Explore the Bible resources can be purchased in both print and digital formats. Some of the digital items are eBooks (think Kindle) while others are a variety of file types (PDFs, DOCs, MP4, etc). Print and digital have their pros and cons. Our purpose is to examine these in an effort to help you weigh your options.
For most of us, this is what we think of when considering Bible study resources. We usually find items that are for the group members and an accompanying item or items for the teacher.
- What many people are accustomed to. Many of the people in our groups view print as their “go to” format. It is just what they prefer. These are the same people that buy a print copy of a book after reading the first chapter of the digital version. They bought the digital version just to see if they wanted to buy the print version.
- Provides a tangible item to give the group and leaders. Providing a print resource communicates importance to some people. They view it as having more value than a digital item.
- Provides a tool for in-person contact. If we want our leaders to make personal contact with the people on their ministry list (or class roll), having a printed resource makes a great tool to break the ice.
- Can be given to everyone. As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone has an email or eReader account. Print resources can be given to anyone willing to take a copy.
- Remember longer. Lots of research on this subject that is beyond the scope of this post, but people who use a print item remember what they read longer than those who read the same content in a digital format.
- Sorting and distribution. These two things take time and effort that we could use doing other things.
- One more thing to carry. When parents come to pick up their children, it is one more thing they have to carry out the door. For students and adults, we are happy if they remember their Bibles much less their Bibles and their study guide.
- Some will not get used and will be discarded. No matter how well we plan, there will be some print items that will not get used. We may find use for them in local prisons and other settings, but that was not our original intent for purchasing that item.
In the past 20 years, digital options have become more accepted and improved. The same content found in a printed resource may be delivered as a PDF, eBook, or an APP.
- Provides a tool for leaders to remain in weekly contact. Depending on the age of the group and the digital item used, digital items can provide a tool for us to remain in front of people every week by sending weekly emails to the group.
- Provides only what is needed for that week. Some can get bogged down in looking ahead and forget about what they need to do today. Digital items can help us narrow the focus for our leaders.
- Don’t have leftovers at the end of the quarter. We don’t have to worry about what to do with the items we did not use. It sits on our computer either way.
- My group is virtual. Having a virtual group may require digital resources. If the group is from a large region, then delivery of printed study helps can be a problem.
- Feels more modern. Those with the newest phone and tablet want to feel like they are ahead and in the 21st century, and digital is one way of connecting with this group.
- Sorting and distributing. Even digital items have to be sorted and distributed by someone. Depending on the format, this may be a weekly action as opposed to a quarterly action, taking more time in the process.
- Many will print it, elevating the expense. Anytime we print our own study helps, we raise the price and lose the benefit of digital from a cost standpoint. We may not be paying for the printing but someone is.
- Limited to those with an email or eReader account. We will still need some type of resource for those who don’t have email or internet access.
- Will need to manage the number of items distributed. This may depend on the license purchased, but most licenses are based on the number of items being distributed. We need to know the terms of the license so we can make sure we are not violating copyright laws in the process.
What about using both in a blended way? Some have found a combination to be the best option in their setting. Here are some of the more common combinations used.
- Provide print to the group and digital to the leader. This allows the leader to pull from a variety of sources and create his or her own custom group plans. This approach also provides a tool for the leader to make natural contact with each person on their ministry list every quarter.
- Provide print to the group and print and digital to the leader. In this scenario, the main leader guide may be provided in print while supplemental items are provided in digital format. The idea here is less waste at the end of the quarter without limiting the leader.
- Provide digital to the group and print to the leader. This is a response to having leftovers at the end of the quarter. Since we know how many teachers we will have in a quarter, we provide them with print. This also serves as a means of communicating to the teacher that what he or she does is important. We also assume the leader will send a digital item weekly to the group and that the group has email or an eReader account.
- Provide digital or print to the group and digital or print to the leader. In this scenario, we let the leader (and the group depending on age) decide. In some adult groups we may have some who want print and some who want digital so we accommodate them.
What are we to do?
This was a starting place to help you see some of the possibilities and some of the pros and cons. You and your leadership team will need to evaluate for yourself what option or options are best for you. Here are some next steps.
- List all the viable options. We may have different options for different groups
- Create our own list of pros and cons for each option.
- Force rank our list of pros and cons. Not all pros and cons are equal so we need to identify the ones that carry greater consequence.
- Invite others to have input. Involving the people most impacted is wise at this point.
- Make a decision based on your pros and cons, and input gained.
- Explain the why behind the decision.
- Evaluate, adjusting as needed.
Some helpful links: