Leading a Yale Bible Study


Welcome to the Yale Bible Study. We hope this curriculum will help you and your community deepen your life of faith through small group study. The Congregational Church of New Canaan, where the study originated and continues to thrive, and other churches in the U.S. and around the world are enthusiastic about its benefits.


Whether you are a minister, a church staff member, or a layperson, you probably stepped forward to lead a study because you enjoy leading or have experience as a leader. Prior experience in leading small-group discussions can be useful although it is not a requirement.

For a first group meeting, it can be helpful to begin with a few minutes of self-introduction with the leader going first as an example. At subsequent meetings the group may wish to have an opportunity to share some personal thoughts at the beginning of each session before looking at the week’s study materials.

As a small group ministry, many groups open with a prayer or close with a prayer where participants can raise personal concerns or moments of gratitude. In these instances it is important to note the confidentiality of the information shared within the group.

All participants should feel welcomed to each session regardless of their opportunity to prepare. Learning will come with the group discussion. In our experience, the goal of building community is a major reason to offer these studies particularly in a church setting. 

Some groups find it helpful to have co-leaders who prepare the lessons for alternate weeks.

Eight to twelve members is a good number for group discussion participation by all members. A larger number of members in a single group can also work if only one leader is available. Some churches offer several opportunities to participate at different times or on different days of the week to accommodate a larger number of participants in small groups.

The Materials

Video - Each biblical book in the Yale Divinity Bible Study includes a series of eight 15-30 minute online video conversations between two Yale Divinity School associated professors or ministers. Each of the conversations offers expert and accessible biblical interpretation.

The eight video conversations may be viewed by individuals on their computer monitors, or projected on a screen by using a laptop and projector. A third option is to purchase DVDs of the videos by contacting laurel@godsacre.org or calling direct at (203) 966-2651 ext. 33.

Written materials - Notes for each session accompany the videos and are available for download without cost on the YDBS web site.

Some small groups choose to use the notes directly from the web site. Some use notebooks; instructions for making up notebooks may be found below. There are recommended accompanying books; many are available as ebooks.

There are many ways of using the materials depending on the time available to the group and the interest of the group participants. It is important to remember that there may be differences among members in the amount of preparation each is able to accomplish in the week before a session.

Participants may watch the session video before the class, or they may view it together as part of the session.

Some groups may decide to read through the Bible verses together and stop to discuss segments as they read.

Some groups prefer to go more slowly, taking more than one week to cover the materials included in one session.

The materials may be taught in a more traditional class setting rather than as small group discussion.

If you decide to make notebooks:

Notebooks can be created by downloading and printing the materials and inserting them into a regular-sized three-ring binder notebook (1 or 1.5 inch). 

Each assembled notebook should contain the following:

  • Comment and interpretation module (on YDBS homepage), which includes:
  • An introduction to the biblical book under discussion.
  • Eight essays discussing the content, with questions for discussion at the end
  • A list of suggested articles, sermons, or other supplemental materials
  • A page listing one recommended companion book for each of the biblical books. You can access this list by clicking here.
  • A notebook cover sheet, to be slipped into the front side of the plastic surrounding a regular-sized three-ring notebook, as well as a sheet for the spine of the volume. You can access these files by clicking here.

The notebook for the group leader should also include a copy of the leader’s guide you are reading now.

Support - If you have trouble accessing any of the study materials on the website, please e-mail Brock Harmon (Campbell.harmon@yale.edu) at Yale Divinity School.

Yale Divinity School and the Congregational Church of New Canaan place no restrictions on the reproduction or retransmission of these materials.