Selecting the right study for your group is important, but how you select the study may be more important.
by Allen White
Adult learners learn best in the area of their felt needs. The best study in the world won’t work with an uninterested group.
To guarantee that a study is the right fit for your group, here are a few things to consider:
1. How long has your group been together?
If your group has just start or is less than six months old, chances are that your group members won’t have much of an opinion about what to study next. In fact, taking too much time to decide on the next study might cause your group to falter.
Over the years, I’ve heard the conversation go like this when the leader presents three or four possible studies:
Leader: “Which study looks good to you guys.”
Group: “They all look good. Why don’t you pick one?”
It happens every time. If you send the group to the Christian bookstore or to the internet, well forget it. There are so many choices. They will never decide.
As the leader, go ahead and choose the next study before the current study ends. Introduce the study to the group and ask them if they would like do it next. More than likely, the group will agree and you can move forward with confidence.
If your group is more than six months old, forget everything that I just said. If your group doesn’t have buy-in for the next study, they might be bored, they might be frustrated, or they might leave. Again, midway through the current study, ask the group what they would be interested in studying next. But, this time, don’t bring a study along with you, unless the church is offering a church-wide series. If established group members feel ownership in the group, they will want to have a voice. If they don’t feel ownership, then what in the world are you doing?
Ask the group to share topics of interest or even specific studies they are interested in doing. Have group members research the studies on the internet, view the video content online, and even print out the first lesson for the group to sample. Then, together as a group decide which study to do next.
2. Who’s in your group? New believers, maturing believers or Bible connoisseurs?
Newer believers will need more direction. More mature believers will need less direction, if any. Take the situational leadership model on this. The less knowledgeable the group, then the more input they will need from the leader. The more knowledgeable the group, then they will only need someone to facilitate the decision-making. But, don’t be mistaken—even experienced group members can drop the ball. As the leader, you must follow through in helping the group reach a decision. It won’t decide itself.
Then, there’s a third category – Bible connoisseurs. These are the folks who have consumed material from the best of the best. Any average Joe, poorly produced, old school Bible study will not do. They only want to learn from the pros. Their idea of going deeper is listening to the teacher who will tantalize them with a morsel of Bible trivia that they’ve never come across. Bible connoisseurs are in need of a service project, not “deeper” teaching.
3. Should you go with consensus or the majority?
If you want to keep your group together, go with consensus. If you would like to quickly form a new group, then go with the majority. If 60 percent want one study, but 40 percent want another and you go with the 60 percent, you have effectively split the group. If everyone agrees together on a study, then they will stay. But, what if they can’t agree?
If it’s a 60/40 decision, then you should do one study now and plan to do the other study next. There’s no reason to divide your group over choosing a study. Now, if you have one group member who likes to dictate to everyone else, that’s a whole other deal. You might want to read this post on dealing with difficult people.
4. If the study doesn’t connect, punt.
Sooner or later every group gets into a study that they just don’t like. Rather than persevere through a study that doesn’t connect, recycle it. I mean in the trash. Find another study. Nowhere in the Bible does it command, “Thou shalt complete every lousy study thy group commences.” Find something else.
“But, we spent 12 bucks a pop on the study guides.” Ebay, my friend, ebay.
Years ago, when I knew less about small groups, one group leader nearly faced mutiny. The group had not talked about plans for the summer. But, most of the group had assumed that they would take a break and do some fun things together. On the night of their last lesson in their study, the group leader showed up with a fresh set of brand new study guides under his arm. He wanted the group to get closer to Jesus that summer. From what I heard, the leader almost experienced it that night.
Needless to say, there was no group meeting that summer. There almost wasn’t a group, except that they really liked each other. The group continued on with another leader eventually. And, no, I was not the leader of that group. I just wasn’t a very good coach.
By following these steps, your group can certainly get closer to a study that will meet their needs and keep their interest. By avoiding some pitfalls as you facilitate the decision-making process, you can keep the group intact and keep your head, I mean role as leader.