At least four different ways exist, with pros and cons of each. Regardless of which method you prefer, the Personal Study Guide will get used in one of the other ways as well. If you encourage everyone to study before arriving, they will also refer to their guide during the group time. The designation is the primary way you expect it to be used.
- Before: You encourage group members to study the entire session prior to the group time. Group members may bring their guide with them to reference questions and notes they recorded. If taking this approach, the expectation is for group members to arrive prepared to carry on an informed discussion about the Bible text. The only problem with this approach is that when guests show up, they won’t be able to fully participate–which might make them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Some group members may also feel overwhelmed by this expectation as well.
- During: Everyone is expected to have a Personal Study Guide so they can work as a group, with the guide serving as a source and giving structure. Anyone present can participate, and it takes into account today’s busy schedules (you are only asking for one hour of time). At the same time, expectations are low, thoughtful discussion won’t always happen, and you may feel rushed since everything has to be done in an hour or less.
- After: Functioning like a conference, group members are introduced to the study as a group. The guide is used for reflection and deeper study once the group disperses. If all the verses are not covered, members can study them on their own after the group time. Guests can do this as long as you provide them a Personal Study Guide to carry home. Some will wonder why they should study further if the bulk of the content was presented during the group time.
- All of the Above: The leader expects most group members to at least review the verses and comments found in the Personal Study Guide. He or she will use the Personal Study Guide as a source in the group time and encourage further action after the group disperses. We want to be good stewards of the resources, using them as much as we can. The leader still should accommodate guests who had no way of preparing prior to the group time.
What strengths and weaknesses do you see with each approach? Comment below.