Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two Reminders for Building Healthy Bible Study Groups

By Ken Hemphill, Director, The Church Planting and Revitalization Center, North Greenville, University, Owner of Auxano Press

I have been an advocate of Sunday School for my entire ministry. Everyone agrees that if we are going to fulfill the commission to make disciples, we must organize our people into homogeneous groups for Bible study, fellowship, ministry, and accountability.

There has been much debate regarding the name and even function of Sunday School. Debating about what we should call our small group Bible studies or when and where they should meet is counterproductive to the work of The Great Commission.  My interest is in developing a strategy whereby each church can get the largest possible percentage of their people involved in effective small groups. 

Since we all espouse the importance of the small group Bible study, one must wonder then why attendance in small groups is on the decline in many churches.  I want to point to two issues which I think are, in a large measure, responsible.  
  1. For a small group to remain healthy they must reach out to include others not engaged in the small group.  This will promote evangelism and the birthing of additional small groups.
  2. Small groups must have curriculum which challenges people to study the Bible for themselves.  Good open-ended small group material must have weekly lessons which have the power to stand alone, but when studied in sequence will provide a larger view of the text or topic being studied.  This is critical because we cannot assume everyone will be present each week.  The material must be engaging enough to make people want to study the Bible and use their curriculum as their guide. 
In the best case scenario, all adult groups within a church should use the same curriculum.  This allows easy movement of persons from one group to another, the establishment of new groups, and the unification of the church family around a particular Bible study theme. 

A few years ago several pastors encouraged me and then joined me in a plan to develop a “non-disposable” curriculum which would cover the entire Bible, major doctrines, and key topics of the Bible.  The idea is to provide each student with high quality curriculum which would be studied and then collected by the participant to form a basic Christian library.  

We are beginning to make these "non-disposable" curriculum resources available from These high quality paperbacks will cost most churches less than the disposable curriculum they are currently using.  Most teaching helps are free online.  Inexpensive audio commentaries enable the church to establish a virtual teachers’ meeting.