SmallGroups.com has just released a thought-provoking free e-book on The State of the Small Group Movement. The booklet takes a hard look at what’s working in small groups and what isn’t. Four authors are fairly critical of the movement, which seems to have delivered less than it promised over the years.
For example, Alan Danielson says, “The reason groups aren’t working in their church is because their approach to small groups doesn’t match the heartbeat of the church’s senior decision-makers.” I’ve certainly seen this in my own ministry. If senior staff or the board have a different vision, even if they aren’t small group experts, church-based groups won’t get off the ground.
Mick Mack interviewed small group veterans Lyman Coleman and Randall Neighbor about their experiences at the beginning of the small group movement, and what they see happening now. Neighbor says, “In the early days, the small-group movement was primarily an underground movement.” Coleman portrays himself as a maverick in the Christian-education world of the 1960s.”
Amy Jackson interviewed leaders at Quest Church, a multi-ethnic church in Seattle, dedicated to multi-ethnic small groups and racial reconciliation. Their leaders say that reconciliation has to get down to the level of relationship.
Do download the e-book. It will give you much food for thought about your small groups.
We hear a lot about sin these days. Especially those sins. You know. The sexual ones. It seems that it’s easy to point fingers and wag tongues about them. To create the us and them divisions that unfortunately, Christians are so known for. Now I’m not saying that those sins aren’t wrong. They most definitely are.
But before we cast the first stone, let’s make sure that we aren’t guilty of equally egregious sins. That’s right. God doesn’t classify sin into greater and lesser. To him, sin is sin.
What are some of the sins we often ignore in ourselves and our friends? Nine are discussed in 9 Sins the Church Is Okay With. This article would make a great discussion in your small group. What others can you add? I can think of a bunch of them. Maybe once we remove the log in our own eyes, we will be a bit more gracious to our friends engaged in those sins.
Sometimes I take myself a little too seriously. Sometimes I get offended a little to easily. Sometimes I judge a little too quickly. But admit it. You do too. We all need to appropriate a little grace.
Grin with Grace is a 12-week women’s bible study on grace by Kathy Carlton Willis. She has organized each study into five sections:
- Grin with Grace contains real-life stories and observations. You’ll laugh at the humorous confessions and wacky insights, and relate to Kathy’s transparent honesty. Be inspired to see grace in your everyday life.
- Grow with Grace features a grace word study. Kathy examines Bible verses and personalizes the meaning to your situation. Workbook prompts allows you to write down your thoughts as you read along.
- Go with Grace offers life application. Pick one action step and make it work for you, or pick all of them—but do something to live out your grace-walk.
- Give with Grace advances life application further, equipping you to become an instrument of God’s grace to others. You’ll be inspired to take what you’ve learned and give it away to others. This is when faith becomes ministry—when your focus expands to see the needs of others.
- Your Grin with Grace Challenge describes a grace-challenging scenario to give you an opportunity to exercise your newfound grace. It allows for speculation and judgment calls, to prepare you for the what-ifs that happen in life.
This is the first is the Grin With…. series published by AMG. It’s billed as a study for women on the run, and I would agree. While the stories and examples are cute and charming, sometimes even compelling, they are fairly light for the type of study I like to lead. The questions are primarily objective and interpretive. They don’t require much digging, and in fact, the study could be done without opening your bible. The application questions are also somewhat light. The Grace Challenge at the end of the chapter is a hypothetical “what if,” rather than allowing the reader to challenge herself with her own real life issues. However, I do think that in a group with a good leader, this study could lead to some important growth and change. And we could all use a little grace in our lives.
March 31, 2015 | Comments Off on A Commentary on Exodus
I love the Old Testament. I love Exodus. So I was excited when I was asked to review Commentary on Exodus, A (Kregel Exegetical Library) by Duane A. Garrett. This massive tome is absolutely full of useful information.
I love the history section. Garrett devotes a substantial amount of ink to the history and culture of ancient Egypt, lending a depth of background to the story of the Exodus.
The commentary section, which covers most of the book, is comprehensive. It offers Hebrew for some words, but not for every word. This makes it useful to both lay readers and those with a knowledge of Hebrew. Where the Hebrew is critical, he devotes several pages. For example, he offers a lengthy excursus on the origin and meaning of YHWH, examining every possible nuance of והיה and how it relates to I AM (אהיה). Of course, he offers extensive footnotes. One feature I appreciate is that all of the commentary is included in one section rather than the divided approach used by many academic commentaries. Every verse is given a fresh translation with copious explanatory notes, and particular attention is given to the poetry of Exodus, which the author demonstrates to be more abundant than previously believed.
This is an excellent commentary for small group leaders. It will equip you for leading a study on Exodus or Moses.
On February 12, Why Didn’t You Warn Me? will be eight years old! Can you believe it? It’s been fun providing you with small group information and resources, even though I’m not terribly regular with my posts.
To celebrate our birthday, I’m giving away a copy of my book, Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members. If you’d like to win a copy, simply leave a comment below. At midnight on Saturday, February 14, I’ll draw a name and notify the winner. I hope it’s you!
What does God have in mind for Israel? That’s a question many are asking today. We get a lot of political opinions, and more than a few “religious” opinions. But do we have an answer? Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser suggest that we can know from Scripture and history what God’s plans for Israel are. The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel: Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God, edited by Bock and Glaser, is an excellent and a weighty book on the subject. Eighteen scholars have weighed in with chapters covering every aspect of Scripture plus a lot of history and theology.
For students of theology or current events, this is a fascinating read. The contributors take a scholarly approach, aptly documenting their opinions, which of course, maintain that God will fulfill all of his promises to the people of Israel and that the land is a critical part of that covenant. Uniquely, the book is supplemented by QR codes at the end of each chapter providing a video of the conference proceedings from which the book emerged and an interview with the author of the chapter. The conference proceedings are essentially the chapter, but the interviews give good insights into the different authors.
Of course I love the depth of the study here. I think it would be a little deep for your average small group, but as a leader, various chapters will inform our studies of any book of the Bible, as they relate to both ancient and present day Israel.
December 6, 2014 | Comments Off on Bucking the Video Bible Study Trend
Video Bible studies have become popular among many small groups. These include anything from the study’s author teaching the full lesson, to a short devotional type commentary from the author, to a local pastor creating a video to accompany his or her church’s small groups. Leaders and small-group pastors seem to love these, and with good reason. They exponentially reduce the leader’s prep time and uncertainty. Plus, they add authority to the teaching and uniformity to a church’s small-group strategy when groups are doing the same video Bible study.
I’ve just published an article discussing why I believe the disadvantages of these studies outweigh their benefits. I welcome your comments and discussion.
August 7, 2014 | Comments Off on Check out the New SmallGroups.com
Christianity Today has totally redesigned the SmallGroups.com website. Check it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you aren’t familiar with SmallGroups.com, it is the premiere site for small group leaders and pastors. They boast thousands of articles and Bible studies.
According to managing editor Amy Jackson, “Our goal was to make it easier to navigate, and it’s now organized around the three main parts of leading a healthy small-group ministry:
Build your ministry—communicating about groups, organizing the ministry, and more
Train your leaders—developing leaders through discipleship and skills training including coaching tips, training tools, assessments, and more
Lead your group—leading healthy, growing small groups with great resources for starting strong, troubleshooting, and ending well
Now it’s easy to know where to look for the information you need.
I’m also excited about our navigation across the top in these three categories. In each category, you can easily see the steps to healthy ministry across the top of the page. For instance, under Lead (the section for those leading groups) we have:
Choose a Study
We also have a new section in all three categories called Be a Healthy Leader.
Another exciting feature is our Explore New Ideas category. This section will include articles about what’s happening in the small-group movement. Right now we’re featuring several new articles about group models. There will be lots of new content in this section in the near future.”
So check it out and let me know what you think.
Good news! I’ve permanently reduced the price for my book, Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members to $5.99 when you order through Mighty Oak Ministries. That’s a full $3.00 off the retail price.
So as you prepare for your small groups in the fall, consider ordering one or more copies of this excellent resource for leaders. If you are interested in more than ten copies, contact me for even lower prices.
May 31, 2014 | Comments Off on A Commentary on Judges and Ruth | Excellent, but Not for the Faint at Heart
If you’re looking for a comprehensive commentary on Judges and Ruth, this is it. Written by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., department chair and professor of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and senior Old Testament editor for the New English Translation, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library) is an excellent resource for academics, pastors, or serious lay Bible study leaders.
Since I prefer to do in depth work when I have time, I appreciate a commentary that includes both strong exegetical and homiletical elements. Chisholm’s work is at the same time readable and scholarly. He takes a historical-literary-theological approach, as one might expect from a Dallas professor. He also deals thoroughly with introductory matters and interacts with other commentaries and publications, generally explaining where and why he differs with them. His footnotes and references are excellent. Being a visual learner, I appreciated his Chronological Framework of Judges.
Each chapter in Judges begins with his unique translation and narrative structure and ends with message, application, and homiletical trajectories. While he doesn’t translate Ruth, he does offer passage by passage discussion and message and application, including thematic emphases, exegetical idea, theological principles and idea, and homiletical trajectories and preaching ideas. If you’re short on time as you prep for your bible study, this is where to turn.
Through his work, Chisholm attempts to assist the reader answer three important questions: (1) What did the text mean in its ancient Israelite context? (2) What theological principles emerge from or are illustrated by a thematic analysis of the text? (3) How is the message of the text relevant to the church? This makes it useful for those who are teaching from it.
I highly recommend this commentary, and hope it will encourage more leaders to teach from the Old Testament, and especially from these often ignored or avoided books. (Have you noticed I love Old Testament Resources?)