Calling all House Group leaders
In the previous issue of Headline, I reviewed six Bible-based house group book resources for small groups. I now look at a further group of resources, identifying their strengths and limitations for 21st Century groups, especially in the light of the fact that people learn in different ways, and that 39% prefer to learn by doing.
I would encourage you to discern the most suitable resource for your own group. My prayer is that our various groups, young or old, established or new, seeking the Lord or going on with Him, will dig deeper into the Bible and, by God’s Spirit working in them through it, be transformed into the people God wants them to be, for His glory.
Rob Frost’s Essence resource is very exciting, participative, experiential and activity-based. From smashing up pottery and creating a mosaic of the bits, to making masks to indicate how we see ourselves, using sand, mirrors, meditations and a labyrinth experience, the involvement of the whole self in the course proved challenging to a group of older adults but was enthusiastically embraced by a group of teens. A very contemporary feel, but is it perhaps a bit too post-modern and the style a little ‘New Age’ for some oldies?
Exploring Growing with God
Colin Smith’s booklet is essentially a set of six talks with questions for personal reflection and group discussion. The questions are searching and enable members to apply the learning. However, for this to work in groups, either group members would need to read the talk before each meeting (and in my experience very few groups will do this) or else someone would need to give the talk before the discussion could take place. Good content, limited by its style of presentation and difficulty of use in a group.
Spring Harvest Bible Studies
This series offers much more than a simple question and answer format, involving group members in many varied activities including ice-breakers. For example, in Moses, Friend of God, by Elizabeth McQuoid, there is a tasting session involving bowls of Shredded Wheat and plates of pavlova (look at Session Five to see why!); a SWOT analysis; flipcharts; use of music; sheets of paper, pens and scissors; newspapers and magazines; candles; worship.
The Activity Pages sometimes consist of cameos of real life situations to be discussed rather than group members doing anything, but they do enable the truths learned to be applied to life. There are worship suggestions for each session. The Leaders’ Guide is clear and helpful, and no one following these studies can avoid facing up to God’s challenge in their lives. A very useable resource.
Living out the life of Jesus: the fruit of the Spirit
This title, by Florence MacKenzie, is one of the series Equipped for Living, which encourages readers to dig deep into the Bible and to apply it. There are several short Bible passages (sometimes lists of individual verses) in each chapter, case studies to discuss, practical steps to take and suggestions for prayer. I like the exploration of each of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in relation in turn to the Father, the Son and the Spirit, but I would struggle to use this in a group. There is so much to read in each chapter that only a group committed to reading in advance would be able to make full use of it. Also I find it more helpful to explore one longer Bible passage with a group, with perhaps just a few additional verses. This resource may be more useful for private devotion than for groups.
This is one of a series of four very creative resources which encourage us, in accessible and acceptable ways, to use all five senses. Multi-Sensory Seasons is the other resource in the series that is intended to be used in a small group context.
They appeal to a wide range of learning styles and are fully photocopiable. Each chapter provides opportunity for group activity which is not cringe-making and is simple to effect. There is lots of practical application and, for further personal study, a bookmark with more material. The instructions are easy to follow; there is sufficient but not too much material, with choices to allow for use by different kinds of groups. It comes highly commended by a group I know that has recently used it. Each of the 15 sessions can stand alone. One of the most exciting and up to date resources I have seen.
Each of the four books in the The Deeper Encounter series, produced ‘for confident small groups’, has a CD of several short talks with useful background information. For groups that like to write, there are photocopiable worksheets. Knowing Christ Crucified explores in seven sessions various Biblical images of the death of Jesus, including sacrifice, substitute and ransom, enabling members to grapple with the problematic issues around each.
Although we breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the end, we felt that we had being doing theology together in a deeper way than previously. The course is not prescriptive, but leaves participants to form their own conclusions. As well as reference to some specific chapters in relevant books for further study, other resources are suggested by way of paintings, recent films and CDs, with suggestions for devotional activities. Very stimulating for confident small groups.
Another title in the Deeper Encounter series, Love One Another, understandably has much more application to contemporary life and also has seven sessions. It explores, mainly from chapter 13 of John’s gospel and from John’s letters, what it means to love. The searching discussion questions encourage group members to dig deep into the Bible and into themselves. There are few creative methods or suggestions compared with Knowing Christ Crucified. Again very stimulating for confident small groups.
This series, each with six sessions, offers a relational and interactive resource. It is a revised version of Scripture Union’s ground-breaking 1980s Serendipity Bible studies, with additional material. The Serendipity studies revolutionised my own Bible group leadership, providing questions not only about the meaning of, for example, grace, but also the invitation to identify areas of our lives in which grace is needed. In other words, moving from the head to head and heart, and encouraging a measure of vulnerability with each other.
Bodybuilders offer icebreakers, such as selecting a colour to describe the stress levels in our lives, and photocopiable sheets of multi-choice questions to engage members with the issues. For instance, Surviving Under Pressure, based on 1 Peter, offers a choice of eight descriptors of what it means to be holy before the exploration of the passage. There are notes for leaders, worship ideas and suggested material for going deeper. A valuable and useable resource for developing relationships in the context of Bible study.
The series concludes in the next issue of Headline with a table that summarises my personal evaluation of all the resources covered in my two articles, so that you can see them all at a glance alongside one another. It will also include full publication details.
Details of resources
Essence, Rob Frost, Kingsway, 2002, 160pp., £19.99, ISBN 1 8429 1111 2
Exploring Growing with God, Colin Smith, Moorley’s, 2005, 56pp., £3.95, ISBN 0 8607 1581 7
Moses, Friend of God, Elizabeth McQuoid, Authentic Lifestyle, 2003, 64pp., £2.99, ISBN 1 8507 8519 4. Check www.Springharvest.org for many more titles
Multi-Sensory Together, SU, 2005, 64pp., £9.99, ISBN 1 8442 7164 1.
Multi-Sensory Seasons, SU, 2005, 64pp., £9.99, ISBN 1 8442 7175 7
(Multi-Sensory Prayer, Multi-Sensory Scripture, Multi-Sensory Church not primarily for groups)
Equipped for Living, Florence MacKenzie, four titles:
Living out the life of Jesus - the fruit of the Spirit, SU, 2002, 96pp., £3.99, ISBN 1 8599 9430 X.
Living the kingdom lifestyle - The Beatitudes
Living empowered for ministry - the Gifts of the Spirit
Living under God’s protection - The Armour of God.
Deeper Encounter series, John Wilks:
Knowing Christ Crucified, SU, 2006, 64pp., £12.99, ISBN 1 8422 7173 0
Love One Another , SU, 2006, 64pp., £12.99, ISBN 1 8442 7174 9
Also in this series: Slow to Anger and Playing Second Fiddle
Bodybuildersseries from SU has six titles including:-
Surviving under Pressure, SU, 2002, 32pp., £3.50, ISBN 1 8599 9587 X
Designed for Great Things
Living for the King
Growing through Change
A Fresh Encounter
Titles reviewed in the Winter 2006/7 issue of Headline were Lifebuilder series (SU), Cover to Cover Series (CWR), Simplicity, Love and Justice (Alpha International), Life Attitudes and Life Balance (CHP), Connect Bible Studies, (SU), and Revival Living (SU).
Margaret Parker is a counsellor, member of the Cliff College Committee and former Vice-President of the Methodist Conference.
Headline Winter 2006/7 pp11-13