Online vs. in-person Bible studies (pros & cons)

Adulting is hard, right?

You now realize you don’t know everything. You don’t have all the answers. But you know who does. You need time with Him—with God—every day, reading the Bible. And trying to figure out how to apply it to your daily life. Participating in a Bible study seems like a good way to do that.

But, do you choose an online Bible study or an in-person study? Let’s look at the pros and cons of both.

Online Bible studies

Who knew talking with a group of people about the Bible without ever being in the same room with them would become a thing? Well, thanks to technology, it is.

So, grab your computer, tablet or phone and start thinking about what kind of online study you’d prefer.

Do you want to be part of a women’s Bible study that meets at a set time each week, using an app like Zoom or GoToMeeting, to discuss homework and pray together?

Or, do you want to work through a study at your own pace?

Both are good options.


Learn more about God, the world around you, and yourself through studying the Bible. Whether you read about Jesus calming the wind and waves of a storm (Matthew 8:24-27) or God putting the stars in the sky and knowing them by name (Psalm 147:4), you will sense God’s greatness and power. Spending time in God’s Word will help you understand there is a God–and you are not Him.

Get help for everyday living. As you read and study the Bible and work through your Bible study homework, God will help you understand what you need to do in your own life.

Are you angry with someone in your life? Do you spend time replaying in your mind how a person wronged you? Sure enough, you will open up your Bible study lessons and find God telling you to: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13.

When you make time to spend with God each day, God will speak to you and teach you what you need to know.

Or, if you are worrying, the next lesson in your Bible study may include Philippians 4:6-8, which says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

When you make time to spend with God each day, God will speak to you and teach you what you need to know.

Don’t have to worry about who is going to watch the kiddos. You definitely will have more flexibility doing an online Bible study. You can sign up for a study that meets one night a week, after your people go to bed. That way, you can settle on your sofa and log in to your group while your children snooze away down the hall. Or, you may need to look for a study that you work through on your own schedule, with no set meeting time.

Doesn’t matter what you are wearing. Seriously. Ever just need to put on comfortable pjs at the end of a long day? Yeah, me, too. While you might not feel comfortable wearing your pajamas and slippers to a Bible study at your local church or at someone’s home, you can totally rock your bunny slippers during an online study. Your dog can even nap in your lap.

Feel encouraged. Being part of a group of people reading God’s Word every day and seeking to live His way recharges your battery. With all the bad news out there, don’t we all need to be reminded that there’s more to life? That what we do really matters? That God is still in charge? Doing an online study can feel very encouraging.

Do Bible study even when traveling. Whether you are planning a vacation or have to travel for work, being out of town doesn’t have to keep you from your Bible study. I’ve Zoomed from a condo at the beach. Another woman in an online study I did logged in from a hotel room in Nashville. One Bible study friend joined in while she was hundreds of miles away, helping her parents move.

May be able to pray for each other. In a weekly, online study, your leader may set aside time during meetings for women to talk (briefly) about problems or struggles, then pray together as a group, calling out to God specifically to help each woman with her problem/struggle. That’s what I like to do when I lead an online Bible study.

He is hearing and answering our prayers as we pray from different sofas while wearing our stretchy pants.

Jesus instructs us in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Jesus also tells us in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.”

Know what? That means He is hearing and answering our prayers as we pray from different sofas while wearing our stretchy pants.

Can participate even if you deal with health/mobility issues. Thanks to the technology now available, people battling cancer no longer have to give up being part of a Bible study. Neither do those recovering from surgery or an accident. Nor do caregivers who are helping a family member with health/mobility issues.

Distance doesn’t matter. Have you moved away from your friends or family members? You can still do Bible study together by choosing the same online study. That’s pretty awesome.

I know a woman in her 20s who recently organized an online Bible study with her group of college friends even though she moved across the country.

In addition, because of technology, many different churches, denominations, and ministries are now offering online studies. Do you want a Presbyterian Bible study? A Baptist study? United Methodist? Do a Google search.

If you are Catholic, you might be interested in

Inspiring Bible study author and speaker Margaret Feinberg (Fight Back with Joy, Taste and See, and more) says the benefits of being part of an online Bible study include: participating on your own schedule, interacting with people from around the world, going at your own pace, dressing comfortably, and discussing what you are learning with friends who live somewhere else.

Online Bible studies “provide an alternative for those with busy schedules who can’t commit to an in-person small group consistently,” Margaret explains on her blog,

She has led online women’s Bible studies on various books of the Bible, including Genesis and John, so be sure to check out what she’s offering next.


You will have technical glitches. Zoom will occasionally freeze for a second or two, which can happen in the middle of the insightful observation you are making to your virtual group. You might even get kicked off for no apparent reason. Or not be able to log on sometime. Same kind of stuff happens with other video conferencing apps, such as Go To Meeting, Skype, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. These things just happen.

Know that the fellowship will be different. In an online group meeting, you won’t be able to hand a tissue to a woman who gets tears in her eyes, describing something she is currently facing. Likewise, you can’t get congratulatory hugs when you excitedly describe how God answered your prayers.

You can still do life together during your meetings by listening to each other, looking at whoever is speaking, and following up on what’s been said with compassionate comments. And through texts, phone calls, emails, greeting cards, handwritten notes, social media, and more, outside of your group time. Your fellowship can be sweet–but somewhat different.

In an online study that you work through on your own, you may or may not have fellowship with others doing the same study. Some work-at-your-own-pace studies include a closed Facebook group. Others do not. Just depends on what kind of Bible study you choose to do.

Screen time overload can happen. Do you stare at a computer screen all day for work? Have several video conferences each day? Then, you might not want to do a virtual Bible study. Your brain–and your eyes–may need a break.

Serving together in your community may not be possible. Many Bible study groups will go put into practice what they are learning by feeding homeless people at a shelter or by sorting clothes at a local clothing ministry. You know, just doing for others. These kinds of service projects work best if participants live near each other. Practically speaking, the women in an online study may simply live too far apart to serve together.

Breaking bread together might not happen. There’s just something about sharing a meal together: sitting around a table, talking, laughing, enjoying the food, swapping stories. If you choose to be part of a virtual group, you may not have the opportunity to eat with each other.

Must watch out for security issues. Don’t sign up for an online Bible study that displays meeting IDS and passwords to the general public, such as on a church or ministry website. A meeting ID and password should be provided to you for a study only after you have registered for that study.


Because hackers and internet trolls will seize any opportunity to interrupt an online meeting–including a Bible study–with ridiculous or even obscene comments or pictures. This interruption is called Zoom bombing. (But it can happen with the other video conferencing tools, too.)

“Zoom bombing is shorthand for when strangers intrude on others’ meetings on Zoom,” explain the experts at “Sometimes, these folks might just listen in without anyone knowing they’re there. Other times, they totally disrupt the meetings in silly or even threatening ways.”

Besides picking an online Bible study that keeps the meeting ID and password private, you should also make sure to regularly update to the latest version of whatever videoconferencing tool you use. Companies like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout, etc., continually work to fix bugs to help users have a better, safer experience. So, taking the time to install the updates is a must.

In-person Bible studies

One of my Bible study friends, vibrant Candy Norris, has done both online and in-person Bible studies. She prefers participating in an in-person study.

“I feel more comfortable talking to people, instead of a computer,” Candy explains. “I connect with people when I’m face-to-face.”

Connecting with her sisters in Christ matters to Candy. She wants to get to know the women in her Bible study. To meet as a group for dinner. Or go as a group to a women’s event nearby. Or help each other get through stuff.

“I connect with people when I’m face-to-face.” –Candy Norris

She tried doing a virtual Bible study with a group of women she knows, but got frustrated when the inevitable tech glitches happened during meetings.

When trying a strictly online, go-at-your-own-pace Bible study, Candy missed knowing she had a weekly meeting deadline to get her work done.

“I didn’t have anyone to be accountable to,” she says.

So, Candy has decided to stick with in-person studies.

Will an in-person Bible study also work best for you right now? See what you think after reading this list of pros and cons about meeting in person with a group.


Learn more about God, the world around you, and yourself through studying the Bible. Whether you read about Jesus raising a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17) or God parting the Red Sea to save His people (Exodus 14:10-28), you will sense God’s greatness and power. Spending time in God’s Word will help you understand there is a God–and you are not Him.

Get help for everyday living. As you read and study the Bible and work through your Bible study homework, God will help you understand what you need to do in your own life.

For example, you may feel frustrated with someone who just doesn’t do what you think he/she should do.

Can God help you? Absolutely.

He may start by showing you various Bible verses in your Bible study such as this directive from Jesus: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:37,41).

Can God help you? Absolutely.

Or, you might open up your next Bible study lesson, read these words God inspired Paul to write to the believers in Colossae, and realize God is calling you to pray for the person who frustrates you: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9).

Can make eye contact and read body language more easily. When the woman seated across the table in your Bible study opens up and shares with the group what she is going through, you might notice the worry on her face.

Or, you could see the determination in her eyes as she lifts her chin and quotes the words God inspired Paul to write in 2 Timothy 1:7: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

You definitely notice and understand more about other people when you are physically in the same room with them.

Give hugs. First, a woman in my Bible study group asked if we would pray for her grandson. He was struggling in elementary school and at home. Physical issues. Developmental issues. And behavioral issues. But no one had ever told the family exactly what was wrong.

After several months of praying for this little boy, the mom also joined the Bible study. We prayed more and more, asking God to give the family a clear diagnosis and plan of action.

Then, one night, the grandma and the mom came excitedly into Bible study and announced that God had answered our prayers. The new doctor God directed the family to had done some additional tests and was able to give a name to what their little guy actually has–and guidance for moving forward.

Yeah. We hugged a lot that night at Bible study. Definite advantage to being together in person.

Engage in chit chat before and after the meeting. Sometimes, ladies arrive 5-10 minutes early to Bible study, so we visit. We catch up with each other. We pull out our phones and show pictures.

Then, after Bible study ends, some women will leave immediately because they have children to get to bed or they have to be up early the next day. Other women will linger for a bit, sharing another thought they had on the night’s lesson. Or, asking a question.

Looking out my kitchen window at my driveway, I often see a group of two or three of God’s daughters standing by their cars, talking and laughing.

Such sweet time together.

Eat together. Whether your group chooses to eat a meal before, during or after your study OR decides to take turns bringing dessert for the group, breaking bread creates community (even if the bread is gluten-free or low-carb).

Meet to serve in the community. God means for us to put into practice what we learn in the Bible. So, why not go as a Bible Study group to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or clothing ministry (or any other ministry) to show God’s love to other people?


Must be available at the same time each week. Does your work schedule vary? Do you travel regularly as part of your job? Are your kiddos playing sports? Attending a weekly, in-person study might not work for you right now. You definitely wouldn’t want to sign up for a women’s Bible study, then miss out on the lessons, the discussions, and the fellowship. Or the hugs.

Need to make sure you have someone to watch your kiddos during Bible study. Some churches offer on-site women’s Bible studies with childcare available. (Always find out ahead of time if a fee is charged for childcare.) But many other churches do not offer childcare during studies.

For years, my husband willingly took care of our daughter and son one night a week so I could go to women’s Bible study. (Thanks, honey!) Not all women have that option, though.

Have to think about what you are wearing, your makeup, and whether you need a shower first. Really. Especially if you just came from the gym or a long walk. Or, if you’ve just finished working in your yard.

Should stay home if you have the sniffles or feel like you are coming down with something. You know, out of concern for the other women in your group and their family members. No one likes to get sick.


So, whether you choose to participate in an in-person or online Bible study, how do you find one?

Start with your local church. Are Bible studies listed on the church website? Or on your church’s social media sites?

You can always go old-school and call the church office or women’s minister to find out about Bible studies currently being offered–as well as ones starting in the near future.

Many churches begin new Bible studies in January (after the holidays) and again in September (after children are back in school), but studies can start any time.

Check out what other churches are offering. If your local church doesn’t offer a Bible study that fits into your schedule or that you haven’t already done, take a look at the websites for churches around you.

For example, I attended a women’s Bible study with my friend, Cyndi, one summer at First Baptist Atlanta. Neither Cyndi’s church nor mine offered any summer studies, so we pushed through Atlanta traffic to get to a Kay Arthur study together at the impressive First Baptist campus.

Talk with trusted friends and family members for Bible study recommendations. If you need a babysitter or someone to cut your grass or fix a water leak, you ask around, right? Do the same to find a Bible study. Maybe you’ll even get invited to several different amazing studies.

Look online. Check out ministries, such as or or, which regularly offer online Bible studies for women. Also, provides studies you might enjoy.

Numerous Bible study authors also offer online studies, such as Beth Moore at her official Living Proof Ministries site,, and Priscilla Shirer at her website,

Consider a Bible study for the whole family. Would you like your family members to study the same parts of the Bible at the same time? You can do that with the non-denominational, international group called Bible Study Fellowship. According to, “About 400,000 men, women, and children study God’s Word each year in more than 40 countries” through BSF groups.

Community Bible Study also offers Bible studies for all ages and in many different countries. According to, CBS offers Bible study groups “for anyone who wants to find out why the Bible still matters today.”

Although I have never personally participated in either a BSF group or a CBS group, I know a number of women who have been part of one or the other for several years and believe they have grown tremendously as a result.

Finally, if you can’t find a women’s Bible study that suits your schedule or season of life, ask God in prayer if He is leading you to start one. Really. If you believe God answers yes, work with your pastor or women’s minister to set up a new study, select curriculum, advertise, and teach you how to effectively lead a small group.

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