Essentials for Sunday School/Small Group Bible Study Sessions

Sunday 3rd February, 2008

There are millions of websites out there, and there is no way to check them all out. I just happened to stumble across one today that is about Essential Bible Study Tools. On that website I was struck by an article entitled Six Items Every Small Group Bible Study Must Contain. I liked the six essentials listed. The six items in all capitals are from that article followed by my commentary:

  • PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION. With the best of intentions, our understanding of scripture can be wrong. We can take a passage out of context. We can misread the emphasis of the passage. We should not forget that the source is available to guide us into a correct understanding: God's Holy Spirit. Prior to and following opening God's Word, we should ask His help in understanding and applying the truth we will discover there. This is true of the teacher and of the group. Prayer is not an option; it is an essential. We should never disconnect prayer from Bible study--whether personal or corporate.
  • A PRIMARY SCRIPTURAL FOCUS. When we gather together with a small group, we should make sure that God's Word is central. It is in God's Word that we discover the power to change lives, including ours. It is in His Word that we receive purpose, help, and encouragement. God's Word has truth that applies to our lives and is relevant to today. Whatever topic we may choose to study, God in His Word has help to offer.
  • ENGAGEMENT WITH OTHER VOICES. Our study can be strengthened when we seek additional commentary on His Word. The teacher and pupil books are commentaries. There are many sources on the web and in Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Even a different translation can bring a fresh perspective and understanding to the study of a passage or verse. These voices have sought out illumination through study and prayer which can deepen our understanding.
  • QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS. As leaders study, asking questions helps in preparation. But questions should not stop there. Questions asked during the study can lead to group involvement, to deeper thinking, and to application of God's Word to participants' lives. Questions should ask for more than yes or no or one-word answers. Check out Josh Hunt's article, Why Asking Questions Is the Best Way to Teach. The article would also add that questions help you understand what they don't know as well as deepen relationships.
  • AT LEAST ONE OPPORTUNITY TO ENGAGE THE BIBLICAL TEXT THROUGH AN ALTERNATIVE MEDIUM. Group leaders should seek to involve as many of the senses as possible in the teaching-learning experience. They should seek to address more than one learning style that is present in participants in a session. Those facilitating a group should do more than engage the ear through lecture and asking questions. Incorporate the visual. Share a video clip or a map. Get them to write. Divide the group into smaller groups. Ask them to reflect on the words of a song that is played. Make learning fun.
  • A CHALLENGE TO RESPOND. Don't rush through the Bible study session and forget to give the "invitation." After helping them to understand the truth of God's Word, give them a chance to think about, plan, and commit to live out that truth. Ask them to prayerfully reflect on what God wants them to do as a result of meeting Him in the passage. Check on the commitments they make this week at the start of the next week's Bible study session. Teach them to do more than just know God's Word; teach obey what Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
On which of these six essentials of your preparation and practice are strongest? On which are you weakest? What can you do this week to strengthen your lesson? Begin in prayer. Focus on scripture. Engage other voices. Ask questions. Use another medium. Challenge them to respond. Be revolutionary!

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