Something new is brewing. In one conversation after another, I’m hearing church leaders discuss the need to get their congregation engaged in their Bibles.
Bible literacy in our congregations is lower than we think. The Healthy Church Survey is an assessment tool that takes the pulse of congregations. The tool studies eleven characteristics of church life. The survey data shows that CRC churches rate their church high on centrality of the Word in the context of preaching and teaching but they rate themselves low in personal Bible reading practices. (If you would like to learn more about the Healthy Church Survey visit crcna.org/HealthyChurch)
On the other hand, we know Bible engagement is critical to spiritual formation. Willow Creek discovered in the Reveal survey that Bible engagement is an important catalyst for spiritual growth in all stages of faith development. No surprise. The illustration below is from a recent power point presentation by Cally Parkinson, one of the Reveal authors.
In response to the growing awareness of the need for Bible engagement churches are encouraging Bible reading in many ways. Churches are promoting Bible reading plans. Some plans lay out a pathway for reading through the Bible in a year or reading plans that follow the sermon texts. Other churches encourage use of daily devotionals. I highly recommend Seeking God’s Face, available through Faith Alive. All of these strategies inspire personal Bible reading.
I would like to turn our attention to another Bible engagement environment: the Small Group. Small Groups can be a powerful catalyst. In small group Bible studies, people gain a broader perspective, they learn from others’ ideas and offer accountability and support. People ask questions, discuss how they were impacted and encourage digging deeper.
However, not every small group Bible study experience is catalytic in a good way. I have heard people say, “I’ve tried small group Bible study. I’ll never do that again!” How can a church create small groups that encourage, rather than hinder, Bible engagement and discovery?
Let's work backwards to find the answer by ask a couple of questions. I have suggested a few answers. Join the conversation by adding your ideas!
What kind of small group environment encourages Bible engagement?
- Group members understand the purpose of the group is Bible discovery. Relationship building and support will take place but are not the primary purpose.
- Group members come prepared to participate.
- Group size facilitates good conversation and full participation.
- Group interactions are managed well by the leaders.
- Bible study guides or tools bring focus on the text.
- What else?
What kind of a leader is needed for a Bible engagement group?
- Leaders do not lecture or teach.
- Leaders facilitate group conversation and interactions
- Leaders trust the Holy Spirit will speak through the Word.
- Leaders come prepared.
- Leaders pray.
- What else?