Small Group Monday: Emphasizing the Visual


By Sam O’Neal

Note: this post is third in a series on the different features of Bible Studies for Life that make it ideally suited for group learning and transformation. Here are the previous entries:

 For most of the 20th century—and for several centuries before—much of the intellectual world revolved around the concept of literacy. People who had something important to say or express usually turned to words as the primary method for that expression. Likewise, people who wanted to experience something profound typically began their search through books, poems, articles, and so on.

The 21st century is different. While the written word is still important, it has been passed by in many arenas in favor of the visual, including both still images and video. In fact, Andy Crouch wrote several years ago that while the 20th century was defined primarily by literacy, our modern world is being built around a concept he labeled as “Visualcy.”

Our world is a visual world, which is the primary reason we at Bible Studies for Life have placed a high emphasis on visual elements and visual excellence.

Core Components

When you open a copy of the Bible Studies for Life Personal Study Guide, you’ll notice immediately that the visual elements stand out from other Bible studies. That’s because we’ve given more time and attention to images and visual activities—not to mention more space.

Each session of the Personal Study Guide features vibrant images in full color. But these aren’t just random stock photos. Rather, the images supplement and support the themes and focus of the curriculum itself. In fact, in most cases it’s possible to spark a group discussion using the icebreaker image at the beginning of each session without even turning to the icebreaker question.

Also, each session of Bible Studies for Life offers a visual activity that goes beyond simply writing down more words. Indeed, many of these activities allow group members to express themselves visually through drawing or other methods if they choose to do so. Similarly, each session of the Bible Studies for Life Leader Guide offers instructions for an additional, optional activity that includes both visual and hands-on elements.

Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Bible Studies for Life Activity Pack, you should. It offers several large, full-color visuals to supplement each unit of every quarter. These posters and other items can be displayed in your group’s meeting place not only to enhance discussion, but also to support the visual experience of everyone involved.

Beyond Reading

I don’t want to give the impression that Bible Studies for Life doesn’t care about words, or doesn’t put much effort into the words on the page. Not true! I’m an editor, which means words are one of my primary passions.

But the goal of our words and our visual elements is to move the Bible study experience beyond simply reading—beyond simply processing and regurgitating information. Instead, Bible Studies for Life is focused on spiritual growth and transformation. And one of the best ways to allow for transformation in a group setting is to help group members generate and participate in a meaningful discussion.

For that reason, one of the most important visual elements in the Bible Studies for Life curriculum is blank space. Open up our Personal Study Guide and you will see that each page feels light and open—it’s not cluttered with paragraph after paragraph of text.

This is intentional on the part of our designers, because we want to communicate on every page that Bible Studies for Life is a launching point for group discussion. We don’t want people with their heads down in a group meeting, reading text. We want people jumping from the text into meaningful conversations with others and with God.

samSam O’Neal is Content Editor of adult resources with Bible Studies for Life. He has a passion for seeing discipleship and full-bodied Christian education done right in the local church. The author of several books, including The Field Guide for Small Group Leaders, Sam also serves as the Bible Expert for


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