Top 5 Post-Easter Studies for New Groups (2018)

Looking for a way to connect unconnected people right after Easter 2018? This year Easter is almost as early as it can be and that makes it a great opportunity to connect another wave of people before summer.

The 5 studies I’ve chosen to highlight were selected on the basis of their topic. Remember, the topic determines who will say yes to leading/hosting and who will say yes to attending. While existing, longer-term groups might want something deeper or meatier, unconnected people are most open to putting a toe-in-the-water when the topic interests them.

Connect + Grow

We’ve been getting ready to launch our next wave of groups with a new study/experience from North Point Ministries called Connect + Grow, a free 4 part video driven experience (available on Anthology, North Point Ministries’ online resource).

A curriculum descendant of Community: Starting Well in Your Small Group (North Point’s 2013 game-changing group starting study/experience), Connect + Grow is well-designed and easy to use.

Connect + Grow is not a Bible study. Instead, it’s a relational connection engine. Created to help new groups begin (with or without a prequalified leader), each session is designed from beginning to end to help unconnected people quickly get to know one another and, where needed, figure out who among them would make the best, most qualified leader.

In addition to the get-to-know-each-other ingredients, Connect + Grow does an excellent job of shaping the concept of authentic community and what makes a satisfying group.

If you’re looking for a study that will connect unconnected people after Easter, you probably won’t find a better study than Connect + Grow.

Transformed: How God Changes Us

Transformed: How God Changes Us is a 2013 study from Rick Warren. Anchored in the apostle Paul’s profound truth in Romans 12:2, this study explores what the Bible has to say about seven essential areas of our lives: Spiritual, Physical, Mental, Emotional, Relational, Financial, and Vocational.

If you’re looking for a study that will connect less frequent attenders,Transformed has a number of advantages.  Rick Warren’s name is very recognizable and deals with a topic that is fairly cross-cultural (who doesn’t wish they could change something about themselves?).

You can read my full review right here.

Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets

Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets is a 2016 study from Dave and Jon Ferguson, the authors of Finding Your Way Back to God.

Starting Over was developed as a result of many conversations the Ferguson’s had with people who had read Finding Your Way Back to God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life. The authors made a curious discovery. If you’re familiar with Find Your Way Back, you may remember that the second awakening was awakening to regret. Their discovery? “Many of the people we talked to experienced the Awakening to Regret but then got stuck there.” Starting Over was developed to help people “come face to face with your regrets and learn to start over.”

Like Finding Your Way Back to God, the study (and accompanying videos) are very engaging. Packed with personal stories and skillfully told stories from the Bible, this is the kind of study that make it easy to invite friends, neighbors, co-workers and family.

A 5 session study, Starting Over is well-written and very easy to use. Although some participants may be anxious about joining a discussion on this topic, most will be quickly made at ease by the tone set in the opening questions. Each session of the study includes an opening icebreaker and questions that will consistently welcome everyone to the conversation. The Bible study portion of the study does a very good job of exploring a series of stories, Psalms, and passages on regret. A life application section will help participants make the story personal.

The participant guide also includes an extensive leader guide that will enable even the most inexperienced leader to feel better equipped to lead.

I have to tell you, I believe Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets may have even greater potential than Finding Your Back to God. Why? I think regret is an even more cross-cultural topic. While everyone may not be overwhelmed by feelings of regret, everyone can personally relate. If you’re looking for a compelling study that will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike, take a look at Starting Over. I love this study and I think you will too!

You can read my full review of the book and the study right here. Also, you’ll find all of the resources for the church-wide campaign right here.

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here

Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here is a 2016 resource from Mike Foster and the folks at SecondChance.org.  The study is designed to take people on “an authentic journey through their not-so-perfect stories to find their sacred calling.” Based on the principles of Psalm 139, the small group workbook, DVD and weekend series can easily be used as a church-wide campaign.

Covering the kind of topic that makes an easy invite for friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, it is designed to generate a fairly personal discussion. At the same time, it comes at it from such an exploratory angle, it ends up being fun and engaging at the same time.

If you’re looking for a study that makes for a great outreach opportunity, take a look at Wonderlife: A Not So Perfect Guide to Who You Are and Why You’re Here. I think you’ll like what you find. I loved this study and I think you will too!

Divine Direction: 7 Decisions that Will Change Your Life

Divine Direction: 7 Decisions that Will Change Your Life is the latest “campaign” from Craig Groeschel and Life.Church.  launched in early 2017 at Life.Church. Divine Direction has all the pieces you need to be considered a church-wide campaign (i.e., sermon outlines, small group discussion guide, promotional artwork, etc.). And to top it off, everything except the tradebook is available free on their open church site.

Designed to help participants learn how to seek God’s will for their lives and how He cares more about who they are than what they do, Divine Direction has real potential both for regular church attenders and their friends.

You can find out more about Divine Direction right here.

 

Discerning the Voice of God: Revised and Expanded

I spent some time this week with the revised and expanded version of Priscilla Shirer’s classic study, Discerning the Voice of God. Have you seen it yet? So good!

Shirer is one of today’s most powerful speakers and Voice of God is a great example of what happens when she is in her element. The daughter of well-known pastor and Bible teacher Tony Evans, Shirer is a very popular teacher in her own right.  A dynamic communicator, this is a study that will resonate very well with many Bible study groups.

A seven session DVD-driven study (with six weeks of daily Bible studies), Voice of God “invites you to explore a more intimate relationship with Him—His will, His heart and His voice—your ongoing experience. Discover how you can listen with greater confidence, clarity and discernment (from the cover).”

The DVD sessions allow Shirer’s dynamic teaching to shine. Averaging 40 minutes in length, Shirer’s powerful delivery of scriptural truth interspersed with captivating personal stories easily captures and holds the listener’s attention. Let me just say, you better come ready to hear from God every week! And hold on to something…because every session comes right at you.

Voice of God is designed to be used by groups or Bible studies that meet once a week to watch the video and then do the personal work on their own through the week. The leader’s guide in the back of the member Bible study book provides direction and some tips on what to do in the weekly group meeting. With a little preparation, leaders will have no trouble guiding a good discussion about what participants have learned in their personal study.

The Bible study book includes both the weekly video viewing guide (with fill-in-the-blank notes and room to jot down other insights), as well as daily work for five homework sessions. The daily homework sessions are challenging and will require a 30 to 60 minute investment.

A special addition rounds out the homework experience every week. In this Digging Deeper with Dad section contributed by Dr. Tony Evans “you’ll find another layer of insight to reinforce what you’re learning.”

If helping the women in your church learn to discern the voice of God sounds like it might be a really important learning, Discerning the Voice of God is a must-add to your recommended list. Whether you use it for an on-campus or off-campus study, this study will shape participants in a life-changing way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi

Spent some time this week with a new DVD-driven study from Robby Gallaty and LifeWay.com. The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi is a 6 session, DVD-driven study that offers western Christians fresh insights into the life and ministry Jesus, an eastern rabbi.

You may recognize the author’s name. I’ve reviewed several of Gallaty’s books in the past, and while this is his first video-driven resource, you’ll quickly see why his teaching ministry is so appreciated at the churches in which he’s served as senior pastor. The senior pastor at Long Hollow in Hendersonville, TN, is also the founder of Replicate Ministries and the author of several books, including Growing Up, Firmly Planted, and Rediscovering Discipleship.

The Forgotten Jesus is a DVD-driven study that features the teaching of Gallaty in six 8-10 minute sessions. Very comfortable in front of the camera, participants will quickly be drawn in and set up for a great discussion.

The Bible study book includes a number of features. A short, well-written set of discussion questions and a video viewing guide anchors what happens during the group sessions. The daily Bible reading plan includes a combination of Old and New Testament references (as you might imagine). Each week also includes a set of two personal studies designed to help you understand Jesus’ words and teachings from a Hebrew mindset.

A fairly robust leader’s guide is included in the Bible study book.

Group members interested in going deeper in the study may want to order a copy of the book on which the study is based: The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi.

Although other studies in this category are available, The Forgotten Jesus offers a very fresh take on an important truth. In order to truly see the full picture of Jesus, His teaching and ministry, we need a closer look and a deeper understanding of the Jewish mindset and context of a first century rabbi.

I loved The Forgotten Jesus and I bet your group members will too. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Life.Church’s Open Network is a Powerful Resource…and it’s FREE

Life.Church’s Open Network is a Powerful Resource…and it’s FREE

Yesterday I posted an update about Anthology,  North Point’s FREE resource,

Today, I want to make sure you know about Life.Church’s Open Network resource. Although it’s been open (see what I did there?) for several years now, there’s a good chance you’ve missed out on all the Open Network offers.

First, it is a great FREE source for small group curriculum. While not as extensive as Anthology, it has plenty of great portable content that will serve your small group ministry.

Second, you’ll find content for way more than just small groups. Open Network includes content for Kids, Youth, Worship, Leadership, Messages, etc. A very extensive collection.

Third, there are some really good leadership development resources in Open Network. Seriously, if you’ve checked out what they share for FREE you need to spend some time there ASAP. So good! Very usable as is, or use as a model for something you create.

Fourth, Open Network also includes FREE access to a great set of Apps. You probably know that Life.Church developed the YouVersion Bible App. But did you know they a growing line of other cool apps? For example, DEVELOP.ME transforms your staff (or volunteer) performance review cycle into year-round growth and collaboration.

Finally, Open Network actually features more than just Life.Church content. Elevation, Hillsong, Willow Creek Association and others have begun sharing their content there, as well.

If Open Network is new to you, take some time to check it out. Your ministry will be enriched by what you find there. And, if it’s been awhile since you’ve looked around in the Open Network, you owe it to yourself to take another look.

So good! Don’t miss it!

Anthology: A FREE Resource from North Point Ministries You Need to Know About

Anthology: A FREE Resource from North Point Ministries

If you’re looking for ways to resource your small group leaders, North Point Ministries Anthology: Group Studies for Life & Faith needs to be on your radar.

Have you already checked it out? Good for you! Are you using it? Hopefully! (Even if you already know about it and are already using it…keep reading for a couple out of the box ways to use Anthology).

I like Anthology for several reasons (and I think you will too):

First, it provides an easy way to provide great content for groups and group leaders that is easy to access. The included studies can be viewed on your TV, computer or mobile device. Easy to view just about anywhere by downloading the Anthology app.

Second, the content library is extensive and it’s easy to find the right topic. Studies are grouped into predictable categories (i.e., Beginning a Group, Career, Christianity, Faith, For Men, For Women, Hard Times, etc.).

Third, the video content features Andy Stanley, Jeff Henderson, and other North Point Ministries communicators. You can be sure the included content is both engaging and biblically solid.

Finally, the video content is FREE! Yes, in most cases group members will still want to purchase the companion study guide (available on Amazon), but the video itself is free.

Don’t Miss These Additional Ways to Use Anthology

There are two additional ways to take advantage of Anthology.

First, some of the studies found on Anthology can easily be used as church-wide campaigns. For example, everything you need to turn What Makes You Happy into a church-wide campaign is available for purchase on North Point Resources (I chose Happy as one of my Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2018). Happy has a series planning kit, the sermon intro video, and a sermon prep kit.

Second, some of the studies found on Anthology can also be accessed via specially created series websites, making the discussion questions free. It might take you a little effort to locate what you need (and not all of them are available this way), but worth it to check out. For example, one of my favorite studies is In The Meantime, available on Anthology and it’s own website.

Further Reading:

Top 5 Church-Wide Campaigns for 2018

New from Tony Evans – Add Detours to Your Recommended List

I spent some time this week with Detours: Lessons from Joseph: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny, the newest study from Tony Evans. Evans, has been the Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship for close to four decades and is one of America’s most dynamic preachers.

A six session study, Detours uses the epic faith, life, and career of Joseph to “teach that God is more interested in your development than your arrival.” One of the great Old Testament stories, Joseph’s story is one that wrestles with a cross-cultural topic that many people are interested in: Destiny and Purpose.

Filmed live, the DVD segments capture Dr. Evans’ signature energy and style.  At an average length of 25 to 30 minutes, Dr. Evans intensity and the strength of his content will hold your members’ attention.

The Bible study book includes a well-written set of opening questions designed to help members engage in the discussion.  A viewer guide makes it easy to follow the Dr. Evans’ teaching.  Each of the sessions conclude with a carefully designed set of discussion questions that will help members respond to what they have learned and experienced.

Each session in the Bible study book also includes a set of five daily devotional studies that will help deepen your members’ understanding and expand application.

The leader kit also includes a copy of Dr. Evans’ book by the same title.  Members that desire a deeper understanding may decide to read the book in addition to completing the weekly devotionals.

A simple set of tips for leading are included in the Bible study book, making them available for every participant.

Detours covers a cross-cultural topic that most people are interested in: Destiny and Purpose. Add it to your recommended list and watch what happens!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Add “You Are Free” to Your Recommended List (New from Rebekah Lyons)

Next up on my stack of small group studies to review is You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are, a new study for women by Rebekah Lyons. Lyons is probably best known as the co-founder of Q Ideas (with her husband Gabe), a non-profit that convenes and equips Christians to influence culture. She’s also a best-selling author and I think with You Are Free will become best known for that.

(From the cover) You Are Free will help you:

  • Overcome the exhaustion of meeting others expectations and rest in the joy of God’s freedom.
  • Release stress and anxiety to uncover the peace that comes from abiding in God’s presence.
  • Find permission to grieve past disappointments and find strength in your journey toward healing.
  • Throw off self-condemnation, masks of perfection, and step boldly into God’s purpose for you.
  • Discover the courage to begin again and use your newfound freedom to set others free.

A DVD-driven study, You Are Free features Rebekah Lyon’s teaching in 6 video segments. Teaching, though, I think gives the wrong idea. The DVD segments really have the feel that you’re listening to a new friend spill her guts and be completely honest about something very personal that radically changed her life. If this is your first time to read her books or hear her speak, your experience will begin like new friendships always do: just a little awkward, for about 2 or 3 minutes. And then by the end session one you begin to feel that you’ve always known her and can’t wait to hear more.

The study guide (written with Annie Downs) includes many of the elements that are now customary. A fairly robust video viewing guide (complete with notes and quotes that will help you follow along. A set of well-written discussion questions. An individual activity (becoming more and more common) that will help members immediately apply the teaching. Also included in the study guide is a personal study to be completed between sessions. The personal study will take some investment, but with a little discipline will deliver a big payoff every week.

Based on Lyons’ best-selling book by the same title, there are recommended readings every week (helpful, but not essential).

This is a powerful study. If you’re looking for a study that will resonate with women who don’t yet have it all together (and who isn’t?), please take a look at You Are Free. I highly recommend it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Add We Saved You a Seat to Your Recommended List

Spent some time with We Saved You a Seat: Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships,  a new study by Lisa-Jo Baker.

As you should be able to tell by the title, this study is designed from the outset as something more than understanding friendship. It really is designed to help members get past the barriers that limit friendship.

7 sessions, We Saved You a Seat is a DVD-driven study. Each session is anchored by a short video segment (about 20 minutes long). Different than any other study I’ve reviewed, it’s not a talking head. This one actually features a conversation between a group of friends in a women’s small group that perfectly sets up a great conversation about friendship.

Special Note: This study is featured as LifeWay’s summer Bible study for women and the videos are currently available for viewing free (at least at the time of this review).

The Bible Study book is easy to use and crammed full of some good stuff. The content is delivered at a really good, very appropriate level. Each of the 7 sessions feature a viewer guide with a short set of discussion questions. I like the questions and you will too if you’re looking for a simple study that can be a first step for unconnected women. Don’t be fooled by the simple questions, though. These questions will help a brand new group get off to a great start.

Also included in the Bible Study book is a set of three days of personal study that will help group members dive in a little deeper at their own pace. Even the newest newbie will be able to work their way through it, and more experienced members will get a lot out it as well.

A simple Leader’s Guide is included in the Bible Study book and will help leader’s with a little coaching about making the discussion better.

If you’re looking for a good intro level study that will help Bible study newbies get a toe-in-the-water, We Saved You a Seat might be perfect. The topic is right for a first step and the experience promises to be a rich one. I highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Take a Look at Proven – New from Jennie Allen

Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need

Spent some time this week with the latest study from Jennie Allen. Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need appeared on the scene earlier in 2017 and it needs to be on your radar.

I’ve reviewed two of Allen’s previous studies (Restless and Chase) and have routinely been impressed with her teaching style and the content loaded into these studies. Proven is just as powerful as the others.

An 8 session study, Proven takes a look at key passages in the Book of John, demonstrating how only Jesus is enough. “We don’t have to prove anything because Jesus has already proven everything. Discover how our thirsty hearts can only be quenched by the living water (from the cover).”

DVD-driven, each session features the dynamic teaching of Jennie Allen. On the short side, the videos range from 10 to 14 minutes in length, just right for today’s attention spans. Allen is a powerful teacher but seems to connect especially well with younger participants.

The Bible study book is very well written and each session includes a number of elements that set up a powerful group time.  While nowhere near overwhelming, working through each week’s lesson will provide the right amount of challenge for most.  Enough to require measured engagement; not too much to intimidate newer or less experienced participants.  Very well written, there is both depth and plenty of next steps prescribed.

As with Chase and Restless, I love the creative elements of Proven.  Every session includes four experiences designed to creatively open eyes to see and ears to hear the biblical truths being taught.

Another very cool ingredient are the conversation cards that accompany each session.  Introducing the ingredient of play, the cards nonetheless prompt a deeper, more provocative conversation.

An extremely helpful leader’s guide is included in the study kit.  It’s no exaggeration for me to call this one of the most helpful leader’s guides you’ll ever run across.  Very complete, even the least experienced leaders will find the helps they need to lead with confidence.

This is a great study! If you’re looking for a study that will help your women’s groups dig into God’s word and leave different, I highly recommend Proven: Where Christ’s Abundance Meets Our Great Need.

Add this Hearing God DVD (featuring Dallas Willard) to Your Recommended List

I had a rare privilege this week. I spent several hours with Dallas Willard, Richard Foster and John Ortberg. Not live, but on a very special video captured at a Renovaré event designed to introduce the core themes of Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, Willard’s classic, first published in 1999.

This paragraph, from the 2012 expanded edition of Hearing God helps to understand the heart of Willard’s intent:

“It is very important to remember and to always keep before your mind this fact: You are an unceasing spiritual being, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity. Learning to hear God is much more about being comfortable in a continuing conversation, and learning to constantly lean on the goodness and love of God, than it is about turning God into an ATM for advice, or treating the Bible as a crystal ball. My hope is that this book will help you develop an ongoing relationship with God that will involved conversation, communion, and consummation (from the author’s note).”

The DVD includes six thirty-minute sessions that incorporate teaching from Dallas Willard along with conversations with Richard Foster and John Ortberg.

The six sessions are titled:

  • You Were Created for Intimate Friendship with God
  • What Hearing God Is Not
  • Trinitarian Fellowship
  • The Still Small Voice
  • Hearing God in the Kingdom of God
  • Hearing God as a Life

Like every opportunity to hear or read Dallas Willard’s teaching, a notebook and pen is essential. And in this case…the DVD remote (so you can hear again what he just said).  For me, every session had a moment (or several) when I made a mental note that I will need to keep this DVD so I can hear it again.

Included with the DVD is a very simple six session discussion guide with a simple set of discussion questions designed to help group members get to the heart of Dallas Willard’s teaching. The discussion guide also includes a simple homework assignment to be completed prior to the next sessions.

Clearly this DVD and it’s related discussion guide (as well as the book Hearing God itself), will not be helpful for every small group. But, for groups that want to grow in their ability to hear God, to seek a richer ongoing conversation with God, this is absolutely a must-add to your recommended list.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”