Pushing Boundary-Free GroupLife

Category: Small Group Curriculum (page 1 of 22)

Don’t Miss this Inspiring New Study: I Like Giving

i like givingA few weeks ago I heard about a small group study that I think you’re going to want to know about. I Like Giving, based on a best-selling book by Brad Formsma, is a powerful four session study that features some of the most memorable video segments I’ve ever seen.

“I Like Giving invites you on a four-session journey, with a bonus fifth-session, to experience the joy of a generous life (from the cover). The study delivers tons of fresh ideas and engaging conversations that will help members understand generosity in ways they’ve never considered before.

The DVD features an amazing collection of short videos that tell powerful short stories of how the joy of a generous life changed the lives of the givers and the receivers. The videos prompt a powerful discussion that leads to fresh eyes understanding of a new way to live.

Every session in the participants guide includes a number of elements. A Check In section allows group members to share experiences from the Live It assignment at the end of the previous session. The Reflection segment guides group members to silently read and reflect on scripture passages that explore the generous life. Multiple Consider segments prompt an engaging conversation about scripture and stories of generosity. The video segments and related stories are interspersed throughout the session and every session ends with a Live It assignment designed to encourage practical first steps. Every session also includes a reading assignment from the book.

I review many studies over the course of an average year. A few of them have what it takes to truly be a transformational experience. I Like Giving is one of the few. I loved this study and I know your members will too. More importantly, I Like Giving is an experience that just might change the way your members live and help them take their first steps into a generous life.

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.”

Don’t Miss Distinct: Living above the Norm

distinctI spent some time with a new study from LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life series this week. Distinct: Living above the Norm is the newest addition to a growing line of studies “on topics that are relevant to today’s believers. Studies that help people understand how to apply the Bible to everyday life — their families, their careers, and their struggles — just as they are, right where they live.”

Working its way through Matthew 5:1-48, Distinct provides a timely look at 6 aspects of Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount.

A 6 week DVD-enhanced study, a short video featuring Michael Kelley discussing the primary themes of the session helps set up a good discussion. While it’s a very straightforward video, simply the author setting up the session, the no-frills approach works very well. The study is quite flexible and the video can be shown at the very beginning, after an icebreaker question, or after a quick overview section just before the meat of the study. The video segments average 8 to 10 minutes in length.

The Bible Study book is very easy to use with a well-written set of discussion questions. Each session of the Bible study is made up of three sections: The Bible Meets Life (“an introduction of the section and its connection to everyday life”), What Does the Bible Say (“includes the primary Scripture text along with explanations for key words and ideas within the text”) and Live It Out (this section helps group members apply what they’ve learned). Working their way through the session’s particular passage of scripture, a group will acquire a good understanding of the meaning and implications for their lives.

The Bible Study book also includes a good Leader Guide that provides extra help and coaching to help members “get the most out of the study and ensure a richer experience.” While the study is certainly simple enough that an average leader can facilitate it without the Leader Guide, new leaders and experienced leaders alike will benefit from the guide. The DVD-ROM also includes a commentary section and additional leader helps and tools.

If you’re looking for a study that is easy to use and still takes your group deep into biblical truth and solid application, Distinct: Living above the Norm ought to be on your recommended list. For that matter, the Bible Studies for Life series is a series that is consistently delivering very timely topics in a way that will have your members talking. I like this study and the series and I think you will too.

Prepare for Easter with The Crucified Life

crucified lifeI spent some time with a new DVD-driven study this week that is almost a one-of-a-kind. The Crucified Life: Seven Words from the Cross is a 7 week study designed to be used during the Lenten season. Part of a three study series (the Christian Life Trilogy), The Crucified Life was developed by Rev. Charlie Holt and produced by LifeTogether. The rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lake Mary, FL, I first learned about Holt in 2004 when he led his congregation to do 40 Days of Purpose and then shared one of the most remarkable and powerful stories of community transformation.

The Crucified Life is a study of the seven last words from the cross:

  • Forgiveness: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34
  • Salvation: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43
  • Relationship: “Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!” John 19:26-27
  • Distress: “I Thirst,” John 19:28
  • Abandonment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
  • Reunion: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Luke 23:46
  • Triumph: “It is finished,” John 19:30

DVD-driven, the video segments feature teaching by Rev. Charlie Holt and a powerful set of personal testimonies. At 10 to 12 minutes in length, the segments are just about right. Short enough to hold everyone’s attention and long enough to set up an important discussion.

The study guide is well-written and easy to use. Each session is designed with a simple flow that makes it very possible for newer leaders to feel confident and effective. The study guide also includes several leader resources that will help enhance the member experience.

A daily devotional with 45 focused reflections will also enrich the experience. Spending time each day, continuing the journey, will encourage members to deeply reflect “on Jesus’ seven final utterances from the cross.”

Produced by LifeTogether, The Crucified Life campaign includes downloadable templates for flyers, posters, powerpoint backgrounds, and web banners. An excellent campaign manual is available right here.

There are two other studies in the Christian Life Trilogy (The Resurrected Life and The Spirit-Filled Life). “While these studies can be done at any time of the year, many congregations use The Crucified Life and The Resurrected Life for Lent and Easter and then kick off The Spirit-Filled Life in the fall season after Pentecost (from the brochure).”

I really like the potential of The Crucified Life and this series! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if there are any studies that will help their church prepare for Easter during the Lenten season. I can finally say, “Yes!” I like this study and I think it’s a great resource that will help many congregations.

Have You Seen Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood?

stepping up
I spent some time this week with a very powerful men’s study from FamilyLife and LifeWay. Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood is a 10 session study that is based on Dennis Rainey’s book by the same title that is designed to help men discover what it means to step up and live a courageous life. Although this study has been out for several years, if you missed it like I did, you need to take a look.

DVD-driven, every session is anchored by a very well produced video segment with teaching from Dennis Rainey and featuring vignettes from a powerful list pastors and communicators (James McDonald, Stu Webar, Bill Bennett, Matt Chandler, Crawford Loritts, Voddie Baucham, Joshua Harris and many others). The video segments unpack what biblical manhood looks like and what it means to be a godly, courageous man in today’s world. Through engaging stories, expert teaching, humorous vignettes, man-on-the-street interviews, and personal insights, these men’s ministry leaders “call every man to become courageous leaders in their own lives, marriages, churches, and communities (from the cover).”

The Stepping Up workbook is also very good. A simple but very well crafted set of group discussion questions helps participants process the topic of the session. Three personal exercises are included in every week’s assignment as well as the opportunity to develop a “stepping up plan.” Finally, every session also includes a step beyond section that will help men that want to go further to go deeper.

Stepping Up is powerful stuff! If you’re looking for a men’s study that will help the men in your church take an important step forward, I can highly recommend that you take a look at Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood.

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.”

Add “Praying with Paul” to Your Recommended List

praying with paulSpent some time this week with a new study from D.A. Carson and Brian Tabb. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Formation, based on Carson’s 2015 book by the same title, is an 8 session DVD-driven study that “leads group members into the Epistles to see what Paul taught in his ‘school of prayer.'”

DVD-driven, the video sessions feature the teaching of D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, an active guest lecturer in academic and church settings around the world and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of the Gospel Coalition. Carson’s is a gifted communicator and while there is a hint of the academic aspect, he easily grabs and holds our attention as he talks us through the prayers of Paul. At 9 to 18 minutes in length, all of the video segments feel like just the right length.

The Member Book, written by Brian Tabb, “freely adapts and uses material from D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul: A Call for Spiritual Reformation (from the acknowledgments).” Each of the 8 sessions include section to be read in preparation. The preparation section includes (1) an introduction that “lead into the scripture text,” (2) a short commentary section that “explain the text and highlight important theological and practical themes in Paul’s letters,” and (3) reflection questions that “reinforce key points noted in the commentary and promote honest self-examination and application of God’s word.” The Member Book also includes a well-written Group Discussion guide and a Take Home component that will help group members “put flesh on the discussion and apply it during the week.”

Building a recommended list for the groups in your small group ministry should include some studies that directly encourage  members forward in spiritual growth and development. Praying with Paul is that kind of study. I found it very helpful and I know your members will too.


Add “Jesus the King” to Your Recommended List

jesus the kingI spent some time with a new study this week that I think you’re going to want to know about and add to your recommended list. Jesus the King: Exploring the Life and Death of the Son of God, is a 9 session study by Tim Keller and Spence Shelton. While this study will be a challenge for less committed or less experienced group members, it will be just the right study for groups desiring a serious opportunity to deeply explore the life and death of “the most influential man to every walk the earth.”

Jesus the King is a study of Tim Keller’s book by the same title (originally published as King’s Cross in 2011) and the Gospel of Mark. The book was based on a series of messages given by Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in 2006 and 2007. Newsweek called Keller “a C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century” and according to Christianity Today, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

Each session of this nine session study is broken into three parts: Pre-Group, Group Discussion, and On Your Own. “Pre-Group and Group Discussion are essential for a great group experience, while On Your Own is designed to help you dig further into the concepts if you so desire (from the How to Use This Study Guide section).”

The study guide, developed in collaboration with Spence Shelton (a grouplife veteran with “a deep understanding of the real-world dynamics of the gospel”) is well-written and very easy to use. It will almost lead itself and the design of the study will make it easy to facilitate. Thoughtfully developed questions will help members thoroughly engage in the discussion and as a result, call each member to “look anew at his or her relationship with God (from the cover).”

A significant challenge to the study is the required reading. While Keller is an excellent writer and his books reflect his speaking style, each session of the study calls for a couple chapters of a 252 page book (25 pages a week). The book captures the reader from the opening paragraphs and those who dig in and do the reading will be rewarded. At the same time, it’s important to note that the group discussion rests on the Pre-Group reading and study (i.e., if you haven’t done the Pre-Group reading and study, you will have little to contribute).

The Pre-Group section also includes a personal reflection assessment and a short set of Bible investigation questions.

Every small group ministry needs a recommended study list that includes some studies that are more challenging. Jesus the King is a challenging study that will reward those groups and group members that fully engage. I love this study and I think you will too.

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. I am also the Small Group Specialist for LifeWay. 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 “Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything” to Your Recommended List

hoseaHad an opportunity this week to spend some time with Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything, a new 7 session study from Jennifer Rothschild. A popular speaker and author of 10 books and Bible studies, Rothschild brings a little bit of southern charm to everything she does. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, you can find out more right here.

Your members may not be familiar with Hosea, one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. A powerful love story about God’s unfailing love for His people, Rothschild does a very good job of telling the story in a way that will help your members see themselves in the story.

I like the way the cover of the book describes the contents. Hosea “is an unlikely story about an unlikely couple, an unusual courtship, and an illicit affair. But the marriage didn’t end; instead, a love story began. It’s Hosea and Gomer’s love story and it is your love story. When you’re looking for identity, God calls you His own. When you feel enslaved, God frees you. When you wander away, God brings you home. No matter where you are, God sees who you are and loves you faithfully. His unfailing love changes everything.”

DVD-Driven, Hosea is a 7 session study, suitable for both larger on-campus studies or small groups that meet in homes.  The DVD segments average 25 to 35 minutes and the Member Book provides a simple viewing guide for taking notes as well as a conversation guide to help your group(s) get started.  A thoughtfully designed leader’s guide provides additional discussion questions and scripture references that will take your members deep into the topic.

The Bible Study Book also includes six weeks of daily devotional studies for every session that will guide an exploration of this important topic.  Each devotional study is designed to pull participants a little further into the topic and will take most participants 30 to 45 minutes.  Since the session discussion questions refer back to the daily devotionals, working through them will enhance the study.

If you’re looking for a study that will deeply connect with the women in your Bible study, don’t miss Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything. I can see the story of Hosea and Gomer deeply impacting and forever changing the way your members see themselves. I loved it and I think your members will too.

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. In addition, LifeWay is a regular advertiser on my blog. 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’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great New Study for Women: Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story

Had an opportunity to preview a new study from Angie Smith. Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story is a 7 session Bible study for women that “shows how the whole Bible–from Genesis through Revelation–connects as one beautiful seamless thread.” Angie Smith is the best-selling author of Mended, I Will Carry You and What Women Fear. Because of her background, she comes at the story of the Bible in a way that women who are new to Bible study will find very compelling.

DVD-driven, Seamless features the teaching of Angie Smith. The sessions are short, ranging from 11 to 16 minutes in length. Very conversational, her speaking style will grab your members’ attention from the opening moments.

The Bible Study book includes what you’d expect in a DVD-driven study. A section designed to help members review last week’s homework and questions that will help them talk about what they learned in the video. What may set this study apart is the care taken at setting up even the newest to the Bible members to gain a new understanding of the seamless story of the Bible. Each week has five days of homework and there’s enough there to take participants 30 to 60 minutes to complete. The writing is very engaging (sprinkled with trivia and fun facts) and will help along new members while keeping seasoned veterans engaged.

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly on the lookout for studies that will appeal to unconnected women who aren’t already part of a small group or Bible study. To qualify, the speaker on the video has to come across like someone a normal person can hang out with at a Starbucks. To qualify, the writing has to be understandable (without an interpreter) and engaging, pulling the member further into the content. Seamless qualifies. I loved it and I think your members will too.

Don’t Miss Pete Wilson’s New Study: “What Keeps You Up At Night?”

what keeps you up at nightI spent some time with a great new study today. One you are definitely going to want to know about and add to your recommended list. What Keeps You Up At Night: How to Find Peace While Chasing Your Dreams is the latest study from Pete Wilson, founding and senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Pete’s ministry–”an outreach focused on helping people become radically devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to each other, and relentlessly dedicated to reaching those outside of God’s family with the Gospel–has made Pete a frequent speaker at national and international church conferences.”

I love this line from the website: “Today’s world, with all its expectations, responsibilities, and shortcomings, has created an environment ripe for the kind of uncertainty that has shackled an entire generation. This small-group Bible study helps participants activate faith and trust in God that will propel them forward through fear and anxiety to peace, faithfulness, and trust.”

Based on Pete’s new book by the same titleWhat Keeps You Up At Night hits the bullseye of what I call a cross-cultural study. After all, doesn’t everyone have things that keep them up at night? That’s not a topic that only Christians care about. This is a study that neighbors, friends, co-workers and family will readily identify with and it will make a very easy invite.

What Keeps You Up At Night is a 6 week DVD-driven study featuring teaching by Pete Wilson. With his conversational style and the average session length of 16 minutes, the video segments easily hold group members’ attention.

The Bible study book includes a video viewing guide and an easy-to-use group discussion. It also includes a section between group meetings for personal reflection, organized as Personal Reflection, Deeper Look and Now What? At an average length of 12 pages, this section for personal reflection will take some time to complete but could be completed over several mornings.

If you’re looking for a study that will help your small groups wrestle with a topic that everyone deals with–Christians and nonChristians alike–What Keeps You Up At Night will be a great addition to your recommended list. I loved it and I’m sure your groups will find it extremely helpful.


Add David Platt’s Counter Culture to Your Recommended List

counter cultureI finally had an opportunity this week to take a look at Counter Culture, the newest study from David Platt. A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture is designed to expose participants to the truths of the gospel that should “compel us to a contrite, compassionate, and courageous personal response to social issues in the culture.” Based on Platt’s 2015 book by the same title, the study looks at many of the most pressing social issues of the day:

  • slavery
  • abortion
  • sexual immorality
  • the degradation of marriage
  • the neglect of orphans and widows
  • racism
  • persecution

Dr. David Platt is probably best known for challenging books like Radical and Follow Me (and the small group studies that were developed from these books). He is “President of the International Mission Board, is deeply devoted to Christ and His Word. David’s first love in ministry is making disciples, sharing, showing, and teaching God’s Word in everyday life. He has traveled extensively to serve alongside church leaders throughout the United States and around the world (from his bio).”

Counter Culture is a 6 session DVD-driven study. The video segments average just over 30 minutes in length and are both very engaging and extremely challenging. Platt is a dynamic and passionate communicator and has no trouble holding the attention of participants.

The member book includes the now standard video viewing guide and group discussion questions. It also includes a well-written set of daily lessons (5 per week) that build on the group teaching.

This is a simple study to use. Although there isn’t a leader’s guide included, it shouldn’t be difficult for even an inexperienced leader to facilitate. At the same time, the content is deeply challenging. Like everything David Platt does, Counter Culture will reveal a pathway for Christ-followers that leads above and beyond the humdrum salt-free and light-free 21st century Christianity. If you’re looking for a study that will expose your group members to a life that is beyond ordinary, add Counter Culture to your recommended list.

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