We’re six months into our country’s attempt to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus. Many of us were sent home to work. Our churches moved to online worship and group Bible studies. Some churches have now begun to meet again on campus for worship, and others have reopened their Bible study groups with safety precautions in place. But there are a good number of churches that cannot meet because of guidelines given by their state or local leaders. “One size doesn’t fit all” is certainly true of how churches are responding to the need to get their people back together. But there is a way for churches to continue to encourage group members to press on in their journey to be more fully obedient disciples. And the plan involves a Bible study tool that has been around for over 100 years!
I work for Lifeway, a company that produces discipleship tools called Personal Study Guides (some people still refer to them as “quarterlies” because they last 13 weeks before a new series begins). Each session introduces a biblical text, has a main point, helps the reader understand the biblical background, customs, and practices of the times, and is a tool that helps growing Christians self-feed on God’s Word. There are also key word studies and application suggestions to help people live out the Bible in their daily lives. These personal study guides are used in a group Bible study, and they are also studied by individual group members in between their group times.
COVID-19 has proved challenging for churches. As we slowly return to our church campuses and some semblance of normalcy, personal study guides are more important than ever before. Even while people are separated and cannot meet, they can still use the personal study guide to learn and apply God’s Word in these tumultuous times. Here are some reasons why personal study guides are more important than ever before.
- Reading the Bible and other Christian literature daily is critical for year-over-year growth. If you don’t believe me, read the book The Shape of Faith to Come by Dr. Brad Waggoner. It was demonstrated through research that the number one factor and predictor of a person’s growth as a disciple is whether they self-feed on God’s Word or not. During the days of “shelter in place,” curfews, and “safer at home” guidelines, this is the perfect time for a sequestered believer to have a discipleship tool in their hands that God can use to comfort them and speak to them daily.
- Because of social distancing and the rise of virtual groups, a personal study guide will give people a common focal point. When groups get together online, they are going to want (and need) to talk. Having a personal study guide that you read, study, and respond to gives every member of the group a common point around which to study and share insights. What could be better for churches than placing a discipleship tool in the hands of every adult member and guest, knowing that people are sheltering in place, working from home, and finding themselves with some amount of time on their hands each day? Now more than ever, adults are going to want and need something on which to focus besides COVID-19. What better to focus on daily than God’s Word?
- Because personal study guides are available digitally, each person in a separated group can have a study guide without any physical contact. Virtual classes need virtual curriculum, and the personal study guides produced by Lifeway come in the form of E-books. With a few keystrokes, personal study guides can be in members’ inboxes in a matter of seconds, making distribution a snap.
- A personal study guide provides group members with an interactive and engaging experience. Personal study guides produced by Lifeway have excellent authors who write each session. They bring their education, ministry experiences, and much more to the pages of the personal study guides. Questions placed throughout each session help people think critically about spiritual matters. Anyone using a personal study guide benefits from the author’s expertise, training, and background. Places to write responses and journal thoughts further enhance the experience.
- A personal study guide is based on a wise discipleship plan crafted by experts. It takes painstaking work to create complex plans for a Bible study series (those plans determine the scope and sequence—the topics and the order in which they are studied—of the studies). These plans have been developed by specialists with advanced degrees in theology and Christian education, working together to determine what topics are studied and in what order.
- A personal study guide is an affordable way to disciple people. Did you know that you can purchase a study guide for each group member for only $3.15 each? That’s just $.03 per person, per day! What an investment opportunity for every church. Personally, I consider this to be the absolute best value when it comes to disciple-making.
Yes, COVID-19 has changed us as a nation, and it has changed our churches. But I believe it is going to change us for the better! We are already realizing how important group Bible studies are to God’s people. And we are relearning that people need a trustworthy tool and a well-crafted plan for helping people grow as disciples. Making disciples was one of the final things Jesus told His church to do (Matthew 28:18ff). Today, personal study guides are more important than ever in the disciple-making process.