What curriculum do your small groups use? Are your groups sermon-based? Are they DVD driven? These are all very common questions in Small Group discussions. Curriculum (in this article I’m referring to material centered around the group reading a topical book when I say “Curriculum” ), Sermon-based material and DVD or video-based groups are all proven methods of Small Group ministry. There is another approach which I would like to highlight along with it’s benefits: Bible-based Small Groups.
I know that sounds funny and a few people reading this are probably rolling their eyes. Of course I know that the previously mentioned approaches are centered around the Bible too, but to me, a Bible-based small group strips everything else away and puts a believer face-to-face with the Word of God and their own life. A Bible-based Small Group only requires an attendee to bring their Bible and an honest heart. A Bible-based Small Group means the Small Group Leader better have a basic grasp of scriptural concepts and principles related to the focus of their upcoming meeting.*
I want to share with you 6 Reasons To Sharpen Your Small Group With the Sword…
1. Avoid Impractical Curriculum – Jim Egli and Dwight Marable write in Small Groups Big Impact, “Five to seven well-worded questions are sufficient for a good interactive study…most small group curriculum publishers do not understand this concept as evidenced by how their curriculum is written. Often they include over 20 questions per lesson.” In my experience, ‘five to seven well-worded questions’ can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour depending on the size of a group and how much people are participating. Having more than that is curriculum overkill.
Before I move on let me say this: There is good curriculum out there and it isn’t all bad. I have friends who write a lot of it too. Certain topics and church wide campaigns are going to be more effective with books and curriculum compared to simply using scripture. On the other end of the spectrum: buyer beware…there is a lot of “interesting” stuff out there.
2. Most People Need To Get Into the Word More – I didn’t grow up nor do I live in the Bible-belt (grew up in Las Vegas and I live in Nor. CA). From my experience in interacting with people in and outside of my church I find that most people really don’t know the Bible that well. With the exception of listening to a sermon on Sunday, a lot of them don’t regularly open it up for themselves and wrestle with the tough truths inside of it.
I praise God for what Joyce Meyer and John Bevere wrote, but when I have a chance to focus people in my church and small group on something, I want to focus them on what God said. If a Small Group Leader is excited about a book they recently read and want to share it with others I don’t dismiss them nor do I restrict them. I tell them if they really want to encourage the group to buy the book and read along they can, however, I strongly recommend that they use the book to inform themselves about passages of scripture that they can then implement into a simple Bible study. So you may be using the book to guide you as a leader, but a Small Group Attendee only needs to bring their Bible to get the most out of the meeting (BTW I have many Joyce Meyer and John Bevere books in my library).
3. One Less Excuse To Stay Home
Most people have trouble maintaining a daily devotional schedule let alone a reading schedule in another book too. With curriculum, if a person doesn’t get their reading done before the upcoming meeting it gives their flesh one more excuse to stay at home and not attend your group. That’s the last thing I want to do. I also don’t want them showing up and starting with a guilt-ridden apology because they didn’t finish this week’s chapters.
I want people looking forward to our next meeting. I want them to feel like weights and burdens are going to be lifted off of their shoulders if they make it out. Sometimes reading schedules can have a counter-productive effect.
4. The Small Group Leader Grows
As a Small Group Leader leading a Bible-based group, I only have one place to go and prepare: My Bible. Leading my group keeps me in the Word, keeps me thinking about the Word and keeps me growing in the Word. With some video curriculum, it’s almost TOO easy to facilitate a group. In my opinion, if nothing spiritual is happening in the leader, nothing spiritual is going to happen in the group.
I’ve always approached and promoted ministry opportunities as vehicles for personal growth. A Small Group meeting centered around a Bible passage encourages that process.
5. New People Aren’t Out-of-the-Loop
With Sermon-based groups and Curriculum-based groups there is an established context before the small group meeting begins. When a guest arrives with no history in that context, it may not feel like they’re able to engage with the discussion at the same level everybody else is.
Almost every small group meeting I lead there are 1st-time guests and they always seem comfortable sharing and participating in the discussion. I think part of the reason for this, is that I do my best to make it feel like everything you need to know in order to respond has already been presented.
6. The Bible Is the #1 Discipleship Resource of All-Time
It is the best-selling book ever. It is God-breathed. In a church service it can be spoken by one person and be personally revealed to thousands in a single moment. A Small Group Leader that connects their people to the Word is dispersing the most powerful agent of transformation known to mankind. There is no competition. It has no equal.
In conclusion, I am reminded of the K.I.S.S. method: Keep It Simple Stupid. In our efforts to make disciples and lead fruitful small groups let’s make sure we don’t outsmart ourselves. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing and God will provide the increase.
Photo Credit: Albion Europe ApS
*As a Small Groups Pastor, I train all of my leaders how to take a passage from Bible and turn it into a Small Group meeting using The 4 W’s. On this site we provide samples outlines of this approach which you can find by clicking here. I believe it’s an empowering dynamic to know that you can walk into a circle of people with your Bible and lead them through an interactive study that promotes spiritual growth and relationships.