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 curriculum? Why can’t we just teach the Bible?” When I served as an Education Pastor in two churches, I had to deal with the same question. It’s a great question! I would answer the question “Why use an ongoing Bible study instead of other options?” like this:
- Because your goal as a group leader is to make disciples. Discipleship doesn’t take a week off, but your group members do! Isn’t it a good idea to place in their hands something like a PSG (Personal Study Guide) or the new DDG (Daily Discipleship Guide) so they have content to read in between attending group studies? This allows them to keep up with the group, even when they are not present. Disciples should read God’s Word daily, and Personal Study Guides and Daily Discipleship Guides help them do just that.
- Because the content is trustworthy. 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. Because we are commanded to guard our doctrine closely, it matters what teachers teach. Turning them loose to teach anything they want opens the door to doctrine being introduced into your church that is contrary to your stated beliefs. When you provide an ongoing curriculum for your groups, teachers are held more accountable because both they and their group members have curriculum from which they are studying. Heresy has almost no chance of surviving when an ongoing curriculum is used.
- Because the Bible studies are carefully crafted by teams of experts. Almost everyone who works on the teams I lead have their Ph.Ds in theology or Christian education (or both). 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!
- Because 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 ministry. They use the material they produce, and they know first-hand if it’s working or not, and that helps them tweak things as they go. The editors are great churchmen who are “in the trenches” each week, just like you and the teachers in your church.
- Because 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 $50 every 90 days! If you divide that by the 13 weeks in the quarter, that’s just over $3 a week to equip a group of 10 people to study the Bible. To take it to the extreme, it’s $.31/day…less than a can of Coke.
- Because there are options. LifeWay offers at least 3 major lines of curriculum. One explores the Bible book by book. A second one tackles topics, and the third one goes through the Bible chronologically. However a group likes to study the Bible, LifeWay has an option.
- Because you are reaching guests. By providing curriculum for guests, you help them fit into existing groups. Some guests will not have strong church backgrounds, and attending a Bible study is a big deal. In fact, some guests feel very intimidated to come into groups where everyone appears to have a firm grasp of the Bible. A Personal Study Guide helps guests read ahead and be prepared for class discussion about the Bible.
- Because your people need balance. Curriculum is designed on a “scope and sequence.” The scope is the possible topics that could be covered, and sequence is the order in which they will be covered. Curriculum providers work hard to make sure that people receive “the whole counsel of God” over time. Sometimes when group leaders prepare their own studies, they gravitate to pet topics and pet doctrines in the Bible. Curriculum ensures that disciples are fed a balanced diet from God’s Word over time.
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