For the last couple of years our small groups went through various books. We’ve been through Crazy Love, Radical, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, and a few other books. I believe that people have benefited from these books. It also has helped to create a reading culture in our church.
But we’ve stopped…
Before we launched our Spring semester of small groups we made the decision to can the book studies. Our main reason was a conviction that what we need more than anything in our church is for people to deal directly with God in His Word. Therefore, our small group material is a recap of the morning sermon with a brief commentary on the text and 8-10 questions (prepared by yours truly).
Our people have loved it. And it has breathed new life into our small groups. Here, I believe are 5 reasons why:
- Easier to have open groups. In the past, when a new person/couple attended our church it was awkward to invite them to a small group, especially when we were six weeks into a book study. Now, there is no hesitation. We’ll just be talking about that morning’s sermon. They are as prepared as anyone else in the group.
- It creates better sermon listening. It’s not really a “quiz” in our small groups—but I do believe that people tend to listen better when they know they’ll have to talk about what they heard. Our small groups cause people to own that weeks sermon for a longer period of time.
- It teaches people to go directly to the Word. Rather than being mediated through books, authors, etc., this helps people to deal directly with what God says. Hopefully, this trains people to ask what God thinks about a situation before we ask what our favorite Bible teachers say. Furthermore, this teaches our people to ground application in the proper context of God’s Word.
- It gives people a whole theology. One of the benefits of verse by verse preaching is that it causes us to deal with the whole counsel of God. That gets circumvented if we pick and choose which books we are going to go through each semester. We will always pick the ones that we are comfortable with. Doing small groups this way causes us to discuss uncomfortable topics and in turn to teach the whole counsel of God.
- It’s harder to dismiss. If somebody doesn’t like a point that an author makes it can be easy to dismiss them. In fact, we’ve seen people dismiss entire books based upon not liking the way that an author writes. It’s a tad more difficult to say that about God’s Word. If you don’t like the way something is written or what it is saying you have to deal directly with God.
There are several other benefits that we’ve seen to doing our small groups this way. The involvement of our members has been greater. People spend their weeks reading God’s Word more than reading other books. I’m sure that I could think of even more reasons.
Going through book studies might be helpful for your church. It might be something necessary for the season that you are in. For us, though, at First Baptist Jasper, canning the book studies has been one of the greatest blessings for our church. I’m glad we did it.