“Ask a Priest: What If Members of a Bible Study Group Are Slacking Off?”

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Q: I am facing a dilemma. I have been member of this Catholic singles community for more than a year. I was drawn to the Bible study it spearheads. I always attend, to the point that now I am one of those who facilitate it. My dilemma is that some people in the community can easily ignore others, as though it is a norm. For example, if I announce the schedule of the Bible study (which most of us agreed upon), many will only “seenzone” me. Others will say that they will come, but they cancel at the last minute, making me wait for hours for practically nothing. This has been going on for some time. I always waited for them to reply or show up, because I know we need Jesus and his word. But it seems that members have different priorities. I am thinking of giving up facilitating the Bible study and becoming inactive in the community. Is this OK? How will I know God’s will for me? Please pray for me. – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: What you describe points to the human condition. People are inconsistent. People exclude other people. People aren’t always forthright. Even practicing Catholics fall into these ruts. This is one reason why Jesus gave us the sacrament of confession. We aren’t saints but sinners.

So, what to do? Perhaps two observations might help you.

First, it is important to “keep your eye on the ball.” Ask yourself why you are there. Is it because everyone is perfect, and you want to feel appreciated for your work? Or is it because you see something valuable in it, and you realize that hearing and discussing the words of Scripture can help you and others grow in the faith?

If it’s the second reason, then it would be good to ask if this program can continue to be of help. That is, are there enough serious people here to make your efforts worthwhile?

Perhaps you might want to talk it over with someone in the group who is serious. Perhaps one solution would be to look for other people who are serious about the studies, and invite them to join.

This is where perseverance can help. Programs take time and work to make them vital. Most worthwhile programs in the Church take a lot of effort to get off the ground. It takes commitment and endurance, even amid opposition or indifference.

Second, there is the matter of what an economist might call an opportunity cost. That is, if you weren’t doing the Bible studies, could you be doing something better with your time?

This is a question only you can answer. All of this you might want to take to prayer. Prayer is always the best preparation for works within the Church, since it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who brings about the spiritual fruits.

It could also be that people just need a variation in the routine occasionally. For example, during Advent you could get together to watch and discuss one of our retreat guides, such as “Be Not Afraid: A Retreat Guide on St. John Paul II.” That change of gears might give an energy boost to the group. (The retreat guides are available for free and include discussion questions after each of the three short videos.)

Remember, too, that the devil will try to stop any good work he sees. Even more reason why we need divine help at every step.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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