Here are some rules I use and recommend for one-on-one Bible studies with unbelievers:
- Insist that they meet in your home. The reference books you may need are at your fingertips, and you can control what happens. You can turn off the phone and ignore the doorbell. On someone else’s turf you cannot control the barking dog, the crying baby or interruptions from neighbors.
- Make the students feet welcome. Always offer a cold drink in hot weather, a hot drink in winter and even a small nosh (snack) if the person has come to you directly from work. Keep it small so you do not appear to be using food as bait. Half a bagel with cream cheese or a small brownie placed beside the coffee cup will do.
- Select a convenient meeting time for them, but suggest that they come to you directly from work. Point out that the lesson is short and this not only provides time for the traffic to lighten but also allows them to keep their evenings free. Discourage evening appointments. After a long day in the office and a heavy dinner, the call of the sofa and prime-time TV increase the student’s temptation to cancel the appointment.
- Stick to the time limit you promised. When the timer goes off, stop! Practice your lesson beforehand to make sure you are not trying to cover too much. Let the student know in advance that the timed 30 minutes belong to you, but you will answer questions afterwards on the student’s time.
- Do not get sidetracked with irrelevant issues. Your aim is to prove that Jesus is an option for the Jews, and that he is the promised Messiah of Israel. It is unnecessary to answer every question or respond to every comment. Keep on track.
- Stick to an authorized Jewish version of the Hebrew Scriptures. (I use the Masoretic Text.) Some of the books are in different order. Familiarize yourself with this order, and before each lesson flag the pages that contain your Scripture references so you don’t waste time flipping pages.
- Sit facing the student and close enough to allow him or her to see the Scriptures you are reading. Explain the timeframe in which the text was written, who is speaking, and to whom. From time to time ask the student to read a few short verses aloud.
- Provide a typewritten outline of each lesson and leave space for notes. Do not write out the entire lesson. This discourages listening, and if your student is not sincere it could end up getting misused.
- Last, but of greatest importance, pray, pray, pray! Earnestly ask God’s help and counsel each step of the way. Without him, you are on your own, striving after wind.