Most of us enjoy creating. It’s in our God-given DNA. Something downright dramatic happens internally when we are the makers of something, especially when it is for the betterment of the people we are shepherding.
One of the options we have available on-line is to piecemeal together a series of studies for our group. That is, go online to websites that allow us to pick one week studies to use with our group. This sounds fantastic as we get to be the creator of our own six-week or eight-week study. Not only that, we also believe we’ll hit the dead center of the target, our group’s needs. It sounds like the perfect option.
There are a few things that we might want to keep in mind.
1. In order for transformation to take place, it is important that we’re moving people from one place to the next in a strategic progression. Wikipedia tells us that, “As an idea, curriculum stems for the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults.” Just as physical children progress from the infant stage to the adult stage by being engaged in the right experiences and conversations at the stage they are presently in, spiritual children must do the same. A series of studies haphazardly chosen via topic or interests may disclose information, even be exciting to the group members, but it may not progress through the stages of people’s journey in a progression that makes it possible for ultimate transformation to be experienced.
Curriculum needs to be a carefully chosen pathway so that spiritual infants aren’t forced to engage in ideas and conversations they are incapable of engaging in and thereby never growing to maturity. While the piecemealing option sounds like the perfect option, if the group leader who is building the six weeks of studies isn’t substantially understanding of spiritual formation, many in the group will have stunted growth at best.
2. The instilling of the doctrine, theology and biblical expectations are ingrained through repetition. Repetition is the key to learning, embracing, and living out the Christian life. Great small group studies unveil accurate doctrine, right theology, and biblical expectations then come back to them again and again throughout the many weeks of a particular study. Through this process group members not only experience life change, they also take to heart foundational principles that will be the foundation for all of their spiritual journey. When piecemealing together a series of Bible studies, it’s impossible for this important process to occur as each study is its own entity, void of continuity and reminders of important information unearthed and revisited again and again.
3. Authenticity is a key element in the transformation process.
Authenticity is the hot term in small group world. It implies that, in order for group members to be transformed, they must reveal what is taking place internally as well as disclose their sin struggles and their own history. This can only happen when “progressive disclosure” happens. Progressive disclosure simply means that people will disclose more of themselves a little at a time and that only as they open up some, find the group to be a safe place to do such, then continue to disclose more of the unknown until they are openly expressing things others may have never heard. A transformational Bible study is written in such a way that, during the early weeks of the study, questions will remain much less intrusive than later in the group’s life. For instance, the first week of a great small group study the deepest question concerning King David might be, “Why do you think David was so intent to kill Goliath?” But if that group were studying that same passage the last week of the study, the question might be, “Who was the giant in your life when you were a child or teenager that is still holding you captive today and when are you going to stand up to that giant?” Piecemealing makes it impossible for progressive disclosure to occur as the author of the study cannot consider or plan for it. The group may never achieve authenticity at a level that is ultimately transformational as the study doesn’t progress the group from one level of authenticity to the next.
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by Mark Howell