The Personal Study Guide is a tool designed to help the leader succeed. Here are seven ways it can help you succeed as the Bible study leader:
1. HELPS YOU DRAW IN GUESTS
Having a Personal Study Guide available for guests helps them quickly connect. With a quick scan they can see what has been studied and where the study is headed. That helps them at least get a clue as to how they can be involved in the group that day. What you provide guests doesn’t need to be a printed book, although doing so could serve as a reminder for them to return the next week. The study guide could be delivered as an email or a text message link to a digital version. The issue is not the format but rather that you provide them something that helps them immediately connect to the study.
2. HELPS YOU MAKE A PERSONAL CONTACT
Using a Personal Study Guide gives you a reason for contacting the people in your group. Use a printed guide as an excuse for making a visit to each group member’s home. Having a reason to visit removes some of the awkwardness. There is no reason to explain why you came by. The visit need not be long, but the length will not diminish the impact. Delivering a copy of the Personal Study Guide to everyone also gives you an opportunity to meet everyone in your group. There are some who may be a member of your group who rarely attend. Delivering a study guide every quarter means you see everyone on your group list at least four times a year. If you use a digital version, you can still make the personal contact using email.
3. HELPS YOU TEACH MEMBERS HOW TO DO BIBLE STUDY
The Explore the Bible Personal Study Guide is built on the inductive Bible study model. Each session begins with the Bible text followed by one or two questions that encourage people to observe specific items in the passage. This section is followed by commentary and questions focused on interpreting the text. The last page of each session (called “In My Context”) includes a summary of key points and application questions. The Bible text is printed both at the beginning of each session and again with each verse heading under the “Explore the Text” section. Printing the Bible text in both places makes the guide easier to use in the group setting and reinforces a best practice in Bible study of reading the text in its entirety, followed by studying it in smaller segments.
Features such as the weekly Bible Skill and the memory verse also encourage the development of personal Bible study habits. It is possible that not everyone will use the study guide, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on encouraging them in their development.
If we as teachers fail to provide some type of resource that helps our group members develop Bible study habits, then we run the risk of them becoming dependent on us. Dependency stunts their growth. Their spiritual vitality depends on their being able to feed themselves.
4. HELPS YOU “COVER ALL THE LESSON”
We all feel the pressure to “finish the lesson,” covering every verse assigned for that session. To complete the lesson we may ignore some points or fail to give a passage the required attention. Events in the lives of group members may dictate fixating on one point and not touching the other assigned verses. Having a Personal Study Guide frees you to do just that. If you focus on one section, the group can study the other assigned sections on their own. You covered all the lesson, you just didn’t do all of it in the group setting.
5. HELPS YOU PROVIDE AN IN-CLASS REFERENCE BOOK
Think of all the Bible study resources that can help us to get a handle on a passage: a Bible dictionary, concordance, commentary, lexicon, Bible atlas, etc. You could provide copies of these resources, direct everyone in the group to purchase preferred resources on their smartphone or tablet, or simply provide them a Personal Study Guide. You may want to use some of those other resources on occasion. However, the study guide provides most of what you need for reference during the group study time for a fraction of the cost.
6. HELPS YOU KEEP THE GROUP ENGAGED
Questions drive learning. A great answer is irrelevant to the person not asking the question. Providing a Personal Study Guide and encouraging your group to use it prior to the group time primes the question pump. In the course of members’ preparation for the group time, unanswered questions will surface. When an unanswered question receives attention in the group time, that person becomes engaged in the group. The group becomes relevant to him or her.
One way to begin the group time is to record questions that surfaced during the group’s preparation for the group study time. These questions serve as a clue to areas that may need to be given more attention during the group time. Call attention to the question being addressed as you work through the passages. If questions are left unanswered during the study time, find the answer and communicate what you discover after the group time is over with the person who raised the question.
The Personal Study Guide can contribute to the success of the group and to your success as a Bible study leader. Every tool requires use for it be effective, and the same is true with the study guide. The resource can be your best tool for successfully moving your group in transformational Bible study.
7. HELPS THE GROUP PARTICIPATE EVEN WHEN NOT IN ATTENDANCE
Most of us wish every member of our group attended every time we met. Life happens with illness, vacations, work schedules, and other life events. By providing a Personal Study Guide, even those who are not in attendance can study the passage being examined. In a way, the Personal Study Guide makes it possible for them to be in attendance when they can’t physically be in attendance.