The Value of Personal Study Guides

Today’s blog post is an excerpt taken from the book One Hundred by David Francis and Michael Kelley. It’s a book that is intended to help the smaller church move past the 100 barrier and reach new people.

In this brief excerpt, Francis and Kelley help us understand the value of providing printed curriculum for group members. An unfortunate trend today is that churches are decreasing or eliminating this valuable tool from their teacher’s toolboxes. I wish it wasn’t so, and not just because I work for a company that produces Personal Study Guides! I’m a group leader like many of you, and I’ve seen the value of Personal Study Guides in my adult Bible study group. We use them weekly to guide our study time. Here is what the two authors have to say:

It’s a good and right thing to expect members to come prepared for the class session. That’s one advantage of providing inexpensive printed curriculum materials…Along with your invitation (for guests to come back)  you can provide a copy of the study material you are using. If you are using what we call “ongoing” material at LifeWay, you can say something like, “Here’s a booklet with the topics and Scriptures we’re studying in our class right now. Before you come, you might want to take a few minutes to find the study for that weekend in the book, and read ahead. …By that simple act, you’ve removed the number one barrier for adults: thinking they know too little about the Bible to participate. (pp.24-25)

Personal Study Guides cost about $2.50 each, which boils down to a whopping $.19 a week (they contain 13 Bible studies). For less than a quarter a week, you can put God’s Word into the hands of members and guests, and you will have a more robust Bible study when everyone has had the chance to read ahead and study on their own.

Another advantage to using ongoing curriculum is that you don’t have to stress out about what your group is going to study every 4 to 8 weeks! The scope and sequence is predetermined by teams of experts who carefully craft the materials and choose topics and passages to be studied. It relieves me of that responsibility as a group leader, and it frees up my time to focus on meeting the needs of my group members as a teacher-shepherd.

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6 Reasons Why Bible Study Groups Should Use PSGs

Spoiler alert! This is going to sound like a self-serving blog post. There, you’ve been warned! Read on at your own risk.

I work for a company that produces some of the finest PSGs (Personal Study Guides) for Bible study psgs-2groups. When I served on church staff, I insisted that every group use PSGs from LifeWay Christian Resources. Today, almost twenty five years later, I’m still insisting on PSGs for my group members! Not all churches do that today – in fact, I’ve recently worked with two churches that have allowed group leaders to self-select their studies, but there are tremendous pitfalls with that approach. I’m proud to say that both churches are working towards having a unified approach when it comes to the use of PSGs in their Bible study groups.

If your group is asked to use a particular curriculum produced by LifeWay (or some inferior publisher…wink) then you’ll probably like this post. If your group self-selects its studies and chooses not to use PSGs, then you may be challenged by what I’m about to say. But keep an open mind to the benefits of having a PSG for every group member and guest:

  1. PSGs are a discipleship tool that help people “self-feed.” In the book The Shape of Faith to Come by Dr. Brad Waggoner, a research project discovered that the number one predictor of year-over-year spiritual growth boiled down to whether or not persons read daily from their Bible and other Christian literature. PSGs give group members and guests something they can read on their own as they take ownership of their spiritual growth. Personal Study Guides contain content that explains Scripture and the people, places, and customs found in the Bible; they also connect the Bible to life today and help people apply Scripture wherever they go.
  2. PSGs are a tool for people to study “between group meetings.” If you haven’t noticed, people’s attendance patterns are becoming more and more sporadic. It is not unusual to see group members once a month. Because discipleship doesn’t take a day off, it’s important they have a tool that helps them keep up with the study plan of the group to which they belong. That way they self-feed (see #1 above) and keep up with their fellow group members. When they return to the group, they are up to speed.
  3. PSGs are created by teams of experts. Would you rather trust your teenager to drive a car created by one engineer, or a team of engineers? When one person, the group leader, develops his or her own Bible study, it won’t be as strong as one carefully crafted by a team of experts who have advanced degrees in biblical languages and Christian education practices. You simply get a better quality study when you have a PSG in your hand.
  4. PSGs are built on balanced study plans. Study guides are based on detailed study plans designed by publishers. Balance is key! Bible studies have multi-year study plans to make sure the entire counsel of God is considered over time. When group leaders create their own studies, they often tread over the same ground – a favorite passage, Bible book, or genre of Scripture (like prophecy). That’s like going to a buffet and choosing only one or two items to eat!
  5. PSGs are affordable and a great investment in people’s growth and discipleship. From time to time someone tells me, “Those books are so expensive” (talking about their perception of PSGs). But are they really? I can purchase a PSG for $2.75. It’s “perfect bound” like a book (so it will last), normally has 2 or 4-color designs, and contains 13 individual Bible studies. If I do the math right, that’s just $.21 per Bible study session! There’s nothing else your church can provide for that great a value that has the potential to help people grow spiritually over time.
  6.  PSGs are doctrinally sound. Every study guide produced by the editorial teams at LifeWay are (1) in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message (2) read by multiple editors and leaders inside the company before they go to print (3) read for doctrinal agreement with the BF&M by outside appraisal readers whose job it is to make certain the PSGs contain only sound doctrine. That process of creating trustworthy content frees up pastors and staff leaders (and group leaders, too!) to focus on more pressing leadership issues like caring for people since they can trust the theological content in the PSGs.

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