It may seem simple to put together a plan for studying all the Bible books but there is more to it than meets the eye. As we began to move toward the expansion of Explore the Bible, one of the first steps was to develop a study plan that could be used by all age-groups.
The Fall 2014 quarter kicks off the last year of an 8-year plan and the first year of a new 9-year plan for Explore the Bible. This new plan will be the start of the fifth time Explore the Bible takes people through every Bible book. The first two cycles were 9 years, the third was 11 years, and the fourth was 8 years.
So how did we develop the 9-year plan that begins in Fall 2014? Here are the steps we took:
- Decide the duration of the new plan. A variety of options were explored; everything from a 5-year plan to a 12-year plan. Based upon the feedback received about the current plan, a 9-year plan was chosen.
- Account for the last year of the 8-year plan. The current plan being used ends with the Summer of 2015. We felt we needed to expand Explore the Bible as soon as we could, meaning a Fall 2014 start. All the Bible books included in year 8 of the current plan were earmarked for being studied in the first year of the new 9-year plan.
- Organize the Bible books into three groupings. Doing this gave us a way to manage sets of studies. It also gave us a way of emphasizing the four Gospel accounts and the genre types. We placed at least one Gospel account in every 3-year pool, planning for 2 quarters in the Gospels in each 3-year block. To do this, Matthew and John were designated for multiple quarter studies while Mark and Luke were placed in the same 3-year block.The remaining Bible books were organized by genre (law, history, prophecy, etc.) and placed throughout the 9-years. Care was taken to make sure every genre was represented in each 3-year block. This action was done initially by a group of experts who met to group the Bible books into these three groups. After the meeting, they had two months to refine how they initially grouped the Bible books.
- Assign Bible books to specific quarters. Bible books placed within the 3 groupings were then assigned to a specific quarter on a grid. The following factors were considered: Since Fall is the largest attended quarter historically, more significant Bible books should be studied in these quarters; If possible, assign Gospel accounts to Winter or Spring quarters to account more naturally for Christmas or Easter studies; Some Bible books demand more time than others (e. g.: Genesis demands more attention than Ruth); Account for 12-week quarters and 14-week quarters (Romans was placed in a 14-week quarter, so more attention could be given to that book); Seek to balance Old Testament and New Testament studies (avoid studying only Old Testament or New Testament books in a calendar year).
- Secure feedback and adjust. The proposed plan was shared with groups and individuals to secure input. The plan was adjusted based upon input, and that revised plan was shared for additional input.
- Settle on a plan. Adjustments may still be made, but eventually, a direction must be chosen. Agreement for the adjusted plan was secured.
- Share the study plan. As you might imagine, with the amount of work that goes into creating this type of plan, the Explore the Bible study plan is proprietary and covered under copyright law. But that doesn’t mean it is a secret. Pastors use the study plan to map out sermons series, educators use it to create a holistic plan of study for their church, and group leaders use it to begin to gather resources for study over the year.
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.