By Sam O’Neal
What symptoms do you experience when you feel panicked? Shortness of breath? A tingling at the back of your neck? A sense that the world is closing in around you?
There are a lot of people experiencing that panic right now because their first small-group meeting time is rapidly approaching, and they still haven’t picked out their next Bible study curriculum. Maybe you know some of those people. Maybe you’re one of them!
Fear not, however. Here are five things you should keep in mind as you seek out study material for your group.
1. Check the questions.
The most important thing you need to focus on when evaluating small-group curriculum is the discussion questions. Namely, will they actually spark discussion within your group? Will they help your group wrestle with the deeper ideas contained in the material, or simply force members to fill in the blanks or recite doctrinal catchphrases?
Unfortunately, the discussion questions in most curriculum options drift toward the later.If you find a study that has genuinely helpful discussion questions, you’ve already won a major battle.
2. Check for Variety.
The best small-group Bible studies offer several different types of material that can be used in your group meetings. These options can include icebreakers, games, hands-on activities, suggestions for prayer and worship, suggestions for application and more.
3. Check for simplicity.
I don’t think a group Bible study should be simplistic or boring, but I do think the best curriculum options are simple in terms of their focus for each session.
I’ve seen hundreds of Bible studies that compile a huge amount of information into each session—four to five subpoints, dozens of discussion questions, pages and pages of teaching text. That kind of option works for some people when it comes to personal study, but information overload is a killer for small group discussion.
The best Bible studies have one major idea they want to communicate—one key topic or theme for the group to think about, discuss and apply each session. These studies make life much easier for group leaders in terms of preparation, but they also free up the group as a whole to enjoy productive, laser-focused meetings and discussions.
4. Check the number of questions.
Most curriculum publishers have a tendency to include way too many discussion questions in their small-group Bible studies. As a result, group leaders almost always become focused more on “getting through the material” than actually engaging the group in a quality conversation.
So do yourself a favor and match the number of discussion questions with the amount of time you have as a group. Most groups can get through between five to seven good questions in 30 minutes of discussion.
5. Check the number of weeks.
Last, be aware of the calendar when you settle down to choose a Bible study. Make sure you won’t run into holidays or school breaks right when you’re getting to the final two sessions of your curriculum.
Sam O’Neal is content editor on the adult ministry publishing team at Lifeway. For more articles like this subscribe to BibleStudyInsider.com.