If you’re struggling with your Bible study small group because you can’t agree upon a topic or the nature of the study isn’t motivating (e.g., looking up verses and filling in blanks), consider a new approach that provides your group with more flexibility and hopefully better motivates each participant. The format is like this:
- Each person chooses their own topic to study throughout the week. They can study a book of the Bible, a systematic theology subject, a character study or an outside book like Knowledge of the Holy. Providing the flexibility of choice ensures that everyone is working on something that they find relevant and in a format that they can best learn from
- During the small group time, each individual must summarize what s/he learned from his/her study over the past week , draw practical implications and share it with the whole group in under ten minutes (or a time of your choosing). The idea here is to force each person to distill their study into a few key point in order to reinforce their learning from the previous week and teach it to others about in a concise manner. It’s therefore more likely to be remembered and packaged in a way that can be communicated again if the topic should arise at a later time
- Warning: This could devolve into a member reading large chunks of commentaries or other material. If this occurs, it will be painful for the group and should be quickly corrected. The idea is to internalize and communicate the learnings rather than regurgitating someone else’s words. Quoting some key passages is okay, but it should be limited
- Following an individual’s ten minute time, the other group members spend a couple of minutes asking questions, offering suggestions for how the study could have been better communicated or correcting misinterpretations of Scripture if they arise. This time closes the loop and facilitates discipleship where necessary
- Move on to the next person until everyone’s had their turn
There are several benefits to this method beyond what’s already been pointed out.
- Having to summarize learnings and verbalize them gives us practice in communicating God’s message in a safe environment and hopefully prepares us to be more articulate over time. More importantly it helps train people to fulfill Hebrews 5:12 because the ability to teach is a sign of maturity: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”
- It allows the more mature members to ‘pull up’ the younger members through an exposure to more difficult material than the average Bible study book covers, while keeping the newer members at an appropriate level for their own investment of time
- It solves part of the common issue of having one or two members taking most of the air time. (team interaction studies show that the most talkative person accounts for ~40% of the time and the next person ~25% in groups of six to eight people). Conversely, it gives the quieter members an equal say and draws them out
- Everyone in the group gets to hear multiple mini ‘sermons’ and this rapid fire approach results in many unexpected gems from Scripture that we had forgotten or hadn’t considered in many years
One warning about this approach…it’s doesn’t work very well for Christians not motivated to put the time or effort into a study. Participants can hide by making off the cuff comments during a group study, but their lack of preparation will be immediately evident (and embarrassing) with this method.