Sunday, December 03, 2017

Bible Studies For Christian Small Groups

"What's the key to inspirational bible studies for my group?" That's a question I'm sometimes asked. My reply is to learn from the shepherd, after all God's people are described in the bible as sheep. So how does a shepherd feed his sheep?
A good shepherd will lead his sheep into pastures of rich, green and lush grass. But, he will not let them overstay there. If they stay too long in one pasture, no matter how green it is, they will eventually eat the grass down to the roots and destroy the roots. So he will move his sheep from pasture to pasture. When the flock has had a good feed in one pasture, he will move them into another, allowing the grass in the first pasture to grow once again.
There are many pastures in the Word of God. Yet, a Christian small group's leader may sometimes have a liking for certain pastures, leaving others virtually untouched. Our role, however, is to bring the whole counsel of God. A balanced, well-rounded presentation of truth is the best safeguard against heresy. Heresy is usually truth which becomes overemphasized. There are often strings on our harps we have never touched.
Type of Pasture Examples
Doctrinal: e.g. Justification, the Person of Christ, the Second Coming of Christ
Book Study: e.g. Genesis, Job, 1 Corinthians, James
Character Study: e.g. the life of David, the Patriarchs, Peter, Paul
Expository Study: e.g. Psalm 139, the Sermon on the Mount, the Epistle to the Galatians
Topical Study: e.g. Forgiveness, bible studies on Marriage, Finances
Devotional: e.g. Worship, Prayer, Relationship with Jesus
Character Development: e.g. The fruit of the Spirit, the Beatitudes, Growing in Christ
Christian Service: e.g. Servanthood, Discovering our Gifts, Evangelism
The Godhead: e.g. the Names of God, the Life of Christ, the Work of the Spirit
Practical Learning: e.g. How to share our faith, How to read the Bible, Dealing with grief
Bible Study Styles
One way to ensure you have inspirational bible studies is to vary the style. Variety is the spice of life. The most monotonous of jobs and chores can be made more interesting by doing them in different ways. Conversely, even the most exciting career can be turned into drudgery and boredom through routine. There are different ways of doing guided bible studies and the leader should be creative in this.
Here are some different styles:
- The question/answer basis, where a question is asked, a bible reference is looked up and the answer is written down. This is usually suitable for younger Christians, as it saves them from the embarrassment of not knowing much on the subject you are studying.
- Another style is to study a passage, then discuss it together, bringing out its applications. The group would read a paragraph or so and specific questions would be asked, leading to further discussion and application.
- Yet another approach is to do a full bible study for half the allotted time or so, then have four or five discussion-type questions for the remaining half of the time.
- Another style is, at some stage in the study, to split the group into cells of three or four people and give each cell a question (preferably not all the same question). Give the cells twenty minutes or so to discuss and jot down a brief summary of their discussion, then re-form the whole group. Each cell shares with the group its question and their findings. Not only does this provide another means of approach, but inevitably shy and withdrawn people will share more openly with three or four than they would with 13 or 14.
Do's and Don'ts
*Never lecture. Encourage discussion. One of the major characteristics of a Christian small group is that it must do what can't be done in congregational meetings. With regard to the teaching this includes having the freedom to discuss the bible together in contrast to listening to one person preach from it.
*Be aware of shy people who like to 'hide'. Draw them in, but don't embarrass them.
*Don't allow anyone to dominate the discussion.
*Don't wander; keep on track. Avoid 'red-herrings' (distractions, diversions).
*Don't let the study go for too long. Let them want to come back for more! If you finish late, people may be polite to you as the leader, but they won¡¦t come back. Many have to get up early the next day for work, etc.
*Never bluff. If you don't know an answer, say so. Tell the group that you will try to have an answer for the following week.
*Don't argue. Truth is received by revelation, not argumentation.
*Don't ride your own hobby horse.
*Never use the study to 'get' at someone. The Word is to build people up, not put them down
*Keep it positive. Communicate hope and inspire faith in God.
*Don't allow anyone to use the study to contradict the pastor's teaching, to gossip about others, etc.

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