Modern small group study courses and DVD based teaching resources give you and your group everything you need to explore in depth the Bible, what it means and its application to your life.
Many churches find that one service on a Sunday doesn’t give enough time to meet all the needs of everyone in the church. Small group courses with DVD based teaching, study guides and leadership notes offer a convenient, ready-to-use solution.
Trying to nurture new church members, feed growing Christians, and satisfy all ages and interests - as well as providing pastoral support to individuals, just isn’t possible in a once-a-week one hour session. Study courses for groups of 8 to 12 people and lasting 6 to 8 weeks help churches get deeper into the Bible, faith, life and mission.
Small group solutions to going deeper
For many churches the answer is a properly worked out and fully resourced church wide small group ministry. Linking individuals to each other and back to the church in weekday group meetings at least doubles the time for teaching and exploring faith and the Bible.
Sometimes referred to as house groups or cell groups, their purpose is to support and enrich the whole church rather than become separate mini-church islands with their own agenda. Careful choice of group structure and study material can promote your church network and attract others toward your main church fellowship.
Closed or open group structure
The kind of group structure you choose will depend on your church and the people in it. You might choose to have open groups with a loose, friendly structure that any one can join or leave at any time. These create a feeling of ease and freedom but may offer only a limited sense of intimacy and commitment.
Closed groups, where church members are allocated to a group and the number of people is fixed, offers more security to members and might encourage more openness within the group. Without any variation in membership, the group might tend to become inward looking and even discourage the involvement of new members.
Local, interest or purpose driven
Groups of any structure can be constituted according to different criteria. Some may based on a locality welcoming all within a certain neighbourhood. Others will be interest based with a theme or activity or even age range common to its members. Purpose driven groups focus on enrichment in areas such as discipleship or evangelism.
These groups are relatively easy to start up, but are difficult to control in terms of size of membership. Groups may form naturally around a common focus, though if ‘turnover’ is high there is often nowhere for dropouts from a group to run to. There’s also the danger that the interest focus of the group will also become its main purpose.
Sunday linked or independent
Small group ministry and study might be tied to the Sunday teaching programme. Groups can then go deeper into what the preacher touches upon only lightly. Linked groups are closely integrated with the direction of the church’s leadership, but that leadership burden might become to heavy due to the need for extensive forward planning.
Independent teaching groups can emerge and evolve separately from what goes on in church on a Sunday. The church leadership are relieved of the planning burden and group leaders are free to work to their strengths and those of the group. Outside of the main church’s planning and control, there may be issues of accountability and even a feeling drifting away.
House churches or host groups
For some, the house church model is the ultimate home group – the establishment of a new, complete and corporate worshipping community. Although this may represent a return to the spirit and energy of the early church, it can lead to poor teaching and leadership as there is no full time minister or pastor.
With hosted groups, the leader’s responsibilities are clearly defined. He or she is hosts the group's meeting – often in their own home, but is not responsible for the spiritual development of its members. In this model the group's purpose and direction, and the choice of programme and material, is overseen by the church leadership.
Hosted groups place less demand on the group leadership than most of the other models. New groups can form quickly as hosts are more likely to take on limited leadership roles willingly. However, hosted groups may be more dependent than other models on prepared, pre-packaged teaching materials and courses.
Small group teaching and study resources
Pre-packaged resources offer quick, convenient and comprehensive teaching an study materials for all of the different small group models. Most of the well proven, modern courses are DVD based. DVD study courses ensure top quality presentation often by internationally acclaimed pastors and teachers.
Multi-region (region 0) and UK region (region 2) DVD resources are compatible with UK DVD players. They're easy to access, provide a wealth of material and prove effective in a society used to getting most of its information from screen-based media.
DVD courses are almost always supported with easy to follow leader’s resources and course books for study group members. These books may contain the relevant Bible passages, questions and discussion starters, life application notes and guidance for additional study.
Most courses stand alone, but some are series linked or are easily connected to Sunday teaching or to the group’s interest-centred activities. Courses usually consist of 6 to 8 sessions and may deal with subjects relevant to life the year round, or seasonal material such as for Advent for Easter.
Getting together for the first time
If you’ve never met as a small group before, the most straightforward model is probably the hosted group structure. If someone is willing to open their doors once a week to a gathering of 8 to 12 people for an hour and half so, then you have a small study group ready to go.
To spread the burden, someone else could offer to bring biscuits, and another could offer to open or close the group with a prayer. Whatever else you choose to do is between you, the group and your church leadership.
Most study courses need someone to at least start and stop the DVD, and maybe to read the Bible passage and any questions in the study guides. These jobs could be done by different person on a weekly rota.
Choosing your first small group course
For the full range of small group courses from Eden.co.uk just click on the link you’ll find more than 50 fully resourced small group studies mostly based on an engaging and professionally produced DVD with supporting study books and leader’s guide.
The range subjects and themes falls broadly into the following:
- Bible based study courses: Giving new or established church members a deeper understanding of individual books of the Bible, or a broad overview of how all the books in a chosen section relate to each other and God’s plan for creation.
- Life application based courses: For groups who want to explore how to be more effective for Christ in the real world there are courses that unpack what it means to be a Christian. These courses look at real world problems, challenges and dilemmas and try to find what the Christian should do or say in response.
- For new and not-yet Christians: For newcomers to the Christian faith, courses exploring the basics of faith offer a gentle introduction to Jesus and Christianity for those with little or no previous church connection.
- Christian concepts and character: Many Christians know all the words but not always what they mean. Study courses that explain the meaning and significance of Bible themes such as grace and salvation. Other guides lead group members toward more satisfying patterns of prayer, and help them find a more fulfilling spiritual life.
- Courses for special seasons: An excellent time to start a new small group is when there is a seasonal a focus on a key Christian festival or event. Study resources for Advent, Christmas and Easter provide a interesting course with a fixed time commitment allowing people to leave the group with dignity if they need to.
- Mission and church growth: DVD based resources drawing on the experiences of other churches in mission and growth offer a programme to train, inspire and unite the whole church in purpose through small group study. Small groups also provide an opportunity for the church leadership to gather feedback and ideas from their fellowship.
Quick Guide to Small Group Study Courses
What are they?
- Prepared and resources for small groups to follow a course of Bible study or application.
- Usually based on a DVD with course study books and leadership notes for 6 to 8 sessions.
- Easy to follow and felxible to suit the needs and interests of you church, group and members.
What will they do for me?
- Give you all you need to explore the Bible, faith, mission and life in greater depth.
- Help you form a closer community within and beyond your church's Sunday fellowship.
- Provide an opportunity to unite your fellowship around a common study theme of purpose.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
- Have you used one of the small group study courses available from Eden.co.uk? Would you like to help others make the best choice for their group?
- Give us your views, expectations and experience of the the course you used. Did all the groups in your church use the same course, what was the lasting impact?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
April 29th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison