I sure hope David Francis doesn't read this post. Our friendship will be over! And no, I'm not upset with LifeWay. But, let's be honest here.. do you really have to have curriculum to have a small group or Sunday School Bible study?
No, you don't.
In fact, people have survived without it for thousands of years. Christians in many parts of the world have no curriculum – many don't even have a Bible. What curriculum did the church in Rome study while they were in the catacombs, by the way? What do house churches in communist China use for Bible study curriculum?
So let me make this point before I share the Bible study facilitation plan with you. That curriculum piece you get in Sunday School or small group? It is meant to help you study – the Bible! In fact, apart from the Bible, it loses its effectiveness. LifeWay Christian Resources is my denomination's publishing house. I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that they would probably agree that they do not print all of those great Bible study resources so that you can focus on the curriculum. They labor over their resources so that it will help you focus on the Bible. We study the Bible and curriculum is a tool to help us study it.
A Simple Plan to Facilitate a Bible Study
Now, about this facilitation plan for small group Bible study. You may have noticed my reading list on the right side of the blog. On it, you see a book by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay titled, The Tangible Kingdom. In this book, the authors present a facilitation plan that I decided to try myself. It works.. and it is good. It is a plan to encourage discussion. Do not use this plan as an excuse not to study. If you get tempted to do this, go read James 3:1. In fact, if you use this plan you might want to study even more! It might even drive you back to curriculum! That ought to make Thom Rainer happy. *grin*
This plan works best when you are working through books of the Bible, like Philippians for instance. How much of Philippians do you study? All of it? A chapter? A verse? Here's the plan:
How much of the Bible to study? Spread your hand out on your Bible. Look at the span from your little finger to your thumb. That's how much to study. Basically, about a page.
Read it aloud in the group.
Now, you are going to ask your group five questions (not all at the same time).
- What did you like about what you just read?
- What did you not like?
- Was there anything that you did not understand?
- What did you learn about God?
- If you were to apply what you just learned into your life this week, what would that look like?
At first I thought these questions were pretty lightweight. But now, I like these questions. The first two get the discussion going. The last three provide the depth. Seriously, even when we use curriculum, we should ask those last three questions! Was there anything you did not understand? Now that is a good question. How often do our questions invoke SSA's? (Sunday School Answers – Jesus, the Bible, sin) Asking this question involves comprehension. It is also why we need to study and pray over the Bible passage ourselves before the group meeting. This question opens the passage up for inspection from a variety of different angles and perhaps a more robust discussion. As the leader, you better be prepared.
What did you learn about God? The Bible is more than a how-to manual for marriage or raising children. It is God's revelation of Himself to us. Every page of it. One of the purposes of small group Bible study is help us learn about who God is and what He is about. Consistently asking our group what they are learning about God will help them start to focus more on God and themselves less.
If you were to apply… Application question. If we are learning about God, then we will want to be part of what God is doing to redeem not only our life, but what He is doing all over the world. Small group Bible study should be transformational. We should see life-change happening in the lives of our group and in ourselves. We should begin to see our culture changed too. Honestly, if this is not happening.. why meet? We are pursuing a relationship with God, who although He accepts us as we are, He has no intention of leaving us where we were!