Leading your church or small group through a Bible study can be a beautiful and fulfilling experience—when it’s the right study. But choosing which Bible study curriculum to use is sometimes more challenging than it seems! There are hundreds of resources on the market—so how do you know which Bible study is best for your group?
Here are five tips for choosing the right one.
1. Pray for clear direction.
Prayer is the most important step in choosing a Bible study curriculum, but it’s often the step we forget—even though God beckons us to call to him for anything, “and he will answer” (Jer. 33:3).
So before choosing a study, invite God into the journey, and ask him to show you topics or a book of the Bible that would be good for your group.
He may have already been nudging you in one direction. Is there a theme or word that keeps coming to mind? A topic that seems to pop up everywhere—in your devotions, conversations with others, or in a sermon? Take it before the Lord and ask him for guidance.
2. Consider your group.
The next step is to evaluate your group members. Are they mostly newer Christians? Veteran believers? Not-yet-believers who are coming because their friend invited them to check it out? The answers to these questions will help you weed out studies that might not be a good fit.
Here are a few other questions to help you narrow your focus for the study:
- How interactive is the group?
- What’s the group’s marital and work status?
- How much time do people have for homework?
- How long will the study last?
- Are group members looking primarily for fellowship or more in-depth knowledge of God’s Word?
If it’s a diverse group, you’ll want to pick something valuable for all. You might also consider where the group is spiritually now and where you hope to take them on the discipleship journey.
Here’s a tip: if this is your first time leading a small group Bible study, start with a short one. Even four weeks can be enough time to dig into something with your group while allowing you to “get your feet wet” and learn what you might want to look for in a small group curriculum next time.
3. Decide on the study’s focus.
The next step is to decide whether to use a topic-based or Scripture-driven study:
- A topical study will explore how to apply Scripture to daily life.
- A Scripture-driven study will challenge group members to dig deeper into their Bibles.
Both are useful and serve their purpose. Your answers to tip #2 above should help make this decision easier.
4. Consider how you’ll facilitate the study.
Even the most committed small group leaders may not have the time or ability to craft original material. Sometimes, with unpredictable work schedules and family time, it’s also difficult to spend hours preparing to teach someone else’s material. If that’s the case, you still have options!
Video- and book-driven studies can be as “profitable for teaching” (2 Tim. 3:16) as an original study. A few questions to ask before choosing:
- How much time will each lesson take?
- Is there an accompanying leader and participant guide?
- Does the study involve digging into Scripture and interacting with it in a way that leads to life transformation?
And that leads me to my last point.
5. Ensure the study is theologically sound.
Once you’ve narrowed down your requirements for a study, you’ll want to ensure you pick one that is doctrinally solid—that stays true to God’s Word and uses solid principles of interpretation.
If you aren’t familiar with the teacher, research them and the publisher to ensure they are credible and that their denominational beliefs align with yours—and Scripture. (Most publishers will list their statement of faith and editorial position on their website.) Ask around to see if friends, pastors, and other Bible study leaders you trust have any concerns.
Whatever Bible study you choose, make sure it’s Bible-centered and meets your group’s needs. Then, trust God for the work he will do in and among the people in your group.
Sean McDowell’s new eight-session Bible study series Is God A Human Invention? It’s based on his book of the same title and helps Christians know how to defend their faith amid post-modern and post-Christian worldviews.
In this video-driven series, he tackles questions Christians ask, like: “Are science and Christianity at odds?” and “Is there scientific evidence for God?” Participants will be equipped with philosophical and biblical arguments to strengthen their faith and spur enriched conversation within small groups and their church community.