Bible Studies for Life aims to deliver on three promises: connect the unconnected, strengthen families, and disciple people with wisdom. Much has been said about the first two; not so much about the last one. So here are some ways Bible Studies for Life helps churches achieve that promise.
1. Compelling studies lead to better group attendance. In the summary of the research findings on measurable spiritual growth reported by Brad Waggoner in The Shape of Faith to Come, the second and third best predictors of growth were church attendance and participation in a smaller group or class. The study plan for Bible Studies for Life includes a balance of Old and New Testament passages, types of biblical literature, topics, and characters. All of them are presented in a way that compels people to want to attend group sessions. That’s wise discipleship.
2. Personal Study Guides help people prepare. Are you wondering what the best predictor of spiritual growth was in the study? Self-feeding! That is, reading the Bible and other Christian literature. Providing study materials to members helps them to self-feed, even if they are not going to be in group. Advance preparation by group members is a strong predictor of the quality of the discipleship experience that will happen in the group!
3. Great questions get people talking. Bible Studies for Life is built on a premise that spiritual transformation is more likely to occur through conversation, not just information. Great spiritual conversations are more likely to occur when prompted by great questions. Great questions are at the center of Bible Studies for Life. The team spends hours together hammering out the very best ones. The first question in every adult and student session is especially important. Its aim is to accomplish four things:
- It is safe. Anyone can answer it without embarrassment or theological understanding.
- It provides a bridge to the session topic and passage. Educators would call this “learning readiness.”
- It lets people tell a little bit of their story. Thus, community builds over time.
- It is connected to the introductory image.
4. Visual images provoke emotions. Most curriculum writers learn best through words. Many curriculum users are visual learners. Bible Studies for Life uses a lot of images to support wisely chosen words. People don’t just learn with their heads. They also learn through their emotions—their “heart.” Both head and heart must be transformed in a wise discipleship plan.
5. Story is important. If you’ve read any of my nine books about Bible study groups, you know one of my favorite sayings: No one’s story is complete until it has intersected with God’s Story, which happens best in a community being enriched by the stories of others. Wise discipleship facilitates that.
6. Life application is encouraged. There is one key point in every Bible Studies for Life session. It is called “The Point.” It appears on every two page spread. Does life application exclude theology? Quite the contrary! The Point is essentially a theological statement. Additionally, the materials address three spheres of life: Christ, community, and culture. At the end of each six-session study, there is a summary statement that connects the study to these spheres. These statements could be considered “applied theology.” That’s wise.
7. A research-validated framework operates in the background. Bible Studies for Life for Adult and Students is built on a framework derived from research reported in Transformational Discipleship. Kids materials are guided by a wonderful document calledLevels of Biblical Learning. These frameworks are not “in your face” in the materials. But they are in the faces of the editorial teams, who use them to evaluate each unit of study. You can trust Bible Studies for Life to be material that can disciple people with intentionality—and wisdom.
David Francis is Managing Editor for Bible Studies for Life at LifeWay Christian Resources. Follow him on Twitter at @1DavidFrancis