GREENFIELD — Shirley Alberts was doing a friend’s hair when it happened.
The friend, sitting under a hair dryer with newly dyed tresses, had Bible study notes in front of her and was writing down answers to the questions.
“It was just one of those God things,” Alberts recalled. “He kept pressing on me, ‘This is something you need to do.’”
The “something” was take part in Bible Study Fellowship, a series of in-depth study classes that meet at more than 1,000 sites in 39 countries. The effort is coordinated by Bible Study Fellowship International, which offers lay leaders the scripture and lesson plans for classes they hold in their communities.
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Students in Hancock County have attended classes in Greenwood, Indianapolis and Anderson over the years, but satellite groups in Greenfield have formed. Last year, women began meeting for a Bible Study Fellowship at Trinity Park United Methodist Church. This year, a men’s Bible Study Fellowship group has begun meeting there as well.
“This is one of the most in-depth studies you can attend,” said Tom Dufek, who went to classes at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis before becoming part of the men’s group in Greenfield. “I think it’s way different to read the Bible and to study the Bible.”
The process of study has four parts. Group members read selected Bible passages and answer questions on their own at home. Then they meet in a small-group discussion at the study site, where that discussion is followed by a large-group lecture time.
As satellite groups, both studies in Greenfield watch a video of a lecture that was presented live at one of the host sites. For example, the men meeting Tuesdays at Trinity Park are watching the lecture from Second Presbyterian. Similarly, a satellite women’s group meeting Thursdays in Rushville listens to the lecture given Wednesdays at Indianapolis First Church of the Nazarene, another site where Hancock County residents have attended the study throughout the years.
Finally, students leave the class with notes about the study just completed — and questions for the next week’s study, as the four-part process begins again.
“It’s really neat that they give it to us in four different layers … to help it stick in our minds,” said Jennifer Wright, who attends the Wednesday evening women’s study at Trinity Park.
There’s no cost to attend the class, but the ministry accepts donations to cover some expenses, such as printing the study notes.
Bible Study Fellowship International has reported an increase in enrollment for the 2015-16 study. For the first time, the year’s study is about Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
It’s a book with huge hailstones, a dragon and creatures covered with eyes, imagery that has captured the imaginations of filmmakers. But group members say a systematic study has changed their view of the book. Brenda Bodkin said she’s found it more loving than she previously thought. Alberts said it’s not the “gloom and doom” she grew up thinking it was.
“It’s actually a book of hope,” said Donna Dufek, Tom’s wife and leader of Bodkin’s study group.
Tom Dufek said this study of Revelation steered clear of hype and controversies and has simply given him “a completely different, better understanding of what it says.”
He said the name of the book offers a clue to understanding it — it’s a revelation, a revealing, of who Jesus is.
“If you focus on that, it can get you past all the things that could be divisive,” he said.
Most Bible study groups seem to shy away from Revelation, said Paul Baker, another member of the Tuesday men’s study meeting in Greenfield. He’s gone to Bible Study Fellowship classes for more than 20 years and said it has changed the way he teaches Sunday School, making him ask questions that press students to examine their own Bibles.
“It’s just changed my whole life,” he said. “I’m an old man and still learning. I don’t know how you can help but grow.”
Bible Study Fellowship satellite groups meet at Trinity Park United Methodist Church. The men’s group meets at 6:45 p.m. Tuesdays, and the women’s group meets at 6:40 p.m. on Wednesdays.
The organization’s website offers a search by zip code to find classes meeting in the area. See www.bsfinternational.org/locate-a-class1. Daytime women’s classes typically offer structured preschool-style Bible classes for young children.
Those who want to join the class can show up when that class meets, even well into the study. New students are still being welcomed for the Revelation study.
BSF has 10 yearly studies: Genesis, the life of Moses, History of Israel 1 and 2, Isaiah, Matthew, John, Acts, Romans and Revelation. The 2016-17 study will be the book of John.