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Expand Your Small Group Reading at Church: Try a Female Author

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Heather Bottoms

Staff Writer

Heather Bottoms is a used book lover, theatre geek, and compulsive volunteer. When she is not curating her Little Free Library, she is working at her local community theatre or over-preparing for book club. She hosts book swaps, leads an LGBT-themed book club, and loves to see people bonding over books. She lives with her computer nerd/musician husband and three kids in Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @HeatherBottoms.

In over 35 years as a Christian, I have taken part in more small group book studies than I can count. Bible studies, women’s groups, Sunday school classes, discipleship groups, book clubs, home groups—you name it, I’ve done it. And yet, in my many varied church experiences, I have seldom been in a mixed small group that read a book by a female author.

Women’s ministry book studies of course generally use books by female authors, and typically focus on “women’s issues.” But I have also been involved in dozens of mixed groups, and it seems that female authors are largely ignored for these studies. Surely everyone realizes that men can also learn from and read books by women. It seems a shame that our churches are missing out on so many amazing authors.

I would like to encourage you to diversify your small group reading by choosing to include more female authors in your church-wide selections. Here are some wonderful titles to get you started. These five books by female authors for small groups showcase a range of topics to generate lively discussion and spiritual growth.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans

In this creative and thoughtful book, Evans alternates discussion about the various forms and genres in scripture with imaginative retellings of familiar Bible stories, sparking a fresh view of the Bible. The short, standalone chapters create a format that is well suited to a weekly group study. Evans speaks freely about her questions about faith and the Bible, giving the reader permission to share their own, and the book presents a range of conversation-inspiring topics.

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life by Lois Tverberg

This book prompts us to reexamine the words of Jesus through the lens of the Jewish culture and tradition. Tverberg helps us find deeper meaning in Old Testament teachings as we learn more about the context in which they were originally heard. The author encourages us to step away from the modern Western lens that we know, and see the scriptures anew through Jewish eyes.

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland

Social psychologist Christena Cleveland pulls from current research and her own experiences to show us how we fall into the trap of “us/them” thinking that divides us within the church. This material provides a productive jumping-off point for small groups who are ready to engage in self-reflection and discussion. Cleveland identifies divisive behavior and thinking, and then provides both vocabulary and instruction that lead us in the direction of building bridges.


Focusing on the first three chapters of Genesis, Harper offers a hopeful vision of the restoration God intends for our relationships and the world. As a speaker, writer, and activist, Harper trains clergy and community leaders, teaching on issues of social justice and reconciliation. In this book she reminds us that the good news of the gospel is for everyone, and should bring wholeness, dignity, and peace for all people.


In this book Van Opstal tackles the challenge of helping to guide congregations in the area of multicultural worship, showing how to engage the diversity of the church in their services. While this book would be a helpful read for anyone in the church, it would make an especially meaningful and enlightening study for worship teams and leadership. If the body of Christ truly includes every tribe and tongue, how can our churches better honor and reflect that diversity?


Interested in more great books for your church library? Try these:

100 Must-Read Books About Christianity

Christian Books for Teens and Tweens

Recommended Reading from a Progressive Christian