“What do your small groups use for curriculum?”
It’s the second question you get asked if you’re in charge of small groups at your church, right after “How many groups do you have?”
Choosing what your small groups study may be more important than you think. Ministry leaders may seek to provide freedom to their groups by not determining the curriculum. But more often than not, your group leaders simply feel directionless. Eric Geiger notes:
“We interviewed over 1,000 small group leaders. And we found that group leaders, over 75 percent of them anyway, say they want direction. They say their church should have a discipleship strategy, should have a vision for what groups study together, and that group content should be connected to their church’s doctrine and direction.”
If you’re wondering what to use for your small groups, or are interested in making a change, here are three options I recommend.
1. Your Sunday morning sermon
Why use the Sunday morning sermon? There are several benefits. It keeps your church from becoming a congregation of professional sermon listeners, as they discuss how to actually apply it to their lives. When everyone focuses on the sermon passage, it aids full-church alignment. It saves your small group leaders from having to prepare a lesson (which makes recruiting leaders a lot easier). When you provide interpretational insights in addition to the discussion questions, you don’t have to worry (as much) about what kind of doctrine is being reinforced in the small groups.
This is what I predominantly use for my leaders at my church. Every Sunday afternoon I send a two-page document which guides them in facilitating a discussion about the sermon that morning. The first half deals with interpretational aspects of the passage that was preached: context, an outline, the main point of the passage, and any parts of the passage that might be difficult to interpret. The second half gives suggested questions to get a conversation going. (Here is an example of one my sermon discussion handouts.)
2. The Knowing the Bible series from Crossway
This series guides you through a 12-week study of a book of the Bible. One thing I love about this series is that the authors they’ve selected are fantastic “pastor-scholar” types. The authors are men and women who can take you deep into the text, and also show you how the text is relevant today.
With volumes on Genesis, Isaiah, Ruth and Esther, Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, Romans, Philippians, and James, Crossway balances the Old and New Testaments, as well as the various genres within the Scriptures.
3. Books from New Growth Press
New Growth Press does a great job of showing how the message of the gospel affects our everyday life. Their books for small groups have both a facilitator’s and a participant’s edition, making them easy to “plug and play” in your small groups. I’ve been through Gospel-Centered Life with middle schoolers and adults, and it worked great with both age groups. (Although now they are publishing books specifically for students.)
If you don’t want your small groups to complement your Sunday sermon, rather than reiterate it, the Knowing the Bible series and the New Growth Press studies can provide a good one-two punch for your small groups, providing solid Bible study on the one hand, and gospel-driven practical studies on the other.