20 “Bible Dialogue” Questions

Here’s a way you and your group can study the Bible without using a Bible-study guide. I developed these questions (some of which I picked up from other places) several years ago.

Read a section of Scripture (a chapter, for instance) together as a group. Be creative. Read in the round (one verse or sentence at a time) or have group members read in parts. Then ask some general questions to get people dialoguing around the text. Move from “what did you get” questions to “what will you do” questions. Here are a few possibilities. You might use only one or two of these kinds of questions in a study! Remember that follow-up questions are the best questions.

  1. What jumped out at you in this passage?
  2. What’s going on here? Summarize what’s happening.
  3. What did you notice here, maybe for the first time?
  4. Who are the main characters in this passage?
  5. What’s your favorite verse in this passage? Why?
  6. What’s your least favorite verse in this passage? Why?
  7. What do you think God is trying to communicate overall in this passage?
  8. If we were writing a sermon with three main points from this passage, what would be our three points?
  9. What did you sense the Holy Spirit saying to you?
  10. What example do you see here that you can follow?
  11. What commands do you see here that you need to obey?
  12. What thoughts do you find here about God himself?
  13. What promise(s) do you see here for you to claim?
  14. What principles do you see here that you need to accept?
  15. What can we learn as a group from this passage?
  16. In what verse or section do you sense God speaking directly to you?
  17. How will this passage affect your relationships this next week?
  18. What changes do you feel like you need to make based on this passage?
  19. So what? What are you going to do based on reading this?
  20. What is one specific thing from this passage that you would pray back to God? How would you word that prayer?

What Small Groups Should Study and Direction from Above

I just read an interesting article by Eric Geiger at LifeWay. In essence, the article says that most small group leaders are given no direction in what their groups study. Read the article HERE.

Here’s my reply:

In some ways this is both bad news and good news. The bad news is that leaders and their groups definitely do need more support, equipping, and coaching than many churches provide. Some church leaders have the attitude of, “We have small groups that are meeting together, so discipleship must be taking place.” Not good.

But there’s some good news tucked away in there too. To borrow the illustration from the article, some pastors would not want an overarching group of leaders in the denomination headquarters telling them what to preach on Sundays. They might say that they know their people better than someone who has never spent time with them. They’d point to the principle of shepherding. In some ways, the same applies to small group leaders. Good, healthy leaders are primarily shepherds who know the sheep under their care, love them, invest in them, and prayerfully seek to lead them, as they follow the Great Shepherd. If these leaders have been well-equipped, church leaders should be able to trust them to shepherd their group members.

Note the IF. It’s essential. Shepherd leaders must be equipped, prayed for, loved, invested into, and coached. When they are, that’s good news for everyone involved!

One issue involved in this discussion is how we define leadership and oversight. Is the traditional top-down approach or a more decentralized, participative, bottom-up approach better?
I think this is an important topic, and it includes in it decisions about control, trust, the work of the Holy Spirit, vision, oversight, training, coaching, and more.
Please weigh in with your thoughts on this!

MORE ON THIS TOPIC:

What Every Small Group Leader Needs from their Small Group Pastor
You’re A Shepherd, But Not The Shepherd
What’s Your Definition of a Small Group Leader?
The Psalm of the No-Good Shepherd

7 Ways Your Small Group Can Celebrate the Incarnation this Christmas Season: #1: Experience Christmas!

The holidays are coming. What is your small group’s plan?

Many groups struggle with meeting and studying over the holidays, and this can be detrimental to the health of your group. Not only that, but this is a prime time of the year to help your group members grow in their faith as well as to reach out to and invite new people. Perhaps your group will take a break from your normal schedule, but that’s no reason not to keep meeting. Over the next week or so I will provide 7 ideas for how your small group can get the most—and give the most—from now through New Years.

1. Experience Christmas Anew

This is one of the most wonderful times of the year to grow together in your understanding of the gospel story. The Christmas Experience, from City on a Hill, is a great place to start. This is more than just a nice Christmas study; I believe it will be an experience you and your group will remember for a long time. I wrote the study guides for The Christmas Experience, and I don’t want to sound overdramatic but I loved watching the videos for this study. You can also watch the full-length movie version of this as a group and discuss it. Get more information on the City on a Hill Christmas Experience web page.

Kyle Idleman brought out insights I had never considered and helped me see this very familiar story in new ways. More than that, however, as I watched the dramatic presentation of the Christmas story, I was moved in ways I didn’t expect. As your group experiences this material, I believe they will be moved as well, and they will grow not only to know the story better, but to know God more intimately.
___________

The Christmas Experience is a six-week, DVD-driven small group study that examines the Christmas story in detail, helping groups (and families) prepare for the Christmas season. Each episode focuses on how God chose each individual in the Christmas story for a specific purpose. Those participating in The Christmas Experience study will find themselves in the story as they learn that what happened then changes everything now.

While this is a six-session study, it includes several options for doing the study in, for instance, four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Leader’s Guide and Participant’s Discussion Guide are designed to help groups interact with this material and to grow together as they experience it together.

The Christmas Experience Small Group Study includes:

  • Six 30-minute episodes on 2 DVDs
  • Subtitle options including: English, Spanish, and French
  • Leader’s Tutorial Video
  • Printed Leader’s Guide for facilitating dynamic group discussions
  • Printed Participant’s Guide (additional guides sold separately)
You can get more information, including an ability to watch the trailer, and you can purchase any of these materials on the City on a Hill Christmas Experience web page.

How to Make This the Best Christmas Ever

Alan Danielson and his friend Darren Currin have written a new Advent/Christmas eBook, The Best Christmas Ever, that releases November 26 and is available for preorder now. It’s a devotional eBook that is designed to help people truly experience Christmas differently this year.

The Best Christmas Ever provides practical steps to find more joys and fewer pressures this advent season. This contemporary look at Advent is not for the feint of heart. In it you will be challenged to accomplish a task each week:

  • Create margin in your holiday schedule. 
  • Spend a week NOT shopping for gifts.
  • Avoid asking for any presents.
  • Make a gift for someone (Don’t worry, this is NOT an arts and crafts project…unless you want it to be).

Does that sound weird? Let’s face it, Christmas in our modern culture is too busy, too stressful, too expensive, and sometimes just too much! Worse yet, we’ve come to accept these things as normal. Maybe we should take some strange steps this season. Maybe it’s time to be a little weird because “normal” is pretty broken. Be weird with us and make this The Best Christmas Ever!

To give you a taste for this book, here’s an excerpt:

The world is a mess: militant religious terrorists, school shootings, wars, natural disasters, politics and healthcare problems seem to make up headlines every day. All of these things hit too close to home. Then there are the things that actually do hit us at home: divorce, parent-teen skirmishes, illness, financial pressures, nosey neighbors, things that need to be repaired, personality conflicts at work and much more. Top off those things with the added stresses of the Christmas season: work parties, church events, school musicals, shopping, cooking, planning, mailing cards, decorating….Aaaaarrrrrggghhh! Is your heart rate elevated yet? 

God said something profound to His people when they were stressed: 

   “Be still, and know that I am God!
   I will be honored by every nation.
   I will be honored throughout the world.” 

              -Psalms 46:10 (NLT)

Be still. When life seems out of control, the solution is to be still. Only in stillness are we truly able to take in the sense that God is truly in control. We never feel a sense of peace in God when we are busy and stressed about everything that’s going on.

To make this The Best Christmas Ever take a breath this week. In fact take a few. Find God’s peace in the middle of the chaos by being still.

I know what you’re thinking, “I have too much to do. I can’t even slow down, let alone be still, because there’s not enough time!” Breath for a second and consider that statement: “there’s no time.” Consider the possibility that the previous statement may simply be untrue.

Each of us all has the same amount of time as everyone else. The difference between those who are “rich in time” and those who are “poor in time” is only a matter of how they choose to spend their time. Think about it: there’s only one thing we can do with time: spend it. We all get an allowance of 24 hours each day and we all spend every one of those hours. How are you spending them?

Being still doesn’t require more time, it requires a conscious decision to spend time differently…


Here are a couple ideas for using this book:

  1. Buy a single copy for yourself or buy as many as you need as gifts.  Here’s the link:   http://ow.ly/EqpBm
  2. If you are involved in a church, business, or non-profit, you can buy a bulk “Distribution License” and give the book away to parishioners, clients, customers, and supporters.  Bulk prices are deeply discounted. The more books purchased, the deeper the discount.  Here’s the link detailing the bulk “distribution license” purchases:   http://ow.ly/EqsFB  By the way, if you lead a small group ministry, this could be a great Christmas gift for all your leaders! 

FOR YOUR GROUP: The Christmas Experience

If you and your group are looking to dive deeper into the Christmas story this year and to experience the Christmas season in a new way, I recommend using The Christmas Experience video-driven study featuring Kyle Idleman from City on a Hill. I had the honor of writing the leader’s and study guides. I think you’ll like it. 

MORE CHRISTMAS POSTS

REVIEW: Let Hope In by Pete Wilson

Hope. Someone—perhaps everyone—in your small group needs it, especially now. When I watch the news each day, I see tons of people who need it. When I talk to the men in my small group, each one needs it for different reasons. When I look at our family’s finances, health and health insurance, kids growing up into adults, family members and friends with cancer … and I could go on and on … I and my family need hope.
I’m reviewing several different small group studies this month to provide you with some good new options for your group in 2014.  Today I want to tell you about Let Hope In, a six-week study by pastor and author Pete Wilson.
Pete Wilson is a senior pastor with a deep passion for small groups. His church, CrossPoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee, is seeing over 80% of those who show up for weekend worship services attending a small group. This doesn’t happen without a senior pastor who believes that life change takes place best in small groups and is willing to remind those in attendance at weekend worship services often that they need to spend time with other believers in a small group.
But Pete’s fervor for small groups doesn’t end with reminding people to join one, even teaching on the topic. Pete has also given his time and attention to writing this Bible study for small groups. Pete realizes that we’ve all blown it. In fact, he knows that if we stack up enough mistakes, shame, and regret, that any of us could be forever hindered by our past. But Pete realizes and tells us in this study that there’s hope—regardless of our history.
This six-session experience may be perfect for the first small group study of the year. And, if you want your whole church to realize the hope that God makes available, it can even be done as a church-wide campaign.
I really like the design and content of this study. It’s extremely easy to use, has great content to discuss, and includes excellent questions as you dig into Scripture and apply it to your lives together. Each session includes a “Live It Out” section that provides very specific ideas for putting what you’ve discussed into practice. The discussion guide also includes a very helpful Leader’s Guide that includes some optional follow up questions. (I always love these; I find that these follow up ideas often spark the best discussions!)
If you’re interested in learning more about Let Hope In or purchasing it for you and your group, CLICK HERE!

OTHER SMALL GROUP STUDY REVIEWS

Running with God, by Liz Linssen
Experiencing Christmas
gods at war

REVIEW: Running with God, by Liz Linssen

Every once in a while as I edit a book, it takes longer than expected, not because the writing is bad but because the content is so good that I get distracted from my job.

Running with God was such a book for me. I enjoy trying to stay healthy and physically fit. I’m not much of a runner anymore; I prefer getting on my road bike or mountain bike and hitting the pavement or the trails. But it’s all about training–dedication, development, and perseverance. As I edited this book, I found myself learning from the author about applying the secrets of physical training to spiritual fitness.

It was an honor for me to partner with Liz Linssen on editing this book, as well as her newest book, Nature of Faith and Miracles.

Liz bases everything she says on God’s Word. This book is saturated with Scripture. Liz uses creative stories (both her own and those of her friends), good illustrations, and excellent commentary. I really liked the comparisons between running and other forms of training with spiritual training. I found it easy to relate to her teaching and very easy to understand and apply the stages of spiritual development by seeing it as spiritual training.

“Many believers in churches wonder why they are not maturing in their faith,” Liz says on page 25. She helps us deal with our attitudes, goal setting, commitment, and perseverance, just to name a few of the parts of the training program she teaches.

This is not a book of theory! It’s written by someone who has obviously worked on her own spiritual training, struggled along with way, and kept going. Liz is unapologetically passionate not only about her own spiritual growth but that of others as well.

This book is not just for athletes, however. You’ll grow in your faith whether you enjoy running marathons or you feel like you’re running on empty spiritually.

The book was written for use in small groups. The end of each of the seven chapters includes a set of great application-oriented discussion questions you can use.

Order Running with God: A Discipleship Guide to Grow in Faith and Experience the Power and Love of God here.

The Christmas Experience Trailer

In my post last Friday (click here to read) I told you about a new video-based curriculum from City on a Hill called The Christmas Experience. Here’s a trailer of this dramatic movie, featuring Kyle Idleman:

I had the honor of writing the leader’s and participant’s guides for this study. I really encourage you to consider using this in your group or with your family this Christmas season. This study is not just a Hallmark-style, warm and fuzzy Christmas movie. I believe it can challenge your and your group’s faith and encourage your faithfulness.

To see more information and other trailers, or to order CLICK HERE.

What is your small group doing this Christmas season?

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER CHRISTMAS POSTS:
Christmas in Perspective
Not Just Another Sentimental Christmas Message

Experience Christmas in New Ways with Your Group This Year!

Christmas is coming. What will your small group(s) be doing to prepare for this important time of the year? 

Many groups struggle with meeting and studying over the holidays, and this can be detrimental to the health of your group! Not only that, but this is a prime time of the year to help your group members grow in their faith and to reach out and invite new people to your group(s). 

Here’s where I think this new study from City on a Hill can help. 

I had the honor of writing the study guides for “The Christmas Experience,”  featuring Kyle Idleman. Click on this link to check out brief videos about this study and order your copies today. It’s shipping now! 

This is a six-session DVD-driven study, but we provided some options for doing the study in, say, 4 weeks, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I don’t want to sound over-dramatic, but I loved watching the videos for this study! Kyle Idleman does his usual great job of digging into and explaining the context of the biblical story. He brings out insights I had never really considered and helped me see this very familiar Christmas story in new ways. More than that, however, as I watched the dramatic presentation of the Christmas story, I was moved in ways I didn’t expect. As your group experiences this material, I believe they will be moved as well, and they will grow not only to know the story better, but to know God more intimately.

I thought all the actors in The Christmas Experience did an amazing job, but I was especially impressed by the character of Mary and the actress who played her. I came to a new understanding of Mary (and Joseph) and why God chose them to be the earthly parents of the Savior.

I wrote the leader’s guide and participant’s discussion guide to help groups interact with this material and to grow together as they experience it together.

This really is more than just a nice Christmas study or a good curriculum. I believe it will be an experience that you and your group will remember for a long time. 


PRODUCT DISCUSSION (from the web site):
The Christmas Experience is a 6-week small group study that examines the Christmas story in detail, helping groups (and families) prepare for the Christmas season. Each episode will focus on how God chose each individual in the Christmas story for a specific purpose. Those participating in The Christmas Experience study will be able to find themselves in the Christmas story, as they learn that what happened then changes everything now.

QUICK OVERVIEW 
The Christmas Experience Small Group Study includes:
– Six 30-minute episodes on 2 DVDs
– Subtitle options including: English, Spanish, and French
– Leader’s Tutorial Video
– Printed Leader’s Guide for facilitating dynamic group discussions
– Printed Participant’s Guide (additional guides sold separately)

gods at war: New Life-Changing DVD-based Small Group Study from City on a Hill

I had the privilege of editing the leader’s guide and “combat journal” for “gods at war,” a new DVD-based study from City On A Hill Productions, narrated by Kyle Idleman. The small group material was written by Ross Brodfuehrer, who did an incredible job developing this curriculum.

From the City on a Hill website:

In a new twist to the cinematic style City on a Hill has become known for, this 6 episode series was filmed in a docudrama style – … featuring the late Chuck Colson (Prison Fellowship), Chuck Bentley (Crown Financial Ministries) and others telling their true stories. In these compelling stories, we will see some reflection of ourselves, and recognize the true battle that lies at the heart of all our sin struggles. These stories also point the way to victory, as we see the kind of life-transforming power that Christ is ready to pour out in our lives as well. 

I believe God will use this study to change lives, if group members fully engage with the material, which is easy to do with these dramatic videos and well-written discussion guides. If your group used and grew through “Not a Fan,” you’ll love this study as well. I’m highly recommending it!

Read more and purchase your copies of gods at war here (links to City on a Hill website).

Dethrone These Top 10 Idols in Your Small Group!

The first commandment for small groups is this: “I am the Lord your God … you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath . . .” (Exodus 20:2-4).

How can your group live out this first and most fundamental commandment? The first thing to do is to identify the false gods that can so easily be placed on the throne of your group. Remember that God will not share his throne (see verse 5)!

Here are what I consider the top 10 small group idols:

  1. Community: Community is a vital element of group life, of course, but I’ve seen groups place their commitment to community above their commitment to God.
  2. Consumers: This is closely related to #1, but with a twist. People often choose a group for what they will personally get out of it. They put themselves and their wants above God’s will in the group.
  3. Challenges: Are there people (or just one person) whose issues dominate your time together each week? These are usually self-focused people who believe they must be the center of attention. That’s God’s place.
  4. Curriculum (or other Content): What we study can help us grow as disciples, but Christ, not your curriculum, should always be the main focus. (This is a dangerous idol, because it is so sneaky. Be careful, because curriculum-centeredness can easily draw you away from being Christ-centered!)
  5. Cause: In today’s missional culture, this one also can become a devious false god. Be all about Christ’s mission and purpose for you, but don’t put your causes above him!
  6. Church-wide Programs/Campaigns:  I may get letters on this one, but I see this crafty idol at work more and more lately. As a church-based small group you are accountable to your church leadership. But don’t allow the latest program, project, or campaign to sit on the throne of your group. Remember, wherever two or three come together in Jesus’ name–not in the name of some Christian celebrity–Christ will be in your midst.
  7. Cookies: Do group members compete for who brings the best snacks? Do you focus too much on food?
  8. Calendars: Are group members’ busy schedules more important than their commitment to Christ and the group? What do your calendars and meeting frequency say about who or what is on the throne of your lives?
  9. Children/Child Care: I have witnessed countless groups struggle over issues centered around children and what to do with them as the group meets. Some families allow their children to become idols in their lives, keeping Christ and spiritual growth a distant second–at best. I’ve also seen group members argue vehimently over what to do with their kids diring group time, and the tension ripped the group apart. Our kids are important parts of our lives, but we can’t let them sit on the throne!
  10. Controlling Leader: The leader is a member who has the God-given responsibility to help guide the group as God has called him or her to do. The leader is not the center of the group in a Christ-centered group. Some leaders need to step off the throne, and let Christ alone occupy that position.

As you can see, most of these are not bad things when kept in their proper places. But none of them can share the throne of your life or your group. Dethrone them by putting Christ back in his rightful place in your group. Seek first his kingdom, and all these other things will be taken care of as well.

 What small group idols would you add to this list? (It doesn’t have to start with a C!)

For more on this important topic, see Chapter 1 of my new book, Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health that Make Groups Flourish.