It may seem obvious that people can turn to the Table of Contents to figure out what their group is studying, but we can all use some help to make the task easier. If a group is studying the session at a time other than the suggested use date included on the Table of Contents, you can understand the potential confusion since the printed suggested date and the actual date are not the same. There are some practical things the leader can do to help people find their place in the Personal Study Guide regardless of which day is chosen to study a session.
- Create a communication plan. This plan needs to begin with whomever decides what is studied and when. If that is the leader of the group, then the burden of communicating falls on that person’s shoulders. If that is the over-all leader of the Bible study organization, then that person carries the responsibility. If the decision is made to follow the suggested use dates printed in the Table of Contents, then point people to that page in the Personal Study Guide. If following a different study date, then create your own documents as a part of the communication plan and figure out the best ways to get that in the hands of the people who need the information.
- Suggest placeholders. Give groups and individuals the option to determine what works best for them. Here are some of the more common approaches:
- Clipping off the top right corner – after a session is completed, use scissors to clip the top right corner of the pages used for that session. To find the place for the next session, one simply grabs the top right corner and they are there. (this is my favorite approach)
- Paper clips – put a paper clip on the first page of the session to be studied. Move the paper clip after each group time.
- Sticky notes – works just like the paper clips but without leaving a mark on the page. The sticky note may need to be replaced after a couple of weeks of use.
- Bookmarks – create bookmarks using a variety of online templates (search for “bookmark templates”). The bookmarks could include the dates of each session or the memory verses suggested for each session.
- Corner folds – Lead everyone in the group to fold the corner of the first page of the next session to be studied at the end of the group time. The fold serves as a placeholder.
- Make provisions for guests. Whatever method you decide to use, make sure to designate someone in the group to mark extra Personal Study Guides for use by guests and for inviting people not yet in your group. That way, they will know exactly where to turn, erasing one of their concerns as a guest.
What other ways could a group leader help those attending the group keep track of what the group is studying?
G. Dwayne McCrary is the team leader for the Adult and Young Adult Explore the Bible teams, leads a weekly Bible study group for his church, an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and carries 20-plus years of church staff experience.