I was recently asked a great question by a pastor. He wanted to know what he should say when group leaders in his church asked the question, “Why do we have to use LifeWay curriculum?” When I served as the pastor of small groups and Sunday School in two churches, I had to deal with the same question, so I know that group leaders are actually asking it.
I would answer the question “Why use LifeWay’s ongoing Bible studies instead of other options?” in several ways:
- It’s trustworthy content. Every Bible study that is produced is in affirmation of The Baptist Faith and Message, the doctrinal statement of the SBC. It is really important that people who teach God’s Word remain true to the text, and that is one of the things LifeWay is known for providing….trustworthy biblical content. Teachers in your church and mine have all kinds of theological backgrounds…some may have been in church for a long time, others not so much…and who knows what their background was (did they grow up in a Methodist church, Lutheran, or some other denomination that has differences between our understanding of what Scripture teaches?). If you are a member of a Baptist church, this may be an important factor in your decision about Bible study materials.
- For over 100 years LifeWay has been the trusted provider for SBC churches. There is a long history of serving the church and helping her make disciples.
- The Bible studies are carefully crafted by experts. Almost everyone who works on the teams I lead have their Ph.Ds, or doctorates in education ministry; we’ve served on church staffs and state conventions, seminaries, or other institutions. In teams, we work to produce/edit the curriculum, and that is a much stronger model than, say, a teacher writing his/her own Bible studies. Think of it like this: “Would you rather your daughter drive a car that one engineer designed, or drive a car that a team of engineers designed?” I’m putting my child in a car built by a team, because there is less chance of a bad design!
- The editors are teachers themselves. Almost without exception, everyone who edits curriculum on my team is a current teacher in their church’s Sunday School or small-group system. They use the material they produce, and know first-hand if it’s working or not, and that helps us tweak things as we go. The editors are great churchmen who are “in the trenches” each week, just like the teachers in your church.
- It’s very affordable. It is surprising to know that I could equip a teacher with a leader guide, a commentary, a leader pack (with posters and a CDROM that contains the full text of the leader guide so he/she can modify it for use in class), and 10 Personal Study Guides for the teacher’s group members all for about $45/quarter!! If you divide that by the 13 weeks in the quarter, that’s just over $3 a week to equip a group to study the Bible. To take it to the extreme, it’s $.31/day…less than a can of Coke.
- It’s great. We regularly look at other publisher’s materials. Their Bible studies are sometimes twice the cost of ours and the design and content is not, in my opinion, even close to what we are able to provide to the church. Many people who leave LifeWay quickly return after using someone else’s material for a quarter.
- Me. But seriously, when you buy LifeWay materials you get access to me and my team. Will another publisher and its employees stop to have a conversation, respond to an email, or come to your church to provide training? Probably not. At LifeWay, we are trying to be as close to the church and her leaders as possible. You can call or email me any time, and I’ll respond back to you and answer any question you have.
- Because there are options. LifeWay offers at least 3 major lines of curriculum that are all like kids in a family…they come from the same gene pool, but have very different personalities. So if a teacher or group doesn’t like/resonate with one of the lines, they will most likely appreciate one of the others.
- Because there are family connections. All of LifeWay’s curriculum can be aligned in a church if that’s what the church wants to do. A church can help its families have spiritual conversations around any of the “big 3” lines of curriculum. That’s really attractive to some churches that have a strong emphasis on family ministry.
- Because you say so. You’re the leader, and it’s your call. You’re responsible to God and accountable for the decisions you make. You are the keeper of the church’s doctrine. You have a responsibility for feeding your sheep. As someone once said, “Pastors lead and feed; people must follow and swallow.” Sometimes it just boils down to the fact that you, as the leader, have prayed through the decision and want to use LifeWay’s curriculum for all or some of the reasons above. At that point, it’s time for a teacher to get on board with you and submit to your leadership, or get off the teaching train and do something else.
Good comments, Ken. I was in; one of these two churches he refers to in this writing. What he says comes from much preparation and prayer.
Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement along the way.