Five Reasons Small Groups Need a Study Plan

I used to supervise summer camps all over the country. Each summer, I would spend a week at each of my assigned camps, evaluating their program and encouraging their staff. One year, when my three assigned teams were in Washington state, Northern California, and New Mexico, I packed up my entire family for a once in a lifetime, five week, cross country odyssey that covered (take a deep breath) the Gateway Arch, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Seattle, Portland, Crater Lake, Yosemite, San Francisco, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert, and the Oklahoma City Memorial. Oh yeah—and a week at each of my camp locations!

Now, we did all this in the days before GPS. So before we ever hit the road, I spent about a week assembling a travel notebook. It contained every hotel reservation, every entrance fee for every national park, every rental car contract, every contact number, and a day by day itinerary of how far we would drive, what we would see, where we would sleep that night, and most importantly, turn-by-turn directions for exactly how we would get there.

No family would set out for a family vacation without carefully considering where they wanted to go, what they wanted to do, how long it would take them to get there, and how much it would cost. Yet sadly, many small group leaders approach their Bible study without a clear plan for where they want to take their group. They might browse the shelves of the local Christian bookstore for an interesting title, and at the end of 4 weeks, or six weeks, they are back there again, wondering, “What will we do next?” Here are five reasons this won’t work, either for a family vacation or a small group study plan:

1. If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know when you’ve arrived. 

How do you measure success in your small group? What are your markers for spiritual maturity? A scope and sequence allows you to see the end from the beginning.

2. If you can’t see where you’ve been, you won’t know how far you’ve come.

Just as my travel notebook allowed us to chart our progress toward our destination (whether for the day or for the whole trip) a well-thought-out study plan allows small group leaders to keep track of what topics their group has covered. They can remind group members of what they learned about showing favoritism in the “Pressure Points” study and connect it to how they see Jesus interacting with Mary and Martha in the “When Relationships Collide” study.

3. If you don’t have a map, you won’t know if you are headed in the right direction.

Ronnie Floyd, the General Editor for Bible Studies For Life, says that as a pastor, one of the greatest challenges (and one of the greatest joys) of his job is seeing people grow in their faith.  Dr. Floyd goes on to say that “the question hangs in my mind constantly: am I doing it well?” As a small group leader, are you confident that the groups you lead are heading in the right direction? Having a study plan helps you make sure they are.

4. If you don’t have a plan, you may miss some things along the way. 

We’ve all been in small groups when, at the end of a particular study, the leader said, “So… what do you guys want to study next?” The problem with that is that you can miss the “whole counsel of God” that way. A scope and sequence helps small groups maintain a balance between the Old and New Testaments. Between the stories of the Bible and the doctrines of the Bible. Between topics dealing with Christian beliefs and Christian behavior. As you look at our three year plan, you will see that kind of balance.

5. If you don’t have a guide, you may hit a lot of dead ends.

Left on their own, its easy for small groups to chase a lot of rabbits. Or to spend most of their time listening to each other’s opinions about how to deal with a particular problem someone in the group is dealing with. And while some of this can be helpful, there comes a point where a group has to turn to what the Bible says and not simply what one another thinks.  This is where having a study plan is so necessary. Every session in Bible Studies For Life gets to what the Bible says quickly. Because we know that Biblical truth is the tool God uses to shape His children into the image of His Son (Romans 12:2)

There’s a better way. The new Bible Studies for Life has a plan for exactly where small groups can go for the next three years. It’s a plan that is based on research into the most relevant life needs and most pressing questions of adults today. Our Advisory Panel is made up of pastors and church leaders who are in the trenches with people every day who are wrestling with these issues in their daily lives. And if you follow the links to our study plan over the next three years, you can see the stops we’re going to make along the way. Watch this video of them sharing about our plan, or click on the links below to view the plans for the first three years of Bible Studies For Life.

Year One                                        Year Two                    Year Three

 

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