27 November

New Studies in December 2023

Now that you are done with all your Christmas shopping for everyone else — you are done, right? — it’s time to think about how you want to start off your 2024 with God. Start off the year with a call to godly living in Margaret Feinberg’s James. In a world that cries out to be seen, Allison Allen-Bible teacher and co-host of the Back Porch Theology podcast with Lisa Harper-teaches that a life that doesn’t seek to be seen is a gift from God in her new video Bible study, Hidden. Keep reading to learn more about each of these and more!

Continue reading “New Studies in December 2023”
13 November

Hope in the Christmas Story of Jesus

I don’t know about you, but if you’re not careful, Thanksgiving comes, and the Christmas crush is on. And it does just that. It crushes us with the busyness and the stress and all that we’ve got to get done and check off our list. Then, all of a sudden, the whole thing is over, and we’ve missed the miracle that is Christmas.

And that’s why I want to help us rediscover the rhythm of Advent. Advent, at its core is about waiting. Specifically, it’s about waiting in expectation, and remembering that God comes through on his promises.

You might be in a part of the story right now where you can’t see how all the pieces are coming together, God’s working right now amid the waiting. While you’re waiting on God, God is working his plan in your life.

I love how in the Christmas story, Luke says that the shepherds were out in the field and suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest in on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Isn’t that interesting? Here they are in the middle of a normal life, taking care of their flock. And suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appears.

But when you think about it, this suddenly wasn’t all that sudden. We see a promise of a savior for the entire story of Scripture. Starting in Genesis 3 we see God is making a way for our sins to be forgiven.

Moses talked about a prophet who was going to come later. David talked about a king who would come. Isaiah talked about a suffering servant who would come and bear the sins of mankind. But then the Old Testament story ends and there are 400 years where there’s no recorded message, no recorded word from heaven, no prophet, nothing but silence from heaven.

I don’t know what season of waiting that you’re in right now, but 400 years is a long time to wait. And generation after generation after generation, there’s a promise, but they can’t see any progress. There’s a promise, but they can’t see how God is working. And I have a feeling that a lot of us today are in that very same place.

And what I want you to know is there’s a suddenly coming in your story, just like there was in the story of the birth of Jesus.

I don’t know what you’re waiting on today, I would guess someone is waiting on a loved one to decide to come back home. Someone is waiting on a pregnancy that they prayed for so long. Someone’s waiting for a job to come through. Or maybe someone is waiting on clarity. “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” You’re waiting on a doctor’s report or a test result or some other miracle that you’re hoping for and leaning towards in your life.

God comes through on His promises. And He’s going to come through on the promises that He’s made for you. These are not glib little slogans for the world, happy little slogans like, you know, God works while we wait.

God speaks into this moment in the in the backdrop in the framework of Christmas morning saying there’s going to be a suddenly in your story.

After centuries of nothing, Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God and human flesh cried in a manger to say that waiting is over and suddenly we can see what God has seen all along.

I believe that most of the time he’s looking at me and he’s like, “I already know how the story’s going to end. I already know how ultimately things are going to play out.”

The very end of our story is Revelation 21. When John sees a new heaven and a new earth coming down and sees that God is in the midst of it. John hears the voice of the One who sits on the throne, who says there can be no more tears and no more sorrow and no more pain and no more death. Because the old things have passed away and the new things have come.

This is the ultimate future we’re waiting for. But in your specific story today, God sees all of it and he knows in which frame the redemption is suddenly going to appear and He knows exactly how it’s all going to resolve for your good and for his glory. That doesn’t mean that everybody gets a bow at the end of their story. It just means that God’s working in every story for a purpose this greater than you and I can see and understand.

I would guess that you don’t like to wait. I know I don’t. We are raised waiting. Waiting for Christmas, for birthdays, for summer vacation. Waiting to go to high school, to leave high school, to grow up. And even as adults we still don’t want to wait 5 seconds for anything, but God puts us in situations often where his full plan is being unfolded in a way that we can’t totally see and comprehend.

So today, take hope in the Christmas story of Jesus. Be encouraged that God is working in your story, that God does have a bigger plan than you can see or understand today. Then even if you feel like you’re stuck in centuries of nothing, no word, no profit, no voice from God that you have enough to bank on today based on the very thing we’re celebrating in this season.

Know that God isn’t going to leave you hanging this time. Just like He didn’t leave humanity hanging on the day that Christ was born in the waiting. Today God is working.

So, what’s a good step that you and I can take this Advent season where we’re beginning this journey of waiting with expectation?

I think it’s just to pray that to God. “God, I can’t see it, but I still believe you’re working. I can’t understand how it’s all playing out right now, but I don’t have to see it all to believe that you still have a plan for me. And so today in the waiting, I choose to praise you. Today in the waiting, I choose to put my hope in you.

“And I know that if I trust and if I hope in you, I will not be disappointed. Because you always are working in the waiting.”

A season overflowing with anticipation, Christmas comes the same time each year with great hope and promise of a baby born long ago. But this season meant for joy is often consumed by busyness, pressure, mixed emotions, and is gone as quickly as it came.

What is it all for?

In this four session study, pastor Louie Giglio reminds us that it’s in the richness of Advent – a season of expectant waiting and preparation – that we find our answer. And it is throughout this waiting season that we prepare our hearts to greet December 25th with joy, peace, hope, and refreshed promise in our newborn King.

Learn more about Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio and click here.

07 November

How to Choose a Small Group Bible Study by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

If you have tried to find small group materials online, you have probably noticed that there is no shortage of materials. How do you wade into the sea of information to choose the topic and materials for your group?

1. Choosing Your Topic

People’s needs come first not only in determining your group’s purpose and design, but also in choosing your topic.

People come first. When choosing the topic, look first at people’s needs for growth. What do they struggle with, desire, or have interest in? People give up other things to make room for the groups they sign up for. Ask your pastor(s) about the needs they sense. Get feedback from members themselves. Talking with members new to small groups will help you understand their needs, while experience may give you perspective on what can help meet those needs.

Topics change as people change. You are not locked forever into a topic. If the attachments are good and people are getting something out of the group, the topics may change as lives change. My group has studied several different topics, depending on what was going on in our lives — relating to God, reading classic Christian mystics, marriage principles, and so forth. We have also had topic-less seasons in which we just wanted to be in each other’s presence and open up our lives to each other.

You will also want to figure out how long to stay on a topic. Some studies last four to six weeks, which is probably a minimum for effectiveness. Some, like Believe or The Story, go on for months. Make sure everyone is on the same page in this regard, because some people like to try lots of things to find out where they should land, while others are ready to commit to an in-depth, long-term study.

Broader may be better. The broader the topic, the more room people must delve into other aspects of their lives and integrate them into the group meeting. For example, topics on spiritual and personal growth would tend to invite anything a person deals with, more than parenting topics would. If, however, the specific topic is where the need is, defer to that.

Your relationship to the content. Determine whether the topic is a good fit for you and where you are as a leader. Has the topic touched your life, and have you seen God’s grace change you in that area? Is it still a new and raw topic, one you may not yet be ready to facilitate? Is it one you just can’t feel any interest or passion about? The best fits are those the facilitator has enough experience with to have gained some wisdom and victory in the process.

2. Selecting Materials

The following seven guidelines will help you select appropriate material to meet your group’s needs.

Biblical and sane. Technically, these terms are redundant because God is the author of sanity. However, just because study materials include Bible verses does not mean they are conveying God’s meaning. Cults have been built on the strategy of using Scripture the wrong way. So check out the materials yourself and have experienced people look them over, too.

Recommended. Find people who have successfully led groups for a long time and ask them about materials. Their experiences will have taught them a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

Created by those in the know. Look at the credentials of the publisher and authors of the materials. If the study guides involve process and group interaction, what is their training in group dynamics? If it is biblical content, are they qualified in their training and experience? Some people may not have much formal training, but the school of experience and a good track record have qualified them. Others may have both.

Has substance. It is important that the material go beyond the obvious solution of “do what you’re supposed to do.” Good and growing groups do more than just read the Ten Commandments and stop. Choose substantive study guides that deal with the underlying causes, motives, injuries, values, misunderstandings, sins, failures, and weaknesses that impede growth. Look for materials that offer real hope and solutions.

Treats members as adults. Make sure the study materials take positions where the Bible takes positions—as on divorce or ethics—yet leave the same room and freedom that the Bible leaves for people to make choices. For example, you may choose several ways of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to your teen: tone of voice, environment and setting, the topics you bring up. Avoid materials that instruct you to use their exact words or rigid rules to convey something to your kid.

Practical. Concepts and principles need to be easily translated into application. Many study materials have homework or thought questions. These help to put flesh on the skeleton ideas being taught.

Fitting for the group nature. The type of people in your group may help you decide on materials. Often, if a group settles into itself over time, the members will want to venture out beyond formal group study guides. They may want to go over a topic or book they like and will undertake creating the study structure themselves. This great exercise in ownership can really motivate group members. Pray and keep an open mind as you search out topics and materials. It is an exciting part of the process.

Leading a small group Bible study is important to people’s spiritual growth but doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Choosing a study can be made simpler with the above tips.

The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi Bible Study Guide plus Streaming Video: Come to the Land Where It All Began

A great Bible study to consider for your group, whether it is a new group or a more established one, is The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi Jason Sobel. In this six-session video Bible study (now with video streaming code included!), join Kathie Lee as she visits sites in Israel that have impacted her faith and understanding of Scripture. As she shares her story, Rabbi Jason—a messianic Jewish rabbi—provides fascinating background details that make the story of the New Testament come alive.

As Kathie Lee and Rabbi Jason reveal in this study, Jesus (the Rock) came into this world and walked the lands of Israel (the Road) to show us the way to God. And when we are introduced to the mysteries of God’s Word (the Rabbi) and understand it in the context in which it was written, radical transformation begins to renew our hearts and minds.

Learn more about The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi here.

03 November

Top 4 Bible Studies for Christmas

If you’re not careful, Thanksgiving comes, and the Christmas crush is on. And it does just that. It crushes us with the busyness and the stress and all that we’ve got to get done and check off our list. Then, all of a sudden, the whole thing is over, and we’ve missed the miracle that is Christmas. 

And that’s why it’s important to slow down and consider the rhythm of the Advent and Christmas season. Advent, at its core is about waiting. Specifically, it’s about waiting in expectation, and remembering that God comes through on his promises.  

You might be in a part of the story right now where you can’t see how all the pieces are coming together, God’s working right now amid the waiting. While you’re waiting on God, God is working his plan in your life.

Here are the Top 4 studies from trusted teachers on the waiting season of Advent.

1. Waiting Here for You: An Advent Journey of Hope – Louie Giglio

Waiting Here for You Bible Study Guide plus Streaming Video: An Advent Journey of Hope

A season overflowing with anticipation, Christmas comes the same time each year with great hope and promise of a baby born long ago. But this season meant for joy is often consumed by busyness, pressure, mixed emotions, and is gone as quickly as it came.

What is it all for?

In this four session study, pastor Louie Giglio reminds us that it’s in the richness of Advent – a season of expectant waiting and preparation – that we find our answer. And it is throughout this waiting season that we prepare our hearts to greet December 25th with joy, peace, hope, and refreshed promise in our newborn King.

Here’s Louie talking about the series:

For more on Waiting Here for You and Louie Giglio, click here.

2. Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born, Hope is Here – Max Lucado

Because of Bethlehem Bible Study Guide: Love is Born, Hope is Here

No one expected the Messiah to come the way he did. Yet the way he came was every bit as important as the coming itself. The manger is the message.

Because of Bethlehem, God knows what it’s like to be human. Because of Bethlehem, when we talk to him about tough times, he understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, we no longer have marks on our record…just grace.

For some, Christmas is a time of excitement, celebration, and family, while for others it is a time of loneliness, grief, and loss. No matter what this season holds for you, the promise of Christmas will bring you a lifetime of hope.

Max Lucado guides you through the Advent season:

For more on Because of Bethlehem from Max Lucado, click here

3. The Case for Christmas: Evidence for the Identity of Jesus – Lee Strobel

The Case for Christmas Bible Study Guide: Evidence for the Identity of Jesus

During his faith journey, Lee Strobel investigated the real meaning behind all those nativity scenes he saw outside of churches. In this four-week study, Lee reveals what he discovered from consulting experts on the Bible, archaeology, and messianic prophecy as he sought to separate the truth from the tradition.

Regardless of whether the center of your Christmas decorations is the nativity set on your mantle or the presents under the tree, The Case for Christmas study invites you to look beyond the familiar traditions of the season, challenge you to examine the evidence for yourself, and consider why Christmas really matters and why it’s still so relevant today.

Watch a clip from the first session:

For more on The Case Christmas by Lee Strobel, click here

4. Who Needs Christmas – Andy Stanley

Who Needs Christmas Bible Study Guide

Rediscover the improbable story of Christmas.

Four thousand years ago, God promised he would do something through the bloodline of Abraham. Two thousand years later, Jesus was born. And two thousand years after that, we’re still talking about it.


The story of Jesus’ birth was not what anyone expected: a baby . . . born in the armpit of the Mediterranean . . . to save us from sins that no one thought we needed saving from.

This Christmas season, join Andy Stanley as he unpacks why the improbability of the Christmas story is what makes it so believable. No one could have or would have made it up.

Watch the trailer for Who Needs Christmas:

For more on Who Needs Christmas by Andy Stanley, click here

28 October

Get to Know…Chris Caine

Christine is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books and studies and you can tune into her weekly podcast or television program to be encouraged with the hope of Jesus wherever you are. Christine holds a Master’s Degree in Evangelism and Leadership from Wheaton College. Her new Bible study, Don’t Look Back is now available!

Click here to learn more!

Get to know Chris in 10 questions! Captured while filming her Bible study, Don’t Look Back, Chris answers the “hard-hitting” questions about herself.

Don't Look Back Bible Study Guide plus Streaming Video: Getting Unstuck and Moving Forward with Passion and Purpose

With a rallying cry to “remember Lot’s wife,” Bible teacher Christine Caine motivates us to stop looking back, to let go, and to move forward into what God promises for our lives. With the strategies Christine shares, this study will equip you to:

  • stop looking back and start looking to Jesus  
  • invite Jesus to help you let go of whatever is holding you back
  • step into God’s plans, purposes, and promises

Remembering Lot’s wife encourages us to trust Jesus with our future and to boldly follow him into the opportunities and plans we simply don’t yet see.

Christine Caine is a speaker, activist, and bestselling author. She and her husband, Nick, founded the A21 Campaign, an anti–human trafficking organization. They also founded Propel Women, an initiative that is dedicated to coming alongside women all over the globe to activate their God-given purpose. You can tune into Christine’s weekly podcast, Equip & Empower, or her TBN television program to be encouraged with the hope of Jesus wherever you are. To learn more about Christine, visit www.christinecaine.com.

24 October

New Studies in October 2023

We’re closing in on the end of 2023 and have just what you need, be it a great gift (30 Days with Jesus), an Advent study (Waiting Here for You), a Jesus Bible study covering the bulk of the Old Testament (People), or a Bible study on love and priorities (The Love Everybody Wants). Keep reading to learn more about each of these!

Lysa TerKeurst and Dr. Joel Muddamalle team up in 30 Days with Jesus: Experiencing His Presence throughout the Old and New Testaments to help you:

  • Reframe your questions and doubts as opportunities to look for Jesus with greater intentionality throughout your day. 
  • Make connections between the Old and New Testaments so you can understand the Bible as one complete story. 
  • Overcome dread or confusion toward studying Scripture as you receive six weeks of guided readings, reflection questions, and relevant takeaways.

Watch the 30 Days with Jesus promo from Lysa and Joel →

Christmas. It comes the same time every year. We have plenty of time to anticipate it. Or, in some cases, dread it. And, before we know it, it’s gone as quickly as it came, leaving us wondering, What’s it all for? Is there really hope for today in the story of a baby born so long ago?

The story of Christmas is one of waiting. It is a story of how the people of Israel waited years and years for the promised Messiah to arrive. 

But the story of Christmas is also one that reveals how God works during seasons of waiting—times in which he is developing us to carry out his plans in our lives.

In Waiting Here for Youpastor Louie Giglio will lead you through the season of Advent and show how your waiting is never wasted when you are waiting on God.

Watch the promo for Waiting Here For You →

Everyone loves love . . . but whose love are we really seeking? We want to be seen, known, and loved. We want to be chosen. Have you ever asked yourself, by whom? The love we are looking for is found in God.

The Love Everybody Wants Bible study is a reality check and practical approach to receiving, offering, and sharing the love we long for. There is a way to experience love in a culture obsessed with shallow ideas of romance and false idealistic relationships. There is a better way. A deeper way. A way forward that sets our hearts in order and helps us learn how to be loved, how to love others well, and how to honor God through it all.

Watch the promo for The Love Everybody Wants →

Not only is your story woven into God’s larger story, but you are also part of the tribe whom God is calling to himself. In the six lessons of People, you will explore how the nation of Israel was impacted by the unfolding drama of their cycle of revolt against God, and why the Lord commissioned a chosen people who would be a witness on earth of his faithfulness. Time and time again, God’s people turned their backs on him, but God was always quick to show mercy when they repented and called out to him. The cycle we see again and again throughout the Old Testament isn’t just about the Israelites; it’s also about us. We are all participants in the pattern of revolt, repentance, and restoration.

People, the third in the Jesus Bible study series, will help you see how God works out his glorious plans, despite our defiance, to bring his promises to fruition, and you will also grasp that no matter how many times you turn away, God seeks you out to bring you

Look inside the first lesson of People here →

Be sure to sign-up for the Online Bible Study for Waiting Here for You hosted by FaithGateway, starting December 4, 2023. It’s free to sign-up and you’ll get access to all of Louie’s teaching videos and join a community walking through the study. JOIN TODAY!

17 October

7 Things that Happen in a Good Small Group by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

One truth that has emerged from small groups is that there is no one right way to do small groups. Just as there are many mansions in God’s house, so there are many different needs in God’s body, the church, and today we are much more able to find a group somewhere that is designed to meet those needs.
God has placed many different gifts in his people to meet those needs. Indeed, we are a Body. In his grand design we exercise those gifts with each other and help each other grow. The small group is one of the best ways for this to happen. So it is no surprise that churches desire to connect people in small groups.
Also, the local church has varying degrees of commitment to a small group program. For some, it is an add-on program, an option, or a part of what they offer. For others, the groups are integrated with the church’s mission and designed to deepen the life past what happens in a weekly service. For still others, the small group is not a part of what they do, it is what they do.
But no matter what the style, topic, or emphasis, there are specific tasks that effective small groups perform to produce the best growth. Understanding these tasks will help you as the leader to choose the activities and attitudes that promote the most growth during the group time.

1. A Second Family

An important aspect of any growth-producing group is that it provides a context for members to reexperience whatever they missed in life the first time around. Groups are like a second family for people. Whatever needs their original families or environments did not provide, or whatever they provided that the person did not need, the group restores and repairs. It is a second chance. Like little children, members should come with immaturities and needs, and the group helps them move to the next stage. Groups of people working like that repairing family are a large part of God’s process of maturing us: “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6).

2. Connection

Groups connect. That is, they bring people together on a personal and heart-based level. Connection is the basis of any good work in a group. For a few minutes every week or so, members receive the experience of being attached, loved, and in relationship with likeminded people. Connection, far more than the information dispensed, keeps people coming to group. When people feel attached, they become much more invested in the process, and their hearts become more open to God, growth, and each other. As Paul entreated his friends, “As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:13).

3. Discipline and Structure

You will always see an element of discipline and structure in a good group. Though the group is based on a foundation of grace and acceptance, it also requires order and responsibility through clear expectations about members’ attendance, involvement, and participation. Good groups use discipline and structure to protect the time, the process, and the members from disruption. They understand that safety only comes when things are somewhat predictable and when people know that out-of-control behavior, for example, will be confronted and addressed. This is not about being mean, harsh, or punitive. It is about helpgin the group function as it should.

4. Prayer

Prayer can be one of the small group’s most powerful tools for growth. God designed prayer as a way for people to connect with him for all the blessings of life. When we are present in groups in his name, Jesus is there, too: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Coming together for prayer in small groups connects people with God and each other. Corporate prayer brings people together in their faith and love for God and in their dependence on him and each other. It draws us close, vertically, and horizontally.

5. Forgiveness

Healthy groups powerfully administer grace and forgiveness, the foundation from which all growth and healing stems. Good groups are based on, and are full of, grace and forgiveness. There really can be no lasting life change without these ingredients. Grace speaks to our weakness and inability, forgiveness to our many failures. Weakness, inability, and failure are the main reasons we need group, so that we may be strengthened in many areas of life. Without grace and forgiveness, the truth cannot come out. Make grace and forgiveness evident in every meeting. As we receive these gifts, so should we administer them to one another.

6. Support and Strengthening

Support and strengthening indicate that a group is doing the right things. When members become weak or discouraged, groups can help them become stronger and better able to handle life. Groups take our weakness and transform it into strength. People who can admit their weakness can also receive the strength the group offers, while those who must stay strong miss this blessing: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). As people begin to open up in group—whether about faith, relationship struggle, or a personal battle—they bring up things they simply don’t have the strength or courage to tackle, handle, or even face. These are the substance of group work, as they require group intervention and strengthening.

7. Discipleship

The term disciple means pupil or learner. In the Old Testament it also refers to one who is accustomed to something. These definitions describe well a significant part of what groups do in their members’ lives. That is, groups help individuals become learners of God’s ways by getting them accustomed, or acclimated, to righteous ways of living and relating. Groups model and teach one another by word and by experience that the things important to God work best for us. They help members experience the freedom that comes with being honest and taking ownership over their lives. Discipleship happens because the great laws are not only true, but work in profound ways in the group and in a member’s life.

A great Bible study to consider for your group that helps in benefit 7 above, is Rick Warren’s Created to Dream. In this 6-session video Bible Study, Rick Warren reveals how God uses six phases to develop your spiritual maturity while fulfilling the dreams God gives you. A great dream is a statement of faith. Whether you dream of creating something beautiful or accomplishing something incredible, your dream is the first step God uses to develop your spiritual maturity and change your life. The Bible is full of stories of people whose God-given dreams became reality—but to get there, they had to take a journey of faith.

Learn more about Created to Dream here.

13 October

Get to Know…Madison Prewett Troutt

Madison Prewett Troutt, bestselling author of Made for This Moment, is a speaker and social media influencer best known as a finalist on the reality television show, The Bachelor. Madi has a degree in communications from Auburn University and a certificate in ministry in pastoral leadership through Highlands College. Her new Bible study, The Love Everybody Wants is now available!

Click here to learn more!

Get to know Madi in 10 questions! Captured while filming her new Bible study, The Love Everybody Wants, Madi answers the “hard-hitting” questions about herself.

In this four-session video Bible study, Madison Prewett Troutt breaks down the answer to your questions about love found in Jesus’ great commandment in Matthew 22. You’ll learn the simple truth that you must build your relationship with God first and that loving yourself and loving others well comes after. If you’re tired of searching for love and coming up short, you’re invited to join Madi in this study as she helps you discover the love you want is already yours—you just need to change whose love you’re chasing.

Madison Prewett Troutt earned her bachelor of science in communication from Auburn University and her certificate in ministry in pastoral leadership through Highlands College. She went on to serve on the creative team and help lead the college ministry for her church.

Madison was a finalist on season 24 of ABC’s The Bachelor. An Alabama native, Madison has been involved in many outreach programs, including Adullam House, Sozo Children, Orphanage Emmanuel, Haddie’s Home, BigHouse Foundation, and The Dream Center.

05 September

5 Tips for Leading Small Groups by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

To be a good facilitator you need to do things that are in themselves very simple but take time to learn. It is a big temptation for a leader just to start teaching or explaining, and sometimes that is a good thing to do. But if the group is merely a school class, not much bonding and healing will occur. Be aware that some of the best things in life are learned on a walk as much as in reading a book. You can hear a lecture on trees, or you can go experience them. Life is about both. You can read about divorce recovery, or you can experience recovery. The process group leader helps the members do both.

1. Notice and Share What You Observe

Notice what is going on in the group, and from time-to-time share what you see. Very simple, very powerful. Here are examples of how these observations may work in your group:

  • “I notice that we have drifted away from the sadness. What happened?”
  • “I notice that it seems a little sluggish in here tonight. Why do you think that is?”
  • “It seems like we were really connecting, and things changed. Why is that?”
  • You might aim a well-timed, helpful process statement to an individual. “Joe, I notice that when you talked about that, you seemed to really be feeling some things. Can you tell us what they are?”
  • Notice when the group is stuck and address the situation. “It feels dead in here for the past few weeks. Does anyone else notice that?” If you do not address it, people might drop out. If you address it, the group may reinvent itself.

2. Be the Guardian of the Process

Do something about people who interrupt, dominate, or keep process from occurring. Different levels of intervention may be appropriate, depending on the particulars, but do something! You cannot allow a person to kill the group process. If the group is not oriented toward going deep on feedback, just interrupt the interrupter or over-spiritualizer. Say, “Hold on, Joe. I want to hear more from Susie.” The group will feel protected by you. Joe will get the message, and the process will be saved.

3. Hold Members to Their Covenant

In a deeper group orientation, where members have covenanted to receive feedback, the process goes a step farther. After the initial exchange, suggested above, say to Joe, “Joe, I notice that when people talk about feelings, you often interrupt and give a Bible verse. Are you aware that you do that?” Then, if the group operates on an even deeper level, you might say, “What do some of you experience when Joe does that?” Deepest of all, when Joe interrupts, say, “Did anyone just notice what happened?” Then the group will guard the process and help Joe.

Remember, what is a suitable intervention level depends on what the group has agreed to do with each other and depends on the facilitator’s skill level. It’s up to you as facilitator to make sure these structures remain intact. Otherwise, deep process statements can turn into chaos or discord. No matter what intervention level you need in order to guard the process, guard it. Even if it just means interrupting the interrupter and saying, “Hold on. Susie was talking.”

4. Ask Open-ended Questions

Remember that process orientation does not have to be deep or threatening. To process is to experience and to do things that further the experience. Asking open-ended questions often furthers the process:

  • “What are some of your responses to the passage we just read?”
  • “What is going on with some of you this week?”
  • “Can you tell us more about that?”
  • “Does anyone have anything they would like to share or to add?”
  • “What does this bring up for you?”
  • “Where do you have difficulty applying what we just read or talked about?”

Avoid questions that do not further discovery or process, such as questions with yes or no or factual answers. Process is not a geometry class where there is a right answer. It is a walk in the park. “What stands out for you?” and “What do you see?” are questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer.

5. Ask for Group Feedback

Ask the members from time to time how they think the process is going. “What is getting us there? What is keeping us from there?” Even more powerful at times is to see whether they can notice and describe the process. “How would some of you describe what we have been doing, what the process is? What has that been like? How would you want it to be different?” Certainly, teaching and information are important to your group purpose and to life. But it’s just as important to experience that truth, particularly in relational contexts like a group. Your job as a facilitator is not to “be the experience,” but to facilitate it. You are the shepherd of the experience. Then the group will take on a life of its own, growing in richer ways than it ever could simply through lectures.

Leading a small group Bible study is important to people’s spiritual growth but doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Following the above tips will help your group take the next step in your journey of faith.

Most studies from HarperChristian Resources include a Leader’s Guide in the back of the study guide. These guides provide help as you prepare for each session, assistance in structuring your discussion time, and further guide you to understand different group dynamics.

A great Bible study to consider for your group, whether it is a new group or a more established one, is Brant Hansen’s Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. In the six-session of this study, Brant teaches that giving up our right to be offended is one of the most freeing, healthy, relaxing, refreshing, stress-relieving, and encouraging things we can do. It allows us to recognize that people are broken and stop being scandalized by their actions. It enables us to accept people and stop judging them. It creates a way for us to not just love others but to actually like them.

Learn more about Unoffendable here.

14 June

How to Study the Bible by Max Lucado

The Bible is a peculiar book. Words crafted in another language. Deeds done in a distant era. Events recorded in a far- off land. Counsel offered to a foreign people. It is a peculiar book.

It’s surprising that anyone reads it. It’s too old. Some of its writings date back 5,000 years. It’s too bizarre. The book speaks of incredible floods, fires, earthquakes, and people with supernatural abilities. It’s too radical. The Bible calls for undying devotion to a carpenter who called himself God’s Son.

Logic says this book shouldn’t survive. Too old, too bizarre, too radical.

The Bible has been banned, burned, scoffed, and ridiculed. Scholars have mocked it as foolish. Kings have branded it as illegal. A thousand times over the grave has been dug and the dirge has begun, but somehow the Bible never stays in the grave. Not only has it survived, but it has also thrived. It is the single most popular book in all of history. It has been the bestselling book in the world for years!

There is no way on earth to explain it. Which perhaps is the only explanation. For the Bible’s durability is not found on earth but in heaven. The millions who have tested its claims and claimed its promises know there is but one answer: the Bible is God’s book and God’s voice.

As you read it, you would be wise to give some thought to two questions: What is the purpose of the Bible? and How do I study the Bible? Time spent reflecting on these two issues will greatly enhance your Bible study.

What is the purpose of the Bible?

Let the Bible itself answer that question: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

The purpose of the Bible? Salvation. God’s highest passion is to get his children home. His book, the Bible, describes his plan of salvation. The purpose of the Bible is to proclaim God’s plan and passion to save his children.

This is the reason why this book has endured through the centuries. It dares to tackle the toughest questions about life: Where do I go after I die? Is there a God? What do I do with my fears? The Bible is the treasure map that leads to God’s highest treasure— eternal life.

But how do you study the Bible? Countless copies of Scripture sit unread on bookshelves and nightstands simply because people don’t know how to read it. What can you do to make the Bible real in your life?

The clearest answer is found in the words of Jesus: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

The first step in understanding the Bible is asking God to help you. You should read it prayerfully. If anyone understands God’s Word, it is because of God and not the reader.

“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

John 14:26

Before reading the Bible, pray and invite God to speak to you. Don’t go to Scripture looking for your idea but go searching for his. Not only should you read the Bible prayerfully, but you should also read it carefully. “Seek and you will find” is the pledge. The Bible is not a newspaper to be skimmed but rather a mine to be quarried.

If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Proverbs 2:4–5

Any worthy find requires effort. The Bible is no exception. To understand the Bible, you don’t have to be brilliant, but you must be willing to roll up your sleeves and search.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.

2 Timothy 2:15

Here’s a practical point. Study the Bible a bit at a time. Hunger is not satisfied by eating twenty- one meals in one sitting once a week. The body needs a steady diet to remain strong. So does the soul. When God sent food to his people in the wilderness, he didn’t provide loaves already made. Instead, he sent them manna in the shape of “thin flakes like frost on the ground” (Exodus 16:14).

God gave manna in limited portions.

God sends spiritual food the same way. He opens the heavens with just enough nutrients for today’s hunger. He provides “a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there” (Isaiah 28:10).

Don’t be discouraged if your reading reaps a small harvest. Some days a lesser portion is all that is needed. What is important is to search every day for that day’s message. A steady diet of God’s Word over a lifetime builds a healthy soul and mind.

It’s much like the little girl who returned from her first day at school feeling a bit dejected. Her mom asked, “Did you learn anything?” “Apparently not enough,” the girl responded. “I have to go back tomorrow, and the next day, and the next . . .”

Such is the case with learning. And such is the case with Bible study. Understanding comes little by little over a lifetime. There is a third step in understanding the Bible. After the asking and seeking comes the knocking. After you ask and search, “knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

To knock is to stand at God’s door. To make yourself available. To climb the steps, cross the porch, stand at the doorway, and volunteer. Knocking goes beyond the realm of thinking and into the realm of acting.

To knock is to ask, What can I do? How can I obey? Where can I go? It’s one thing to know what to do. It’s another to do it. But for those who do it— those who choose to obey— a special reward awaits them.

“Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it— not forgetting what they have heard but doing it— they will be blessed in what they do.”

James 1:25

What a promise. Blessings come to those who do what they read in God’s Word! It’s the same with medicine. If you only read the label but ignore the pills, it won’t help. It’s the same with food. If you only read the recipe but never cook, you won’t be fed. And it’s the same with the Bible. If you only read the words but never obey, you’ll never know the joy God has promised.

Ask. Search. Knock. Simple, isn’t it? So why don’t you give it a try? If you do, you’ll see why the Bible is the most remarkable book in history.

Max has many different Bible studies and one that would be a great next study is his 40 Days through the Book of Romans study. Throughout the study, you’ll explore the book of Romans with Max to gain a deeper understanding of its context and content, focusing on central truths of the book. The six-session video study includes a reading plan for you to read the whole book of Romans in 40 days and has personal devotions for each day.

Jump into this user-friendly Bible study today!