Others are moms, who may bring their young children to attend their own classes in a nearby room. Still others are grandmothers and even great-grandmothers.
Whether they’re young or old, married or single, parents or not, and whatever their religious preference, all women are invited to join the Tampa Northeast/New Tampa Community Bible Study (CBS) class, says the group’s teaching director, Karis Tiberia.
“We’re there to study the Bible together,” Karis explains. “One of the things I think is special is that we focus on the essentials of the Christian faith, not on denominational distinctions. Whether they attend church or not, everyone is welcome.”
While the focus is on studying the Bible, that’s not all that’s happening in the group.
“We encourage each other, love each other, challenge and take care of each other through all of the ups and downs of life,” Karis says.
The Tampa Northeast/New Tampa CBS class is part of an international organization called Community Bible Study. The group that meets in New Tampa has just completed its third year, with about 75 women registered, and will begin its fourth year this fall.
It meets most Thursday mornings, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., at St. James United Methodist Church, 16202 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. While St. James provides meeting space for the group, it is completely independent and supported by other churches, too, such as Grace Episcopal Church, where the group’s Leaders Council meets each week to prepare.
Moms who have children who are in third grade and younger can bring the kids along. Carmellia Loyd is the children/youth director. She says children will be cared for in a loving, fun and safe environment, and all teachers are trained and background checked.
“It’s not childcare,” Carmellia says. “From the time they’re two and older, they’re in programming, learning Bible stories, songs, simple verses, and how to have a relationship with God.”
The group’s leadership team is made up of 15 women, including Karis and Carmellia. When women join CBS, they’re placed into a smaller discussion group, called a “core group.” New this year, one core group will be meeting in the evening to accommodate more women’s schedules.
The first class will be held Thursday, September 6. An Open House will be held on Thursday, August 30, 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m., for people to drop by, find out more about CBS, meet the leaders, pick up a study book and/or register. The group will meet most weeks, except for holidays, and will end on May 9, 2019.
The group will be studying the Book of Matthew. Registration is $35 and children’s registration is $10.
Participants complete a 10-15 minute lesson in their CBS study book each day, then gather for the weekly class, where they sing worship songs, break into discussion groups, and then come back together for a large group teaching, led by Karis.
“Some people gain knowledge by answering questions, others by sharing in discussion, and some by hearing the teaching,” Karis says. “CBS covers all of those ways.”
Carmellia says she has been involved in CBS, which has several groups in the Tampa Bay area, for 18 years.
“The thing I like about it is it is straight Bible study,” says Carmellia. “They ask you questions, you look at the answers in the Bible and discuss it in your small group. It doesn’t matter if someone has known Jesus for six weeks or has been a saint for 60 years — everybody has something to contribute.”
Carla Rybolt is the group’s coordinator, handling logistics, including member registration. She has participated in the New Tampa group since its inception.
“Being in God’s word keeps me closer to God at all times,” Carla adds. “I was in the midst of a terrible storm when I started with CBS and the class led me through a gamut of learning how to completely trust God and let go of all of my anxieties. Through everything that I’ve learned, I’ve been surrounded by amazing women who hold me up.”
Karis agrees. “It’s made a difference as I go through life to have women who I know will be there for me. Aside from the Bible study and how we grow in our faith, I am also personally encouraged by my participation both in the class and as a leader.”
All three women say they love the diversity of the women who attend the group.
“The number one thing I liked about CBS from the beginning is that it’s biblically-based and everybody is welcome. Whether you’re Atheist or Jewish, no one is ever turned away,” says Carla. “Jesus tells us to love one another, and that’s the way it is at CBS.”
Carmellia adds, “It’s for anybody, whether you want to find out what the Bible is all about or have studied it for years. It’s a great place to feel comfortable and not judged.”
Registration is open now. For more information, visit the group’s website at TampaNortheast.CBSclass.org or email Carla Rybolt at CBS.Tampa.Northeast@gmail.com.