by Sam O’Neal
Note: this post is second in a series on the different features of Bible Studies for Life that make it ideally suited for group learning and transformation. The first post focused on Closed Questions vs. Open Questions.
Take a look at these two pictures. Both of them represent a style of leading a group. The first one, with multiple spotlights going in every direction, represents what happens in many small group sessions: lots of topics, conversations going all over the place, and difficulty focusing on any one thing. Great for a rock concert, not so great for a Bible study.
The second image represents a small group in which every question, every discussion point, every illustration all focuses on one thing. Group members know for sure what the big idea of the session is, because everything points to one thing.
Which picture represents your typical small group session? Is it the one you would wish for?
Each session of Bible Studies for Life features a nifty tool called “the Point.” Just look at the top of any page in the study to find it. Essentially, the Point is a one-sentence summary of the primary theme in each session. Each Point is short, which means they are simple to process and easy to remember.
As a group leader, I love the Point. I think it’s a fantastic tool for both leaders and members alike. Here are two reasons why.
One of the main benefits of the Point is that it sharpens the focus of each group meeting – both in terms of preparation and the actual study experience. As group leaders, one of our main roles is keep group members on track as they explore the depths and truths of God’s Word. The Point helps us maintain a strong focus on what matters most.
Lynn Pryor recently wrote a post on avoiding rabbit trails during group Bible study. I appreciate his insights because few things are more frustrating in a group than a member (or members) who regularly pulls the discussion in unhelpful directions.
When you’ve got the Point in your toolbox, however, you have an easy and effective method for keeping the discussion on track. When the group starts to drift, simply direct everyone back to the Point.
Pop quiz: can you name the primary themes or elements of your pastor’s sermon from Sunday? There’s a good chance there were three of them – especially if he uses PowerPoint. What about the main Scripture passages he referenced?
If you scored well on that pop quiz, how about the sermon from two weeks ago? Three weeks ago? Three months ago?
Here’s a truth worth remembering: every person participating your Bible study will be a human being. And human beings are controlled by human brains. And most human brains find it difficult (and not enjoyable) to process a lot of information in a short amount of time.
I’ve seen Bible study after Bible study in which participants are expected to engage with anywhere from three to ten main ideas each session. That’s unreasonable! It’s unrealistic, and it’s unhelpful for both group leaders and group members.
In contrast, Bible Studies for Life offers one Point each week for discussion, evaluation, and application. And trust me: when you’re dealing with something as powerful as the Bible, one big idea is more than enough.
Sam 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 About.com.