You’ve been asked to lead a Bible study group. This opportunity fills you with either excitement or anxiousness—or more likely, a little bit of both! Perhaps the biggest question you may initially face is: what exactly will we study?
Few of us have the time each week to create a Bible study from scratch. The weekly research and planning can be as extensive as crafting a sermon! (Just ask your pastor how much time he spends on his sermon.) Thankfully, you do not have to start from scratch. You have several Bible study curriculums to choose from. But which one is best? More specifically, which one is best for your group?
Let me offer four questions to ask as you review your options.
- Is it biblically sound? Not all Bible studies are created equal. I don’t care how colorful or creative it is, if it is not theologically sound, walk away. Check the masthead or website about the curriculum’s statement of faith or denominational affiliation.
Biblical integrity and accuracy are the key things we strive for with the curriculums produced by Lifeway. Lifeway curriculum is grounded in The Baptist Faith and Message, and we only enlist writers who affirm this. The editors are grounded in conservative scholarship and trained in biblical doctrine and theology. Right before a study is released to the printer, it is reviewed by two outside individuals, either pastors or professors, to ensure every sentence is clear and accurate. It’s not Bible study if the Bible is not being presented correctly.
- Is it age appropriate? This may not be a critical issue if you lead a group of adults, but it matters if you’re working with students, kids, or preschoolers. (If you lead adults, Bible Studies for Life does offer the same studies in three groups: young adults, senior adults, and all adults.)
Biblical truth can—and should!—be taught to children, but their ability to comprehend will determine how deep you can take your teaching. For example: you can lead a high school student to see that God loves us and created us in His image to enjoy a relationship with Him. For a preschooler, you must start by simply emphasizing that God loves people. Lifeway Kids has done extensive research in understanding childhood and adolescent development. As a result, they have developed a thorough document called Ages & Stages: Levels of Biblical Learning. It’s no surprise, then, that Lifeway’s Bible studies for preschoolers, kids, and students take age appropriateness into account. If you’re going to work with kids or students in any capacity, it is worth your time to make sure that your study will fit the right age group.
- Does it offer a balanced scope and sequence? I’ve sat in groups that, as we wrapped up a study, the leader asked, “What do you all want to study now?” And the leader went with whatever the majority wanted. That’s like asking kids what they want for dinner, and then giving them ice cream for every meal because it’s what they want. We need balanced diets in our consumption of both food and Bible teaching. Choose a Bible study plan based on a strategic plan. Ask yourself, “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, alternating between Old Testament and New Testament books.
- Bible Studies for Life is built on eight markers of spiritual maturity. Each year cycles through eight six-week studies that look at each of those markers from different passages and topics in Scripture.
- Does it fit the discipleship strategy of your church? If your church has an overarching plan of discipleship, consider how the curriculum supports that strategy. Many churches choose the curriculum for their leaders based on that strategy, but you may need to discuss the curriculum you are considering with the leader in your church who oversees discipleship.
As you consider your options, keep this in mind: there is no perfect curriculum. Publishers seek to provide good curriculum, but it comes down to what you—the individual leaders—do with it. A bad group leader can butcher the best resources out there, and a strong, gifted teacher can make an effective Bible study out of a less-than-stellar resource. Pray as you seek the best resources for your group and continue to pray for God’s hand and direction as you lead your group.
Lynn Pryor is a publishing team leader at Lifeway and has been involved in creating Bible studies for over 27 years. You can read more from him at lynnhpryor.com.