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Moving away from morsels

Last night we had a home group bible study with the folk who have graduated from Christianity Explored.  Here's what we've been studying:

Week 1: Galatians

Week 2: Ephesians

Week 3: Philippians

Week 4: Colossians

Last night was week 5:  Romans 1-4 (though we stopped at the end of 3 because everyone was blown away!)

When I tell them that the other home groups study half a chapter at a time they are amazed!   "But that's like stopping after three paragraphs of a letter!" they exclaim.  That is precisely what it is!

Everyone prints off the chapters for that week and reads them with a pen to hand.  They circle things they don't understand and underline things they love so they come to the evening quite well prepared.

In the studies we just read a big chunk and then discuss, read a big chunk then discuss.  We've been getting through 4-6 chapters in a night.

Some outside the group have been impressed by it, but also have raised valid concerns:

Question: How long can you keep this up?

Answer: The bible's a big book.

Question: Not many people could lead a study of a whole book of the bible, doesn't this concentrate leadership in the hands of the trained few?

Answer:  Actually it puts the bible in the hands of everyone.  People have really taken responsibility for trying to get a handle on the passage before the meeting and they've been great at answering each other's questions.

Question: Not many people could field the range of questions that would be generated by study of a whole book.  Leaders might be caught out by the number of different topics that could arise in any given week.

Answer: Schedule in some weeks every now and again where you tackle the most recurring topics from the last couple of months.

Question: Won't this mean you miss nuances and details?

Answer: Maybe.  But you'll be revisiting the same material a lot more often too.

Anyway, I commend it to you.  Not least because last night was devastating.  We began in chapter 15 to get some context and then moved through Romans 1 to 3 the way it was intended.  It crushed us to dust and then lifted us up in Christ.  I can't now imagine spacing that out over three weeks!

My advice: move away from the morsels.  Get stuck in!

0 thoughts on “Moving away from morsels

  1. Glen

    Yes, I like the Swedish method a lot. I learnt it from another Sydney minister. It's one of stacks of methods suggested by Rod and Karen Morris's helpful book: "Leading Better Bible Studies"

  2. Matt F

    Hi Glen,
    Intrigued! A few questions:
    Do you find that most of the people in the group are quite literate (perhaps educated to A Level standard or more)? Do you think this approach would work for those with low levels of functional literacy? Has this thrown up any barriers for participation?
    Does the leader prepare any questions or have particular objectives/aims in mind? Do you prompt if you think people have missed something major even if they've picked up on something important in interesting?
    Thanks!
    Matt

  3. Tim V-B

    Matt,
    I don't know about Glen's group. But the local church has been using the 'Swedish' method precisely BECAUSE most people are not literate. It's an attempt to have lots of small groups without the need for lots of well-educated leaders.

    http://transforminggrace.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/toolkit-for-small-groups-home-groups/

    The other idea I like is the Bible study method Steve Levy does at Mt Pleasant Baptist Church. Each month everyone reads (or listens to) a particular book of the Bible. There are 7 or so questions they ask every time (something like 'How does this book reveal Jesus?', or 'How does this encourage me to persevere?') and then everyone comes together in small groups to share answers, thoughts, and prayers. The 7 questions are all based on what the Bible says about itself (in the above example, John 5 and Romans 15:4).

    Glen - any chance you know what these questions are?

  4. Glen

    Hi Matt

    We've very mixed indeed educationally. Certainly some haven't completed A-levels. Three of our number don't like reading out loud (they just say pass when their turn comes and that's all ok). But they all do their homework (reading the chapters in advance) and they all contribute.

    As Tim said, this style of study I find *more* suited to groups of mixed ability. I think you probably do need to need to have a degree to do close reading comprehension and to play "guess what's in the leader's head." It's the sort of environment that thrives on "no question is too stupid" and so enfranchises everybody.

    I certainly go in with a big idea. And I'll set up the book just a little bit before we dive in. So with Galatians - explain Paul, explain circumcision, explain the circumcision sect and get people on the lookout for what might be wrong with their teaching and how Paul counteracts it. For Ephesians, start with Psalm 133 and the blessings pouring down from the head of the High Priest to the body, then get them to look out for that kind of movement in the letter. For Romans last night I wanted to see us slain by the law and raised up by Christ.

    Anything in addition to these big ideas (and there's always loads) is a bonus.

    Tim - I don't know Steve's questions no. We should get his to do a guest post shouldn't we?

    Hin-Tai - that's brilliant, yes indeed, that's the stuff.

  5. Tim V-B

    A guest post by Steve would be great. Preferably in the next week, in time for my Lent Course session on reading the Bible!

  6. Josh VB

    Sounds like a brilliant idea! I imagine with audio Bible's available this sort of study is accessible to anyone and everyone will come with something they've been struck and something they're puzzled by - putting everyone in a position of being able to serve others in teaching and a position of humility, needing instruction.

  7. Si

    Could part of the reason why we don't do this is because we under-estimate ability to cope with large amounts of information in one go? Seems to not show an awareness of what's going on in society, where we're drowning in information.

    Another reason could be that most Christian leaders are of a personality that doesn't do big-picture well (sensing, not perceiving) and so think that other people don't do big picture well. But I don't know.

    I see that the Swedish method is because the people it was made for are less academic - but it's a atypical approach (though the right one) to dealing with those that aren't as advanced through academia to give more material and make the whole story/argument in one go - instead it's (children's stuff and story sometimes excepted) little disjointed bite-sized chunks with little context.

    That you are doing this with people just beginning to explore the Bible is counter-Christian-cultural, but makes tons of sense - immerse them in the word, get them to see the wood, and then they can look at trees without losing sight of the context and overarching plot-lines.

  8. Pingback: How to study the Bible when your Bible study group leader has been arrested. | Eyes Higher

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