Monday’s blog posts always come from an excerpt from a book on Sunday School, groups, or general leadership. Today’s featured book is Transformational Groups by Eric Geiger and Ed Stetzer. Because of the section I’ve selected, I’m running the risk of inciting a small riot! But I believe the authors are correct in their thinking, so here goes:
Our first disappointment was that over half of pastors surveyed said they have no visible strategy for their group life. As an indication of that, we asked an additional question: Who is responsible for selecting the curriculum for small groups? Two thirds of the pastors reported they let the group leaders decide. The “study what you want” approach is irresponsible unless there is clear training that equips group leaders for wise choices. Without that, the haphazard approach can be a bit terrifying…It works against a common direction and vision and creates a mismatched, helter-skelter kind of chaotic ethos within the church…Imagine if pastors…let Bob, the worship leader, pick whatever random song he likes…the musicians and choir could follow his lead or go do their own thing. The ushers could stroll down the aisle to collect the offering whenever the urge struck. This type of environment would be chaos, off-putting to any guest that came through and distracting for a member trying to participate and worship God with other believers…Yet according to the research, groups are often handled in this way…Small groups should receive similar care and attention as the worship service. – pp.8-9
If you’re a Bible study leader and you don’t like the curriculum choice made be the staff or pastor on your group’s behalf, please understand that there’s a bigger picture they are dealing with. Perhaps you don’t believe your group needs curriculum, other than the Bible – but also understand that imbalance frequently takes place when group leaders self-select and/or write their own studies. Curriculum created by Christian publishers provide a starting point for a group leader’s preparation, and allows plenty of room for group leaders to customize the content to their audience. It also saves the group leader a lot of time in preparation – time that can be spent ministering to group members and following up with guests and absentees.
For almost 20 years I led the education/discipleship ministries of two large churches. One set records for growth in Texas, which isn’t an easy thing to do! At no point did I allow group leaders to select curriculum, or write their own. We followed a curriculum plan and a Bible study series by a trusted Christian publisher (LifeWay). We trained weekly on how to present effective, engaging, and transformative Bible studies. It galvanized our efforts and was easy to explain to guests who wondered what their options were.
If you’re a pastor, education minister, Sunday School director, or someone else in charge of your church’s groups ministry, consider encouraging your group leaders to either (1) use a curriculum series like I once did or (2) train group leaders to effectively make wise choices if they are allowed to select Bible study materials, which would include all the genres of Scripture so your people have a balanced approach to studying the Bible over time.
I’d be interested to hear how your church goes about the selection of Bible studies for its groups!
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