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Having the right study for your church group can really make a difference in the spiritual growth and commitment of your members. Thankfully, we are blessed to live in a time with some incredible authors and resources available. If you lead a church Sunday School class, a community group, a small group, men’s group, women’s study, or lifegroup and are looking for curriculum to study -- below are three recommendations based on groups that I have lead in the past. Click on the title for the full review.
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Title: Genesis: God’s Creative Call (Lifeguide Bible Studies)
Author: Charles E. Hummel, Anne Hummel
Study Type: Scripture study
Media: Bible study book
Spiritual Level: For Christians with at least some basic knowledge of the Bible.
Review: Genesis is a great book, but it can be intimidating for a leader to tackle because you sometimes feel like you are required to have vast knowledge about creation theory. This study is refreshing and really opened the book of Genesis up to me, because it takes the focus off the science and turns it toward what the book teaches about the character of God and the implications of being a fallen human being. This study explores the rich characters in Genesis and stays focused on what’s in the scripture, with questions that guide you to how to apply it to your life. Although it works well in a small group, the format of the book is more like a personal study workbook, with 10-14 questions per chapter. Chapters are divided into logical portions of scripture. The back of the book includes group study helps with background information related to some of the harder questions. The study is organized into three major sections with about eight chapters each: Section 1 is titled Creation & Primeval History, Section 2 is called Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and Section 3 is about the story of Joseph. The sections stand by themselves and your group could study one or more of the sections. Our Sunday School class, for example, studied the first section only over a period of 6-8 weeks. While sometimes study-guides ask the simplest/most obvious questions, I found the questions in this study to be well written – guiding me to really think. I recommend this study for groups looking to get into the Bible with their group time. This study gets you into the scripture, yet doesn’t require advanced study of the original languages in order to understand the basic, yet poignant truths that Genesis contains about God and man.
Prep Required for Leader: Medium. It took me 2-4 hours to complete the study myself, really reflect on it personally, then go through the questions and determine which ones to use for group discussion.
Prep Required for Group Member: This is up to the leader. This study can either be done cold (people come into the group and read the passage for the first time) or with weekly prep (people get the book and study prior).
Available: Amazon.com and elsewhere.
Title: Jim and Casper Go to Church
Author: Jim Henderson and Matt Casper
Type: A discussion on culture and Christianity
Media: Book, 208 pages. DVD also available, although I have not reviewed it.
Spiritual Level: Recommended for established Christians with the maturity to apply Biblical truths to challenging topics.
Review: This is a fantastic concept for a book -- Jim Henderson is a pastor who hired Matt Casper, a dedicated atheist, to travel with him around the country and visit prominent churches in order to critique them. Jim and Casper developed a rating system and would go to the church, unannounced, and evaluate every aspect. I found it incredibly interesting reading to see what a modern day atheist thought of today’s entertainment-heavy Christianity. Casper’s central question to Jim was… “Is this really what Jesus told you guys to do?” Simply fascinating. That said, I must say that I passionately disagreed with about half of this book, even some of Jim’s conclusions. You should not go into this study thinking this is a teaching book or a Bible study. Disagreeing with the content, however, is not necessarily a bad thing… because in nearly fifteen years of leading church groups, I don’t know if I’ve ever lead a study that created such engaging discussions for everyone. This study would be great for people involved in church leadership who need to assess their ministry. The challenge for the leader of this study… is to guide your group discussion into personal application and spiritual growth instead of letting it dissolve into rants about things “those other churches” do wrong. It will definitely get your group talking, but you might want to consider supplementing the book with scripture passages that will ground the discussion.
Prep Required for Leader: Light to medium. The chapters are quick and easy to read. There are some questions at the end of the chapter and it won’t take much to get the discussion going. As mentioned above, I’d recommend spending some extra time preparing supplementary material.
Prep Required for Group Member: Minimal. Reading a chapter or two each week.
Available: Amazon.com and elsewhere.