A balanced diet is good. It was drilled into us as kids that:
- we’ve got to eat our vegetables.
- we can’t just eat ice cream all the time.
- we need to eat from all the food groups.
The same principle applies to Bible study. We need a good balance of topics and teaching, looking at the whole counsel of Scripture. Yet many leaders periodically poll their groups and ask, “So what do you want to study now?” And like six-year-olds at an all-you-can-eat buffet, we gravitate to our favorite foods. I knew one group that always gravitated to studies about the end times.
A good study plan gives your group a healthy diet. Whether you create your own study plan or use one that undergirds a particular Bible study curriculum, look for one that offers the following:
1. A clear direction. Look at the overall plan and ask, “If I follow this for several years, what would it achieve for my group?” For example:
- The Gospel Project goes chronologically through the story of the Bible while addressing key Bible doctrines.
- Explore the Bible systematically studies different books of the Bible. It balances between Old Testament and New Testament books.
- Bible Studies for Life takes a topical approach, ensuring over a three-year period there is a balance in topics, life issues, Bible books, and character studies.
2. Bible study. OK, this may seem obvious, but not all studies are created equal in this regard. Does the study just talk about a topic or idea, or does it dig into the Bible passage? Your group needs to walk away with a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
3. Application. I am not a fan of Bible study just for the sake of Bible study. What’s the point of knowing what the Bible says if we don’t ever do anything with it? The Bible is relevant to life—all of life—and a good study helps your group see how it applies to life and challenges them to action: a change in what they think, feel, or do.
4. Sound theology. Choose a curriculum or study that views God’s Word as exactly that—God’s Word. You want a study that is solid doctrinally and uses solid principles of interpretation.
5. The right methodology. Does your group like an interactive Bible study? A lot of discussion? A master-teacher or lecture-oriented approach? Look at a curriculum’s leader helps and plans for group time, and choose studies that draw your group into engaging God’s Word.
There is no curriculum that is perfect for every group. Find one that fits the needs of your group and stick with it. Over the course of time, a consistent study will lead to a balanced diet, helping develop healthy followers of Christ who know God’s Word and live it out.
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for adult resources at Lifeway. He and his wife, Mary, lead a Bible study group for young adults and have survived raising two sons to adulthood. A graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Lynn has previously pastored and served churches in Texas. Follow him on his blog at lynnhpryor.com.