Select Page

A 65-Year Journey

This year in BSF, we are looking back to look ahead as we celebrate 65 years of God’s faithfulness. From a group of five women meeting in a California home to a global ministry of more than 400,000 men, women, and children studying the Bible–God has faithfully grown BSF. We invite you to explore our rich history and pray for our future as we remain committed to advance God’s Word, mobilize His people, and impact His world for Christ.

Watch the 65th Celebration

Share Your BSF Story

We want to celebrate God’s work with you! Whether you have been in BSF for decades or recently joined a group, you are part of our rich history. Share your BSF story with us on the 65th anniversary memory wall.

BSF: A Timeline

In the summer of 1952, five women asked a former missionary, Audrey Wetherell Johnson, to teach them the book of Colossians. From that earliest group, the model for Bible Study Fellowship was born. Those first women were so deeply transformed by the power of God’s Word that they shared their experience with anyone who would listen.

Today, BSF has expanded to nearly every country worldwide. As our ministry continues to grow, our work remains the same–advancing God’s Word one person, one family, one community, and one country at a time.




Five women ask Miss Johnson to teach them Colossians. She insists that she will not “spoon-feed” them.


As interest in learning from Miss Johnson grows, Bible Study Fellowship is officially launched. BSF holds its first board meeting at Miss Johnson’s home in Oakland, California. The BSF study method is expanded to include groups of men.


A class begins in Bloomington, Indiana–the first class outside of California.


BSF purchases its first headquarters in Oakland, California. There are 13 total classes in operation, including Indiana and Arkansas.


The Children’s Program begins.

“When I had the first five women, I did not envision the expansion of the work and all the miracles and changed lives God has brought about through the power of His Word in Bible Study Fellowship classes.”

– Audrey Wetherell Johnson, BSF Founder and Executive Director, 1954 – 1979


BSF has 23 classes in operation with 3,000 total members.


35 classes are in operation in 5 states.


48 classes are in operation in 8 states. Dr. Robert Stevens is hired to head up men’s studies.


The ministry purchases a new headquarters in Oakland, California. More than 100 classes are in operation with 20,000 members.


BSF begins in Australia. 110 BSF classes are in operation.


BSF expands to Liverpool, England. 131 classes are in operation with 30,000 members.


The first class is held in Canada. BSF holds its first Young Adult Class.


There are classes in 40 states, including Hawaii.


The Board decides to move BSF headquarters to San Antonio, Texas. There are 50,000 class members in 280 classes.




Rosemary Jensen begins as BSF’s second Executive Director. The ministry gets its first computer.


The first Summer Institute is held to train Teaching Leaders. At this point there are 316 classes worldwide.


There are 350 classes in operation around the world.


BSF expands to New Zealand. 4 Teaching Leader Institutes are held. 385 classes are in operation with 77,222 adult members and 12,566 children.


There are 449 classes and 13,808 children in the Children’s Program. Rosemary Jensen visits Africa to expand BSF. Audrey Wetherell Johnson passes away; her BSF legacy continues to impact thousands worldwide.


BSF holds its first classes in Africa, Asia, and continental Europe. There are 548 classes and 25,181 children in the Children’s Program.


For the first time, the same BSF study is used in classes worldwide. 596 classes are in operation in 12 countries with 25,608 children in the Children’s Program.


BSF holds its first Leaders Retreat in Africa. 650 classes are in operation with more than 100,000 members.


720 classes are in operation.


Bible Study Fellowship becomes BSF International. Hertzler Press is installed at the headquarters in San Antonio. There are 768 classes in operation with 118,210 members.


825 classes are in operation in 21 countries.


BSF has expanded to 857 classes with 122,094 members.

“Numbers were never our primary concern – except for the fact that we did want more numbers to hear the truth. So we prayed for our classes, that they would grow in size, because we certainly wanted everyone to get the advantage of the teaching. Excellence is our goal because this is the Lord’s work. BSF is not just an organization; it’s a tool in the hands of the Lord.”

— Rosemary Jensen, BSF Executive Director, 1980-1999


BSF begins in South America. There are 866 classes in operation with 134,362 members.


BSF launches a new study: The Life of Moses. There are 882 classes in operation.


BSF begins in India. There are 885 classes in operation.


The School Program begins. 903 classes are in operation.


BSF launches a new study: The Acts of the Apostles. There are 914 classes in operation.


There are 945 classes with 194,029 members, 57,853 children, and 20,000 students in the School Program.


BSF launches a new study: Romans. A Romans Institute is held for all Teaching Leaders.




Jean Nystrand begins as BSF’s third Executive Director. The ministry begins classes for expatriates in Shanghai, China. 971 classes are in operation with 218,428 adult members and 64,565 children.


Classes for expatriates begin in Beijing.

“BSF experienced tremendous growth. Not because we were out there beating the bushes; people simply learned about BSF and God drew them to classes. You hear so many stories and realize how many individuals God’s Word is transforming; families are changing and people who are trained in BSF are affecting entire churches.”

— Jean Nystrand, BSF Executive Director, 2000-2008


Jean Nystrand visits China to expand BSF.


A demonstration class begins for Chinese nationals in Beijing.


More than 1,000 classes are in operation in more than 30 countries with 200,000 members and 60,000 volunteers.




Susie Rowan begins as BSF’s fourth Executive Director. BSF expands to Malawi and Ethiopia.


BSF launches a new study: Isaiah. BSF materials are translated into Chinese for the first time.


There are 235,000 members and 53,000 children.


BSF launches a new study: Revelation. All Teaching Leaders and Area Personnel attend the Revelation Institute. BSF pilots the first Satellite Discussion Groups.


There are 395,000 members and 78,000 children.


Word in the City (now WordGo) is launched in Belfast, Ireland, as a way for young adults to interact with BSF content through the use of technology and innovative gathering experiences.


BSF Online is launched, allowing people around the world to study God’s Word with others regardless of where they live.


BSF launches a new study: People of the Promised Land Part 1. MyBSF launches, making lessons available online.


There are 1,256 classes in operation, in 38 countries, with 383,000 members and 75,000 children.

“God has set before us an open door in the twenty-first century, to involve many nations and places in the world. We are praying that as we walk through that door God will use the ministry of BSF so that the name and fame of the Lord Jesus Christ will be renowned in all the earth.”

— Susie Rowan, BSF Executive Director, 2009-2020


The WordGo app is launched as a way for people to study BSF content on their own or in organic groups.


BSF in-person classes are temporarily shut down due to COVID-19, but BSF classes continue to meet online. 350,000 adults and 51,000 children participate in BSF.


The BSF app is launched and downloaded by 169,000 people.




Hollie Roberts begins as BSF’s fifth Executive Director.


There are over 430,000 adults involved in BSF classes and 72,600 users on the WordGo app.


73,000 adults meet in BSF satellite groups and nearly 25,000 participate in online groups.


BSF launches a new study: People of the Promise: Kingdom Divided.


Over 50,000 trained leaders volunteer with BSF.


BSF experiences a 29% growth in multilingual discussion groups.

58,700 kids and students are participating in BSF around the world.

WordGo reaches over 200,000 downloads.

A Note from Hollie:

“As we look ahead toward BSF’s next 65 years, we remember the prayer of our founder, Audrey Wetherell Johnson:

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)

Miss Johnson could never have predicted the amazing ways God would use BSF, but she knew—without a doubt—that God would do more than she could ask or think.

Today, we look ahead in BSF with that same faith and expectation. BSF has never operated around a person, a church, a building, or a location. We have fully relied on God’s direction and provision.

We hope you will join us in praying for BSF’s future, just as thousands have prayed along our 65-year journey. We look back to look ahead, celebrating God’s faithfulness in the past and anticipating His work in the future.

– Hollie Roberts, BSF Executive Director