How to Lead a Bible Study for Men

A man holding an open Bible who's preparing to lead a men's Bible study.

There are many good reasons to start a Bible study for men. They include growth in understanding and applying the Bible, mutually encouraging relationships, and ultimately lives pleasing to God that have an impact for his glory. In short, getting men into fellowship around Scripture has implications for what God is doing in the world—building his church and fulfilling the Great Commission.

In this piece, I want to encourage you to facilitate a Bible study for men in your church or area, and then I want to show you how.

Effective Bible study for men is life-changing

Why is men’s Bible study important? Guys studying the Word together have the opportunity to experience the Lord working in them as his children, among them as brothers in Christ, and through them as the light of the world. This is why leading them in the study of Scripture is important; it is at the heart of church’s discipling mission.

This principle is as old as Jesus calling the twelve to be his disciples and investing in them, so that after his ascension and his sending of the Spirit, they launched a movement that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) in their own day—and continues to give people transforming power, purpose, and fruitfulness two millennia later.

Men’s Bible studies are built on relationships

As the Lord himself demonstrated, relationships are central. Vince Miller says that such relationships are a catalyst for spiritual formation: “Spiritual growth doesn’t happen in isolation,” he says. “It occurs in a community, and men need other men.”

The go-to verse on this principle is Proverbs 27:17,1 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Small men’s groups create an ideal environment for friends to “encourage one another, and build one another up” (1 Thess 5:11).

The apostle Paul modeled “iron sharpens iron” relationships with Timothy, Titus, Silas, and Luke. He encouraged Timothy—and, through the inspiration of Scripture, every new generation of godly men—with these words: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). The implication is that the process will continue well beyond Timothy: those who have been effectively discipled will pass on what they possess, and the process will repeat and multiply with each succeeding generation.

It will repeat and multiply, until Christ’s witnesses carry his name “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A men’s small group ministry can be a dynamic force in the Great Commission.

How to start a Bible study for men

Vince Miller sums up three keys to starting that most sources agree with: “Identify the men, the materials, and the meeting logistics.”

Open groups vs. closed

Let’s first consider whether the group will be by invitation or open to all.

There are pros and cons for each option. If your church family has enough equipped leaders, then both varieties can and should be offered.

Reasons to keep group open

Reasons not to keep group open

Gives everyone an opportunity to participate, which may include some that you wouldn’t expect would be interested.

Discussions among people with dissimilar levels of biblical understanding can be problematic. Beginners may feel overwhelmed when the discussion gets into deeper waters. Those with more knowledge sometimes get frustrated by the “shallow” questions beginners typically have and the basic answers which must follow.

Provides more diversity of background and perspective that can produce a wider range of applications for the Scripture portions that are studied.

Open groups allow leaders less control over who attends, and often produce greater group dynamic challenges; a trained and experienced facilitator is needed to lead them well.


Prevents the hurt feelings that sometimes occur when a person isn’t included in an invitation-only group. Those not included might feel left out, especially if the purpose is very general. It will help avoid this problem if the target group for each closed group is clearly defined. For example, when word gets around that a group has been started for newer Christians or for retirees exploring ways to make purposeful use of their time, those who don’t fit the profile will understand that the group isn’t for them.

The leader of a closed group can identify potential participants who best fit the profile based on the leader’s purpose and goals for the group.

Having more men interested in a study than you have opportunities for means that your church is short of small group leaders. So, the best starting point for you might be to begin a closed study who have the maturity and aptitude to lead their own groups, thereby multiplying your number of leaders.

Bruised feelings might also occur if there isn’t a group opportunity for each person interested, but until your system of Bible studies grows, this is almost inevitable.

A closed group allows you to invite those with similar levels of biblical knowledge, a commonality such as age or life stage, a shared life challenge, or the commitment to become facilitators of their own groups at the conclusion of the study.

Tips for open groups

  • If you advertise an open group, your choice of material will significantly impact who decides to sign up.
  • Limit the group to a maximum of twelve participants to allow all to contribute to the discussion. Patrick Morely of the Man in the Mirror book and ministry suggests that in the best men’s small groups, each participant should have “airtime” each week, which won’t happen if there are too many participants.
  • Encourage those with a better grasp of Scripture to be mentors to younger believers—a practice which will forestall the frustration they might otherwise feel. Some of the more mature might catch a vision for being a facilitator in your next round of men’s group Bible studies.
  • Define the group’s openness. For example, advertise that this group, “is open to those who are new to studying the Bible,” or “is designed for those who consider themselves serious students of the Word,” or “focuses on those who have experienced divorce [or addiction, depression, the death of a spouse, etc.].” This will facilitate a group of men coming together who are closer to the same place or who have unique experiences in their spiritual journey.

Tips for closed groups

  • Prayerfully consider whom to invite.
  • Ask leaders in your church to suggest those who would be good candidates for the group based on its focus and the material to be studied.
  • Invite more men than you have slots for. “Figure you need to ask two men for every slot in your group,” Morely says. Tyndale’s guide on how to lead a men’s study adds, “Take what you can get. As few as three recruits (plus yourself) is enough to move forward.”
  • Start your invitation process with those you most desire to be involved.

For all groups: Have the start date, time, and location firmly fixed before you begin formally inviting men. It will help to poll a few guys you expect will attend to find out what days and times work best for them, and what days absolutely won’t work.

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Where to start in Scripture for a men’s Bible study group

If you’ve decided to study a book or section, rather than doing a topical study, the best places in the Bible to start for men are one of the Gospels, Acts, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, James, or Genesis 1–11.

Why one of the Gospels? Every believer should have a solid overview of the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and Great Commission found in the Gospels. Each is a unique portrait of Christ.

  • Matthew presents the Lord as the Messiah who fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy. His teachings are highlighted in the Gospel of Matthew, including many parables and the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Mark is the shortest Gospel, which might be a point in its favor for those new to the study of Scripture. The Lord is portrayed as the Savior who demonstrates the power of God and the heart of a servant.
  • Luke shares more of the story or account of Jesus’s birth, childhood, and ascension. Plus, the book includes familiar parables like the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son that are not found in the other Gospels. Luke includes narratives that emphasize Christ’s concern for the poor and the outcasts of society.
  • John includes a large percentage of unique content. Highlights include the seven “I am” statements and the narratives around them, and the lengthy discourse to the disciples in chapters 13–17. Its theme is “believe,” calling unbelievers to faith and strengthening the faith of believers.

Beyond the Gospels, consider these studies. Most (Acts is the exception) are shorter than the Gospels, so they provide the opportunity to go deeper into the Scripture.

  • Acts has the potential to light a passion in men for evangelism, discipleship, and taking the gospel to those who need it regardless of the personal cost.
  • Ephesians explores crucial themes surrounding salvation and the spiritual identity of Christians. And the second half of the epistle is a primer on living out our identity in Christ.
  • 1 and 2 Timothy along with Titus are ideal for current and potential leaders, though all can benefit from their teaching. Themes include personal growth and ministry, qualifications for church leadership, the inspiration and value of Scripture, the importance of sound doctrine, and the handling of doctrinal and moral challenges within the church.
  • James is a practical guidebook on persevering under trials, living out authentic faith, and avoiding the trap of materialism. The book of James is ever relevant to men’s Bible study groups.
  • Genesis 1–11 discusses God’s creation, our place within it, our rebellion from him, and the divine plan of redemption that flows through his covenant with Abraham and the great nation to come from him.

Is Romans a good place to start?

Yes, Romans can be a good starting point. It provides a rich exploration of salvation. Jared C. Wilson notes that among the reasons to study the book of Romans, “The key truths necessary to expose the sinfulness of man and to proclaim the gracious relief of the good news find plain, systematic, and artful expression in the book of Romans.”

The book also provides insight on justification and the practical outworking of faith. However, some of the content is dense and can be challenging for younger Christians. Only consider this book if the leader is a mature Christian with a thorough grasp of the book’s theological themes. Most groups need 16 to 30 weeks to do justice to the content.

What about the book of Proverbs?

Proverbs is practical and timelessly relevant. It applies the wisdom of God to a spectrum of real-life issues. However, students looking for theological depth or a variety of content might lose interest before the end of the study.

Good topics for men’s Bible study

When a topical study is preferred, a common question is, “What are some good Bible study lessons?” Here are options, and you’ll likely see a few that fit your purposes.

Quality group study guides are available on all these topics. Discover what you can about each before choosing one, which may include information about the author and the study, sample pages, the outline, and user reviews.

How to lead a men’s Bible study

Following proven tips for leading a group leads to consistent attendance and getting each participant involved in the discussion. Here are essential guidelines to consider:

  • Meet weekly. Getting together less frequently works against building community and maintaining enthusiasm.
  • Choose a time that works for the largest number of potential attendees, and stick to it.
  • Be prepared. Leaders lead best when they have unhurriedly worked through the material and gained an expert-level grasp of it. Elizabeth George offers these practical tips for leading a Bible study, “Be well prepared. Be over-prepared, so you know the material better than any group member. Start your study early in the week and let its message simmer.”
  • Have extra questions prepared. Even the best study guides contain a few questions that elicit very little response. Be prepared to rephrase the question (or ask another question) to draw out conversation that gets to the heart of the passage or topic being studied.
  • Respect the clock. Start on time; end on time. Starting late and ending late will drive men nuts—at least American men—and potentially right out of the group.
  • Make prayer a part of the time. This can include a simple opening prayer similar to David’s in Psalm 119:18 like, “Open our eyes, Lord, that we might behold wonderful things together from your Word.”
  • Seek to get everyone involved. There’s an art to encouraging participants to speak up without putting them on the spot. For example, asking a man who rarely speaks, “Jim, what’s your answer?” when nobody else tackles a tricky question will cause anxiety. When there’s been good discussion on a question, asking the same man, “Jim, do you have thoughts you’d like to share?” is less intimidating.
  • Have a private chat with the guy who talks too much. Let him know that it is important to get everyone involved in group discussion, if possible, and that he can help by waiting to respond until some of those who speak less have had a chance to share.
  • Don’t kill a good discussion for the sake of getting to all the questions. While it should not be a habit, it is okay if the group occasionally runs out of time before running out of questions. If a robust conversation is getting to the heart of an important subject, don’t feel pressure to move on for the sake of covering all the questions.
  • It is okay to not have an answer to a tough question, but it is not okay not to find an answer. Brian Smith says about questions that stump everyone, “Assure the individual that you will do some research and get back to them next week.” And then be sure to do just that.
  • Review the essential information at the end. Cru suggests a simple question to wrap things up when leading a small group like, “How would you summarize the main emphasis of this passage [or study]?” This provides a good opportunity to obtain consensus on a take-home truth or two from the week’s study.

What keeps a Bible study for men going?

Men’s Bible studies with lasting power provide value to participants that leads to better men, stronger families, a healthier church, and benefits for the community beyond the church walls. A culture develops in which this is the norm. And that’s a big deal, a goal worth praying for and worth planning and working to bring about.

Here’s what Scripture says it looks like for the individual and the group:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:6, 7)

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15, 16)

Mature and caring leadership is necessary to create this culture. Therefore, carefully choose leaders and invest in their training and development. Qualified, trained, and experienced leaders are essential to a system of small groups that lasts. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

When you find a formula for that works in your context, repeat it and multiply it to the glory of God!

Deepen your Bible study with these resources

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  1. All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.
Written by
Rob Eddy

Rob is the executive pastor of Rollins Church in Manton, MI. He is married to Diane. They have three adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. His education includes a BA from the University of Michigan and an MDiv from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also served as a youth pastor and church planter/lead pastor.

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Written by Rob Eddy