women as they seek to study God’s word together. Leaders are trained to facilitate study time in small groups, ending with application of Scripture to the daily challenges of life and time to pray for each other as each woman shares her particular needs and challenges as they’ve been revealed to her in the study and application time. Rich relationships are formed as, week after week, women get closer to Jesus and each other through study, heart application, and prayer.

Three essential components of the Women’s Midweek Study are teaching, testimonies, and small group discussion. Each of these will contribute to the overall study in unique ways and enhance the opportunity for women to interact with the study material. The Women’s Ministry Coordinator, in cooperation with her pastors and leadership team, should be the person who provides leadership and direction in all of these areas.


“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16–17

1. Who takes responsibility for teaching?

The Women’s Ministry Coordinator, or WMC, in cooperation with her pastors, can arrange all teaching. She may choose to accomplish the teaching herself or recruit a speaker for each session. Teachers should be deacons who have been approved to teach by pastors. Non-deacons and guest teachers should be recruited by the WMC and approved by pastors.

2. What kind of teaching should the Women’s Midweek Study provide?

At Mars Hill, the teaching is typically based on the material the Midweek Study is following, most likely an inductive study related to the sermon series. For other materials such as book studies, teaching should be complemented with reflection questions and/or options for further study. The WMC is responsible for approving the material in cooperation with the pastors and the Director of Women’s Ministry.

Teaching should always include Scripture reading pertaining to the study. The teacher may read this or invite a participant to do so.

At Mars Hill, we have a high view of Scripture and fully expect that the written word of God will be handled responsibly, with theological accuracy and gospel clarity. For this reason we strongly encourage Women’s Ministry Coordinators to communicate with their pastors regarding any issues that may arise as they prepare and coordinate teaching or encounter questions from women regarding interpretation, authority, and practice.

3. When should the teaching take place?

Teaching will take place after welcome and worship, during the first half of the study, prior to small group discussion time. For a sample schedule, see this post.

How should the teaching be accomplished?

Here are some suggestions for teaching during the Midweek Study:

  • Make use of the material provided to you for the selected study as the primary guide to teaching
  • Make use of other resources provided by the selected study, such as additional reading, recommended articles, sermon clips, or a leaders’ guide.
  • Invite a pastor or approved deacon to offer teaching that is supplementary to the material
  • Deliver teaching prepared by the WMC based on Scripture and additional study resources to complement the chosen material and contribute wisdom and guidance based on her understanding of expressed needs of the women attending the study


“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

Psalm 107:2

Redemptive story telling and testimony is a powerful vehicle for sharing God’s movement in an individual’s life, their response of repentance, humility, and joy, and the transformational work of the gospel in the midst of their sin and suffering. The goal of story telling should be to give glory to God for his redemptive work and offer hope for change to those listening. We encourage WMCs to make use of this opportunity during the teaching time.

Suitable candidates for sharing stories may include:

  • Pastors
  • Deacons
  • Women’s Ministry Leads
  • Table leads
  • Redemption Group leaders or participants
  • Those recently baptized
  • New Christians

The story should have at least three components:

  • Introduction of the problem—sin or suffering as revealed in the individual’s life
  • Gospel clarity—how the good news of Jesus and redemption changed her
  • Resolution—what ongoing repentance and restoration has she experienced, what changes she has made, what fruit there has been as a result

Tip: Please listen to their story carefully before inviting participants to speak, making note of any areas of confusion in need of correction and clarity. Under no circumstances should random story telling and testimony be permitted without careful review and examination. Keep it short, simple, and don’t hand over control of the microphone! An interview format may be useful under these circumstances.

Table discussion

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

Small group discussion time around the table should first address deeper study of Scripture according to the questions and tools provided. Following your Bible study, take time to address the application questions provided, and lead your women in addressing areas of their hearts that have been provoked by God’s word and how it applies to their lives.

Leading a table group

There should be at least one leader at each table or small group to facilitate discussion, ask engaging questions, and redirect the conversation when necessary. If possible, try to have two leaders, or one leader and one apprentice, at each table. Be welcoming, smile, make eye contact, and know the names of the women in your group. Group should always begin with prayer. A leader can pray or ask a table member to pray.

Table leaders should be prepared with questions to ask the participants at each of their respective tables. The WMS lead, the teacher, or the study material, should provide these questions. Don’t wait until the night before to answer the study questions. Do the work early in the week so it can percolate and you are prepared and familiar as you facilitate discussion.

Make it a point to hear from everyone in your group. This may require you to draw out a quiet member of your group. Something as simple as, “Jane, how would you answer that question?” gives her an opportunity to join the discussion.

Leaders will want to make sure to watch the time and provide enough room for sharing prayer requests and praying at the end. For example, if you are providing an hour for discussion, it would be best to ask no more than three questions that will not only address surface issues, but provide opportunity to go deeper to the heart level. Plan to keep this question and response time to around 30 minutes, and then you will have 30 minutes to invite prayer requests and follow-up questions. Often, significant issues come up during prayer requests, and we want to make sure the women don’t get missed because time is rushed near the end.

You may go through the questions in any order you like. Quality of conversation is more important than how many questions you get through. The questions are merely a tool, and may open up many potential discussion topics, but don’t allow things to stray too far off topic. A simple, “This is a good conversation, but I want to try and keep us on track with what we’re talking about. What did you think about . . .?” can get you back on topic. Also, many women will be looking for practical advice, which can be extremely helpful for new wives and mothers, or those who want to learn from older women. We want to first encourage conversations that address the heart, issues of worship, belief, and repentance before leading into advice and skill building.

Dealing with sin

The table leader should function as a facilitator of gospel-centered conversation. This includes asking questions that lead participants to see their own sin accurately as well as see Jesus clearly. Create an environment of authenticity and grace by being willing to share your real struggles, failures, and sin. It’s good to also share great news and blessings, but make Jesus and his kindness the hero of your story.

Sometimes a participant will identify their sin on their own, sometimes not. If they do see their sin and name it, then affirm that declaration and give the glory to God for revealing that. This turns their eyes to Jesus and reminds them that God has not forgotten them in their sin or turned from them, but is instead actively pursuing them towards repentance. Secondly, directly ask them what they are going to do about the sin they have named. Sometimes someone will try to skip repentance by developing a list of things to do, describing a process or explaining all the reasons why they can’t repent right away. If that is the case, table leaders can gently ask questions to explore and expose their justification. This is art as well as science, but thankfully the Holy Spirit is a faithful guide in both. If you rely on him entirely, you will be fine. Always encourage a participant toward repentance.

If they do not see their own sin here are a few suggestions that may help. First, be praying! Then try:

  • Asking other group members what they think about what she’s said (try to ask people who will give honest and truth-filled feedback).
  • Directly ask why she thinks “x” is alright, calling “x” by its biblical name.
  • Rephrase what she’s said; “So I hear you saying . . .” Sometimes when they hear what they are actually saying, they can begin to identify the sin.
  • Use an analogy that clearly shows sin and compare it to their situation. Pay attention to words they use in talking about sin, God, and their emotions, in addition to physical cues. People who are sharing about themselves will often give you an “entry gate” to pursue, even if you’re not sure yourself where the sin is.

Good questions for heart pursuit are:

  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What do you want the most?
  • What do you do when you are scared/lonely/sad/bored/etc.?
  • What makes you the happiest?
  • What makes you lovable?
  • What do you get out of continuing in this sin? (We are always getting something out of it or we wouldn’t sin.)
  • You seem (fill in the emotion) when you talk about (x). What’s bringing that emotion up for you?

WMS is not group counseling or community group, and it’s not intended to be. But being women and being sinners, we will have to deal with sin. Do not try to solve the problem and wrap it up before the group is over. Your job is to help them see their sin; let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.


Encouragement should always be gospel oriented, which means toward Jesus. We are not here to make people feel better, that does not love them well. If sin has been confessed, the encouragement is in reminding them of the grace and forgiveness that is already theirs and celebrating that with them. If sin has not been confessed, the encouragement is in reminding them of the power and enormity of God’s work on the cross and the consequences if they don’t repent. If there is truly no sin in the area/topic being discussed, encouragement looks like worshiping with them in gratitude for the freedom and blessing God has created in this area of their lives. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It sounds simplistic, but it’s powerful and helpful.


How do we handle challenges?

  • If someone says something that is patently untrue or contrary to Scripture, calmly state what the truth is. If the person argues, tell them you’d be happy to discuss this with them more outside of group. If two ladies in group are arguing and it doesn’t seem like something that can be resolved in the group, you can do the same thing and ask them to wait to finish the conversation until after the group ends.
  • If someone won’t stop talking, interrupt them! I usually say, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, I can see this is a really emotional topic/situation/struggle, but I want to hear what other folks are thinking, too. So and so, what do you think about . . .”
  • If someone interrupts someone else, interrupt right back, “I’m sorry Jane, I don’t think Mary was quite done yet, can you finish what you were saying Mary, and then we’ll come back to you Jane, I want to hear what you have to say, too.”
  • If you have someone who answers with yes or no, help them open up by asking open-ended questions. If necessary, take the time to ask them why they are so quiet and what they are thinking about.
  • If a group member “drops a bomb” in the middle of discussion—e.g. “I have cancer,” “I had a miscarriage this week,” “I found porn on my husband’s computer,” “My marriage is over”—table group isn’t the place to counsel this hurting woman. But you can say how sorry you are and ask if the group can come around her and pray for her at the table. Invite her to come with you after group to talk to your WMS lead if you believe she needs additional help. Perhaps follow up with a note or phone call to let her know you are praying. Make a plan with the WMS lead to communicate the situation to pastors.


We can’t promise this as leaders and we may need to tell a pastor about a something that a group member shares. However, we can encourage members to honor the details shared in group by limiting discussion of private struggles or hardships shared by others outside of the table group. We want to build trust and promote discretion within the group and ideally create an environment where a woman is willing to risk, share honestly, and ask for help when she really needs it. Always discourage gossip; gossip destroys trust. Gossip can be defined as “telling someone else’s story,” and it is sin.

If there is a true crisis (crying hysterically, out of control, debilitating/suicidal depression, crime being committed/contemplated) send one of the leaders for the WMS lead or table captain.

Special thanks to Amanda Hightower and Danielle Blazer for their contributions to this article.

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