I have a friend who is trying to get a pastoral position at a church. He needs to lead a Bible study with the board of elders for 60 minutes as part of his job interview. Below is the advice I gave him.
This year I have graded hundreds of Bible studies.
I have seen three problems over and over again.
1. The leader doesn't understand the flow of Life-Bible-Life and does all Bible study questions.
2. It goes super long and so you are never get to discussing how this relates to life. Often the leader is a bit afraid of talking about the nitty gritty so this adds to the frequency of the lengthening of the Bible study portion.
3. No one talks because the leader doesn't ask good open questions.
For the flow of their Bible Study, I encourage my students to use Thomas Groome's Shared Christian Praxis Five Movements from his books Christian Religious Education and Sharing Faith.
Here's my free-wheeling description of it.
I hope it gives you some ideas as to the structure of your time.
1. 5 minutes. Easy activity - quote, news story, movie clip, personal story, survey, etc about the topic. Then gently ask them for what they think about the topic "off the top of their heads." Or better yet, ask what other people typically think about the topic. Let this be fairly light. Ease them into it. E.g. "What do your coworkers think about spirituality? What are some of the spiritual movies of the last few years? (Sixth Sense, Chronicles of Narnia, The Passion, The Village, Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns). Why do people say they are spiritual?" Or, "What superheros do you remember growing up? Have you enjoyed any of the movies about superheros (X Men, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, etc.). What is the appeal of those movies? (the triumph of good over evil; interesting talents)"
2. 5 minutes. Engage a little of discussion about the importance of the issue. What are the consequences if people think that about this topic? What if everybody did that? Why do people typically have that view of the subject? Where do you think those ideas come from? E.g. "How do children learn about spirituality? What happens if children get confused views of spirituality? (Columbine? Confused by predators on the internet?) What efforts do public schools do at teaching ethics and values? (No drunk driving, no cheating, etc.)"
3. 15 minutes. What does the Scripture say about this topic? Your four sentence background summary. Then read the text - ask for volunteer(s). Have three people read if you think there are three main sections of the passage. Give people a copy of the text to mark up (NRSV, NIV, ESV, TNIV). It will typically take people some time to get a handle on the passage so you want to faciliate them diving in and discovering it. Have people pair up and share. Ask, what are you think are the most important words? Or what do you think is the most important sentence? Open questions are especially good. Paraphrase your favorite sentence. What questions do you have? It is much easier for most people to share with a partner rather than the whole group and it facilitates them getting into the Scriptures themselves. Then have some people (if they are willing) share with the whole group some of the main insights they had shared with their partner. Hopefully through these questions you are guiding people to the main point of the passage with maybe a couple of subpoints. When the light goes on and people get that you want to move on. Your summary statement: What I am hearing is . . . What I was thinking about this earlier, this is how I would summarize it. Then . . . ok, we have begun to talk about it but let's talk a bit more . . . what does this mean?
4. 10 minutes. So what? How does this insights from Scripture relate to what we see on TV? How does this insight from the Scriptures affect our coworkers? What might be different about their lives if they knew this? How might our church be different if we knew this? What does this text remind you of? Who in your life could really use this lesson? If . . . is what this passage is teaching, what is one thing that this affects in daily life? Take 60 seconds and draw a picture or symbol of something and share it with your partner. E.g. At the beginning of our discussion we talked about kids and how they learn ethics and morals in our culture - from TV and superheros and worse. What does our text have to say about that issue today? Anything?
5. 10 minutes. What is the new thought for you today? What do you plan on contemplating the rest of this week? What part might you memorize? What attitude might this change? How will you act differently this week? Give them a small piece of paper with the text for the day, date and room for them to draw or write anything they like. Give them 2 minutes to think, or draw or pray. End by saying . . . what are some things that we can pray about . . . anything . . . how can we pray for all of us concerning this . . . what are other side comments have we brought up tonight that we can bring to the Lord in prayer. Have short prayer.
45 minutes scheduled. If you go over a little somewhere that's ok if the discussion is hot. Aim to end at 4 minutes early (56 minutes total).
I often try to pair down the flow of the whole lesson to about 8 questions and print them out for people and that is for 1 1/2 hours. You will probably be able to discuss about 6 questions I'd say in an hour.
I hope that might give you a vision or at least some fresh ideas for the time.
andyUpdate: my friend thinks he did well though he didn't take my advice! Oh well.