Bible Study Leader's Guide: Woman at the Well
Starving to meet Jesus face to face? Look no further than the Scriptures... His Word is alive and He wants to speak, comfort and uplift YOU!
Below is a Leader's Guide for a study on the Woman at the Well, but it can definitely be adapted for personal use as well! If you are a youth minister, grab some teenage girls! If you are a teen, gather some buddies or cozy up in your snuggie and a journal for a personal date with Jesus as we crack open this story together:
Note: the content for this study is written by Katie Hartfiel using the Bible Study format written by Mark Hart.
1. Pastoral Notes – These notes are for you as the Bible Study Leader. The goal of these notes is to help you to understand the flow of the Bible study to effectively lead your group.
Our goal today is to find the root of our identity as it relates to our love relationship with the Lord. The Women’s Session at the Steubenville Youth Conference was titled, “Made For More.” Through this study we hope to solidify a desire to become the women God created us to be.
The story of the Woman at the Well shows a progression of her life of sin and the change that occurred in her life after she understood she was chosen. Through reflection on this story, the young women in your group should relate to this woman’s struggle and therefore understand that this same transformation is possible for them.
There are 3 main themes that we will highlight in this study:
An intimate encounter with Jesus can change everything if we choose to accept His offer of Living Water.
Our self-image and perception of our identity matters as women. When we are confident that we are God’s we are free to make choices that honor Him and bring us joy.
The world is in need of examples of authentic femininity. If we don’t answer the call to be disciples, it is possible that people in our lives may never know the goodness of God.
2. Opening Prayer – Pray this prayer aloud with your group to begin the Bible Study.
"Lord Jesus, take our hearts and mold us into the individuals you desire us to be. We want to encounter you as intimately and profoundly as that Woman at the Well and we want to share our love for you as recklessly and courageously as she. Help us to be young women madly in love with you and remind us that sin isn’t breaking a rule but breaking a heart. Guide us in your ways and help us to discern your Will in every aspect of our lives. Amen"
3. Introduction of Topic – Briefly introduce the topic that the Scripture will unfold by announcing the topic and asking the following questions.
Topic: Finding Our Identity
How do you identify yourself? If you could give one word to describe who you are what would it be?
Would it be your sport? Academics? Extracurricular?
Is it based on your friend group?
Are you a fashionista, foodie, prep, tomboy or hipster?
Do you classify yourself based on your love of a band, book series, TV show, movie or celebrity?
2. As girls you may even identify yourself in a negative way. Do any of you struggle with self esteem?
This may be in your body image, your feelings of unworthiness, your guilt, your sinfulness, or your failures.
It seems that all of us have a hard time in one or all of these areas. What about the surrounding world makes it easy to fall into a self-image battle?
3. How does God want you to view yourself? Why is this hard for us to accept?
4. How would this affect the way you identify yourself? Your decision making? Your vulnerability to peer pressure?
a. What would life be like if you saw yourself with God’s eyes?
5. Do you think your self-perception is an important element in your relationship with God? Why or why not?
4. Introduction of Scripture – Briefly introduce the Scripture by sharing the following background information. Before you have someone read the Scripture, you might ask, “What do you already know about this Bible story?” If many have heard it already, encourage them to be open to hearing it in a new way.
The Woman at the Well is sometimes called the Prodigal Daughter. A notable difference is that the Prodigal Son is a parable told by Jesus, however this story we are about to read really happened.
Look for the way the woman’s demeanor and self-perception evolve over the course of the story. Ask yourself why this is important.
This is ultimately a story about brokenness and renewal. It is also a story about Jesus choosing this woman to be His and her choice to choose Him back.
Listen carefully for the result of these choices and how they make a difference in the woman’s life and that of those around her.
5. Proclaim the Scripture - Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and enlighten their hearts. Encourage them to let the Holy Spirit guide their hearing of the Scripture and focus on what God wants to say to them. Have someone read the Scripture out loud and then ask questions to get them talking about what they heard. Ask any other questions that can both unpack and personalize this Scripture.
What aspect of this Scripture sticks out to you most?
What word or line stayed with you after hearing this Scripture?
Did anything surprise you?
If you have heard this before, what was new to you hearing it this time?
(For example, have them see if they caught what you were trying to help them see.)
How did the woman change in her identity?
What was the result of this?
6. Read the Scripture a Second Time – Have someone read the Scripture again.
Ask the teens to share the one word, phrase or image from the passage that most sticks out in their minds in hearing it again. Ask them if it is the same or different from the first time they heard it.
7. Further Discussion – This is an opportunity to continue to unpack the Scripture.
An important cultural note regarding this story pertains to the function of the well. This well was the source of water in this town and women would go first thing in the morning to be sure they had water for chores and cooking. This woman goes to the well at the hottest time of the day: noon. What can we tell about the Woman at the Well by looking at this detail?
Answer Guide: She wants to be alone. She has taken on her sin and guilt as her identity. She is afraid of what others think about her.
How does this recluse woman change in her relationship to others by the end of the story?
Answer Guide: She goes out to the whole town proclaiming Jesus. People come to know Him who may have never heard His message without her courageous witness.
The Woman at the Well had a personal, intimate encounter with Christ. How have you experienced the Lord in your own life? How has this encounter changed you?
When we look at the story of the Woman at the Well we see a fundamental change in her perception of herself and her understanding of who God is. She lets go of her identity that was previously rooted in sin and anxiety about other’s opinions and she instead defines herself as a woman in love with Jesus. It dictates everything about her life and allows her to be the woman of joy that God created her to be. She finds her true identity and it changes everything.
Have you experienced the same result in your own life? Explain.
What makes it difficult to maintain this disposition?
What sort of lifestyle habits make it easier to sustain your identity of being a woman madly in love with the Lord?
8. Teaching – This is an opportunity to teach them about the faith from the Scripture.
The story of the Woman at the Well is a story of a pursuit. Other religions are defined as mankind looking for God. Christianity on the other hand sets itself apart as it is rooted in God looking for us. Jesus meets this Woman at the Well and in that moment she is chosen.
She isn’t chosen when she is doing everything right, but on the contrary, He approaches her in the midst of her sinfulness. As they say, “God doesn’t choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen.”
This is also true about you. Jesus asks this woman to go and get her husband, although he already knew the depth of her sin. Jesus reveals that he knows her past but that she was made for more. Jesus also knows your struggles. He wants to gently show you what He hopes you will remove from your life so that He can bring you peace and joy.
Christ is waiting selflessly as he watches you chase all the things you believe will fill your heart. He is anxiously longing for you to take notice of Him. He has pictured what your life as a woman in love with Him would be like. All He can think about is you. However, He knows that He loves you too much to force this life upon you. He is hoping that you will find out that He is perfect for you so He can show you that you are right. Jesus literally died to be your First Love and He wants to be the main character in your love story.
When the Lord offers her Living Water He isn’t talking about her physical thirst, He is talking about her spiritual thirst.
The water at the well would’ve been stagnant and warm, just like this woman’s life. She had been settling for things that didn’t satisfy her and continued to do so day after day. The life Jesus has to offer is moving, alive and able to quench our every need.
When the woman responds in verse 15, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” What she is saying, “Please, satisfy me! I am aching to stop looking for love, redemption, freedom and something that will just make me feel whole!” She has found her answer, and her answer is Jesus!
What would life be like if we could just live with Jesus at the well? Perhaps you have experienced the Lord on retreat, at camp or in your youth program and you may have wished you never had to leave. It is important to depart from that well if we want the world to hear the message of the Savior! However, it is also important to visit the Lord often in the Sacraments. He is waiting at the well in the Sacrament of Confession hoping you will acknowledge your sinfulness and be filled with Living Water. He is waiting at the well in the Holy Eucharist as He hopes you will visit Him in Adoration and intimately consume Him in Mass. He wants to meet you at that well in your personal prayer each and every time you need Him, but He also wants to rejoice with you when things are going well. In each of these instances He hopes to not just satisfy you with Living Water, but to overflow your jar and drown your every need in His mercy.
9. Closing Challenge – Ask them how they can live this Scripture in their daily lives. Have them brainstorm some possible challenges. At the end of the discussion, pick one challenge to live out the coming week. Keep the challenge SMART: simple, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-sensitive.
Invite your teens to share a specific time and place that they will have a “date with Jesus” this week. Ask each teen where she will “meet Jesus at the Well” by using the examples above or coming up with new ideas.
10. Closing Prayer - Pray this prayer aloud with your group to begin the Bible Study. It can be preceded by a time of intercessory prayer (praying for their own personal intentions.)
"Thank you, Lord for the gift of the Scriptures. Each of us has carried a heavy water jar to your feet today. We are thirsty and we have tried to fill these water jars with things that do not satisfy. Just as you knew the sins of the Woman at the Well, You know our struggles. Reveal to each of these young women what you hope they will surrender to You in their lives. The Scriptures tell us that the Woman at the Well left her jar there at Your feet. We ask for the courage and the clarity for these young women to do the same. Let them never fail in their belief of Your radical love for them. We love you Lord. Amen"
*** Originally written for steubenville.org