I meet many people who really want to have a great experience with the Bible during their Sunday School or home group time. What I really hear is that they want content. This isn’t just from the people in the group but from the teachers and leaders as well. As I lead seminars for Sunday School leaders across Oklahoma and many other parts of our country, I often hear teachers wish their Bible study lessons were deeper. Some teachers blame their curriculum for lack of depth. In my own experience however, I find that most teachers just want to have better content and want to be deeper teachers personally. In many ways, the shallowness of our classes may have less to do with the curriculum and more to do with our own lack of depth.
One of the best groups that my wife and I have belonged to since moving to Oklahoma was at Northwest Baptist Church. We not only made friends in this group, this class had what I call a “culture of content”. What is this culture of content? When I arrived, I didn’t hope for a really good Bible study experience. No, I expected it! Our teacher arrived prepared and ready to go. No question was out of bounds. Invariably when our time was up, I would leave the group being grateful for both the ministry of the class, but also two or three things from the Bible study that I needed to work out in my own life during the week. Usually when our group time was concluded I was hoping for another 15 minutes so we could “finish” the lesson. Oh well… always leave people wanting more, right?
I realized that this group had an expectation that every time we met, we would have a transforming experience with God’s Word. Essentially, it became part of our group’s culture. Many times the big discovery was not in our leader’s plan, it just happened. But I believe that we had such good experiences with God’s Word was precisely because our Bible study leader was prepared both mentally and spiritually.
I don’t believe that leading a group into this kind of Bible study happens when the teacher consistently prepares on Saturday night, or habitually comes to the group ill-prepared to lead. Here are a few suggestions to help your group have that transformational experience that many people desperately want and need.
- Study your Bible lesson early in the week. If your group meets on Sunday morning, take some time on Sunday afternoon or evening and read through the study material for next week; and by all means read the Scripture passage.
- Remember that we don’t use the Bible to teach the curriculum. We use the curriculum to help us teach the Bible.
- If there are learner guides for the Bible study, distribute them to the group and encourage the group to study both the Bible passage and their learner guide. The deeper your group gets into the Word of God during the week, the deeper and more transformative your Bible study will be.
- Read the Bible passage every day and meditate on the verses that “tug” at you spiritually.
- Be aware of opportunities during the week to put the Bible study into action. Obviously, if you wait until the last minute then these opportunities are lost. Also, sharing how the Bible study impacted your life during the week helps make the study practical and transformative as you lead it.
- On Thursday night, text the passage and a key question to your entire group. This action not only serves as a quick point of contact but will also give them something to think about and prepare.
- Sometime Friday or Saturday, finalize your teaching plan.
- Picture your group and how you are going to lead the study. What arrangements do you need to make in advance? Are you going to sit or stand? Think of a really good introduction that will capture the group’s attention so that they want to delve deeper into the Bible.
- When your group meets, teach from your notes, not from the leader guide. Notes communicate to your group that you studied and are prepared; the leader guide tells them you’re winging it.
- Are you developing someone who can take your place? Ultimately, if you want to develop a group that sees transformation, your investment into one or two people to take your place will be evident and essential.
As Scripture says, “These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). God wants your group to experience Him… and He has revealed Himself to us for this reason.
Has your group developed a “culture of content”? What are some actions you may need to take in order to move forward in this area?