I have been thinking about books I would use if I were mapping out a two year plan for quarterly women’s book studies. I have participated in many such studies and have enjoyed that format for women, though I should reinforce that book studies need to submit to Bible studies for the long-haul spiritual health of a woman.
If I envision a scenario in which a ministry is working to build foundational theological beliefs in the women of their congregations, I would want the first quarter to be a book study fleshing out the gospel. I would start with Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me. Loving God is the greatest command, and the Bible teaches we love Him because He first loved us. So an exploration of His love to us by way of the cross seems helpful to building a firm foundation on the gospel.
The next quarter, I would study Hannah Anderson’s Made for More. This book explores the God in whose image we were made and calls women back to Him as their North Star. Knowing our Creator proceeds knowing ourselves. How can any woman envision what God created her for without knowing Him in whose image she was made?
The next quarter, I might study Ephesians using By His Wounds You are Healed. I’m aware of the issues concerning self-promotion that come from mentioning my own book. Yet I wrote it burdened about these very topics, so it seems relevant to mention. This study goes through the entire book of Ephesians, exploring both our identity in Christ and the gospel that equips us to live in light of it. It would be good reinforcement for ideas studied the previous two quarters, all while studying straight through a book of the Bible.
For a change of pace, perhaps I’d suggest reading through Fierce Convictions on the life of Hannah More. It would be interesting to study the life of a woman who believed the gospel and lived it out in unique ways in her context and culture.
Depending on where women were in our study group, I may next suggest Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in our Daily Lives. When I first wrote that book, I assumed readers understood the gospel, something with a little age and wisdom I no longer assume. But if our group had established and reviewed regularly how the gospel changes everything, then it may be good to spiral back around to knowing the character of our Creator by a simple study of His attributes. Practical Theology for Women is short and simplistic, covering the basic attributes of God and what it means to have faith in Him. If women in my group were willing to endure a more rigorous study, I might go with J. I. Packer’s Knowing God instead.
Having done only one pure Bible study through Ephesians at this point, I would like to go through a gospel-focused Old Testament study, perhaps Nancy Guthrie’s The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis.
It would then be great to arc around through the two main ideas of gospel and identity again. The Gospel-centered Woman does this, but with the added element of a vision of womanhood informed by the gospel and our image bearing identity in Christ.
To finish out this plan, I’d add another pure Bible study like Jen Wilkin’s Sermon on the Mount study. What does it mean to be a citizen of God’s kingdom? This study focuses on Jesus’ words in Matthew teaching us this very thing.
That’s my plan if I were given a two-year, four quarter per year schedule to fill. What would you do? What studies has your group done that were useful in building a gospel-centered understanding of a woman’s identity?
by Wendy Alsup