7 reasons why PSGs are a good idea for your group

I recently met with a group of pastors who attended a conference at LifeWay’s new headquarters in Nashville, TN. My assignment: spend an hour with them thinking through the reasons why providing a PSG (personal study guide) for Bible study group members is a good idea. In my 18 years of local church education/discipleship ministry, I made certain that every person had the opportunity to have their own PSG to be used as a disciple-making tool. Here are six reasons why PSGs are a good idea:

  1. THEY REMOVE BARRIERS.  Content increases confidence. People are often intimidated by their lack of knowledge. It’s hard to convince someone to visit a Bible study group if they don’t feel confident they can keep up with the people in the group. A PSG makes sure that people have equal access to the information being covered in the group.
  2. THEY ARE A DISCIPLESHIP TOOL. People must learn to self-feed daily in order to grow. Dr. Brad Waggoner’s research has demonstrated this consistently. Self-feeding and reading God’s Word and other Christian literature daily is the #1 predictor of spiritual growth.
  3. THEY HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORD. God’s Word transforms a disciple’s life. PSGs have excellent commentary from trusted authors and experts.
  4. THEY DEEPEN DISCUSSION. Good discussion questions create a quality experience in a group Bible study. Questions in the curriculum are crafted by experts who have advanced degrees and many years of experience in group dynamics.
  5. THEY DEVELOP LEADERS. Group members grow in the confidence they need to take the next step toward becoming group leaders. If a Leader Guide is a crafted as a simple tool, then any lay person could expect to pick up a copy, read the teaching plan, and deliver a satisfying Bible study experience.
  6. PEOPLE ATTEND IRREGULARLY. Group members are able to keep up when they are absent. Discipleship shouldn’t take a week off. When people are absent, they can keep up with the group IF they have a PSG.
  7. THEY ARE AN AFFORDABLE TOOL. The cost of a PSG ($3-4) averages out to just $.04 a day per person. PSGs contain 13 Bible studies and cover a 90 day period of time. I challenge you to come up with anything else that is a quality piece produced by experts and delivered to your church for less than $.04 a day per person!

Now, one final thing. I realize that this could look incredibly self-serving since I work for a company that produces PSGs for Bible study groups! I get that. But please consider that for 18 years prior to coming to work at LifeWay, I was a strong advocate that every person in my church, plus every guest, receive a PSG. I was a fan of the PSG as as disciple-making tool long before I drew a paycheck from LifeWay!


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Do you know why Personal Study Guides are a Good Idea for Groups?

Not to be confused with MSG (bad) PSGs (good) are an essential discipleship tool for Christians today. Unfortunately, in an attempt to trim costs, some churches have opted to order only leader materials – or worse: they order nothing at all and teachers have to “make it up as they go.”

Other churches PSGshave chosen to provide every member and guest with their own Bible study booklet. That PSG (Personal Study Guide) is an important part of a group Bible study experience. I’m a big fan of every group member (and guest) having their own PSG.

It sounds self-serving, I know, because I work for a Christian publisher that creates PSGs for its Bible studies. But even before I went to work for LifeWay, I was what Ken Blanchard would describe as “a raving fan” – a raving fan of PSGs. In fact, I was such a big fan that every kid, student, adult, and guest in my Sunday School received a PSG. Here are 4 reasons why PSGs are a good idea:

  1. Discipleship doesn’t take a day off. You know as well as I do that people attend Bible studies sporadically. People are often present one week, then absent two. But if that person has a PSG, they can continue to read, study, and respond to God’s Word between Bible study sessions. Just because the person is absent doesn’t mean they should take time off from being immersed in God’s Word! Having a PSG means the absentee can keep up with the group.
  2. The group experience is better with PSGs. Having a PSG before the group meets for Bible study makes it possible for group members to read and study ahead. They can jot down questions, respond to statements made by the author, and mark words or phrases for which they need more clarification. Coming into a group Bible study “warmed up” helps every member to get into the Bible study. We’ve all been a part of a group in which no one prepared in advance. Boring! People just sit there, waiting for the teacher to do it all. PSGs give group members plenty of material to jog their thinking, challenge their understanding, and apply biblical principles to their lives.
  3. The PSG helps guests fit in. Savvy churches are handing out PSGs at their guest centers  and in their groups. When a person fills out a guest information card, they are handed a PSG. The PSG is theirs to keep whether or not they attend a group. Having PSGs at greeter stations sends a healthy signal that the church cares for its members and guests, invests financially in people’s spiritual growth, and raises expectations about what will take place in the Bible study groups. It’s difficult to get visitors to attend a Bible study group; fear of the unknown often keeps some people away. But having a PSG in advance puts the guest on a level playing field with every other member of the group. Now they know what the group is studying (and will study).
  4. The financial investment is fantastic. A PSG produced by my company costs approximately $2.65 per person. Before you say “that’s a lot of money” (because you may be purchasing them for hundreds of people), consider this: each PSG contains 13 complete Bible studies. By doing the math, that means each session costs just $.20! There is no other resource a church could provide to help people mature in their daily walk with Christ, and nothing more economical they could provide to create better group experiences for everyone, than a $.20 a week Personal Study Guide.

That’s just 4 reasons to consider using Personal Study Guides in your group (or groups). I can think of at least that many more! I’ll save those for a future post.


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11 Ways to Encourage People to Use Their Personal Study Guide

Richard Edfeldt, LifeWay Church Partner

Today’s blog post is a “part 2” of the one from yesterday, July 26, 2017. In yesterday’s post, Richard Edfeldt helped us understand why Personal Study Guides are essential in the development and spiritual growth of disciples.

Today, Richard wraps up those thoughts with 11 ways you and I can encourage people to use the Personal Study Guide before, during, and after a Bible study:

  1. Ask a group member to be prepared to share a summation of a section of the study material.

  2. Email/Message/Facebook group members about their response to a particular quote on a page.

  3. Break the group into smaller groups to compare responses to an assigned part of the study.

  4. Encourage use of the application questions in small groups during the group Bible study.

  5. Encourage recording prayer requests in Personal Study Guide margins.

  6. If you are the group leader, refer to some of the study questions throughout your Bible study.

  7. Ask a member to be prepared to present a report on a doctrine, person, or event that is in the Personal Study Guide.

  8. Tweet a quote (with page number) from the Personal Study Guide to your group members to encourage them to look it up and consider its meaning in light of the rest of the Bible study.

  9. Encourage group members to frequent the blogs on the curriculum’s website for additional insights and information about each week’s Bible study.

  10. Remind the group members of their responsibility in the discipling process – and how daily reading and interaction with their Personal Study Guide can help accelerate that process.

  11. Have group members create accountability partners who will check on each other’s personal preparation for the upcoming Bible study through phone calls, social media, and email.

I want to say thanks to Richard and his fellow Church Partners who so diligently serve the local church with their knowledge, time, and experience. They are truly making a difference on “the front lines.” I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Richard’s thoughts about Personal Study Guides, their importance in the disciple-making process, and how you can encourage their use by group members.


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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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