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DIVERSE BIBLE STUDY TEACHERS

With so much attention on diversity and inclusion right now, this seems like a good time to highlight  video studies from diverse Bible study leaders who are excellent at bringing the Bible to life for those who want to grow in their faith.  And isn’t diversity in our studies a good idea overall?   If we only ever listen to one spiritual teacher, especially one who is aligned perfectly with our own opinions and experiences, how can we hope to truly grow in our faith?  Mix it up!  Choose teachers of the gender opposite yours, teachers whose skin color differs from your own, teachers raised in other cultures, and so on.

Starting with my personal favorite, Jackie Perry Hill, her study on the book of Jude is probably the best I have ever done.   Her sermons are engaging and thought provoking and she brought the overlooked book of Jude to life for me.  A highlight of her study is the way she teaches her audience to go deep in any book of the bible.    She mined the book of Jude for all it was worth and has me waiting anxiously for her next study.  Her book of Jude study is available here:

You can not go wrong with Tony Evans if you want to remember what you learn in your studies months after you are finished with them.   He is a master of the analogy and word pictures that grab your mind and take hold, when he drives home a point.  My favorite from his John 1,2,3 study is the idea of our mind as a receiver and how it will not receive if it is not tuned in!   Simple, but effective!  You can find many Tony Evans studies at Amazon.com including Kingdom Marriage.

“Galatians, Accepted and Free” by Jada Edwards, is a study not to be missed.  Picture yourself in the living room of a funny, smart, transparent  friend who is teaching you about God’s deep love for and acceptance of you, and how to receive His good intentions for you.  That is exactly what it is like to participate in Jada’s study, available here:  

All three of these teachers are passionate that all should know the love of Jesus.  It is apparent how connected they stay to God, and how much work they put in to their studies to help unlock the Bible for all seekers.  These studies are very accessible and ask questions to help you go deep in your faith while encouraging growth in your journey.  

If you are looking for diverse teachers in the Top 100 studies on Small Group Advisor, look no further than Bianca Juarez Olthoff and her “Playing with Fire” study, or either of the Frances Chan studies, “Forgotten God” and “Crazy Love”.  

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SMALL GROUP COVID STYLE

I have been a group organizer all my life. Moving to Minnesota 20 years ago, I needed to meet people quickly, so I formed a “Little Girls Play Group” at which my daughter could also meet friends. Soon after, I hosted a Moms in Touch group in my home. I am a founding member of a 15 year old women’s book club and two years ago, I started hosting a Spiritual Book club with three women that has grown to six. I twice took on the daunting (for me) task of being a small group leader for young women in high school and then in middle school. With a lot of prayer and encouragement from friends, I began a Women’s Bible Study in my home one summer that turned out to be a much needed tonic for the women who attended. It is rare that I am not leading or joining a bible study group.

And then came COVID. With this horrible virus raging, there would be no in-person meetings. It was my weekly SKYPE bible study with my dear friend, Janice, creator of this site, that gave me an idea for a new kind of Small Group.

I started this group like all the others, by asking God what I should do, who I should invite and how it would work. What He organized was a group of five women who all know each other at least by sight, if not more closely. We are: one in Texas, one visiting Texas for the winter, one who lives two hours north of me and one who lives nearby, but not a group that could meet in person even if COVID were conquered. Once a week we log into Zoom or Facebook Messenger’s new video app and spend an hour studying God’s word and exchanging prayer requests.

It takes a little adjusting to do bible study virtually. We do miss the casual fellowship over coffee and tasty nibbles before discussion begins. Also, women have a tendency to all talk at once and we have learned to slow down and listen before we make ourselves heard. We have also learned to be patient and have a lot of grace for each other when we experience the inevitable technical issues of a virtual meeting. You may not believe it until you experience it for yourself, but the praying we do for each other can feel as close and comforting as the hugs which are inadvisable for now.

Our first study was Don McLaughlin’s “Love First”. You can get the DVD of videos at ACU Press Books, and you can download the small group questions in this PDF.

We all agreed this was a great study for COVID times, because as we have less opportunities to know people by meeting with them in person, the more likely it is we will judge them. The “Love First” study took us through 1 Corinthians 13 in the most meaningful way I have ever studied it, and we truly learned how to love God and love others through this study.

If starting a virtual bible study seems daunting to you, remember these truths: “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NIV) and “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

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NEVER A BETTER TIME TO START A SMALL GROUP

If the Small Group Advisor was going to have a theme verse, it would be Hebrews 10:25*: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another”.

You aren’t going to find a lot of verses or stories in the Bible in which God encourages us to go it alone. He tells us to rely on Him: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4) He reminds us we need each other: The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) and “A cord of three strands is not easily broken“. (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Has there ever been a more important time for us to encourage each other as we face COVID, political divisions and unsettled economic times? Following are a few items to consider about starting a small group.


Who to Invite: This may require you to step out in faith (I’m no good at leading, I don’t know anyone, what if people say “no” may be running through your mind.) Get creative with this. Are there a group of people you’ve been wanting to get to know better? From your neighbors to your exercise class, your continuing education classmates to your bunko group, the pool is probably endless. Start with a period of prayer of several weeks, asking God to identify people He wants you to invite. Invite prayer partners into this process with you.

How to Organize A Small Group: Acts 2:42 says it all: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Plan on choosing a study from the Small Group Advisor. Arrange to meet regularly. Include a meal as simple as soup and bread or an easy dessert that group members take turns providing. Pray at the opening and closing of every meeting. The opening prayer invites God into your time together and the closing prayer can be popcorn prayers sent up as you go around the group. NOTE: This is the ideal, post COVID scenario. In the meantime, a ZOOM or Facebook Messenger Video group chat can be just as meaningful and the only piece missing will be the meal.


How to Choose a Study: You aren’t going to find a better source than this Small Group Advisor website. Poll your members about topics of interest or books of the bible and filter by your group makeup: women, men, couples, etc. There are even a few listed under the “New Small Group” filter to get you started.

How to Encourage Commitment: Arrange a fellowship meeting the first time you gather, before you begin a study. Get to know each other through an icebreaker topic such as “why did you want to join a small group?” “What do you hope to get out of this small group?” “Are there any concerns you have about being in a small group?” Make sure everyone understands the importance of regular attendance and doing the between-meeting Bible study work. Nothing will frustrate group members more than differing levels of commitment. Everyone should have a sense of ownership of the health of the group.


So much good comes out of participation in a small group: a sense of being known, the assurance that people are praying for you and the privilege of praying for them, personal spiritual growth, support during hard times and people to celebrate with during good times, the knowledge that you are obedient to the call of God to come together in community, and finally, a closer walk with God who will be with you every step of the way. ” For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them“. (Matthew 18:20)


*All verses cited are from the NIV edition of the Bible.

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Online Bible Studies for Women

For the past year or so, Lifeway Women has been offering free access to 2 or 3 different studies each quarter. This is an ideal option for women’s groups that are meeting virtually to save some money and to get some direction on choosing a study. If you’ve never hosted or participated in an online/virtual bible study, here’s how it normally works.

  1. Watch – you watch the video and make notes of anything that stands out to you. You think about and answer the group discussion questions contained in your study guide.
  2. Discuss – you meet with your group via an online platform such as Zoom to discuss the video, discussion questions and pray.
  3. Study – you do your personal study exercises contained in most participant’s guides before watching the next video so you are ready to meet with your group again.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Starting in January of 2021, they will be offering access to the following three studies (I highly recommend that each member of your small group purchase their own individual participant’s guide). My group utilized this opportunity to study Jude with Jackie Hill Perry and it turned out to be our favorite bible study EVER.

You can simply go to Lifeway and sign-up to participate in any one of the following studies that they are offering to kick-off 2021!

 

Option 1 – Matchless with Angie Smith

To kick off the new year, you can study Matchless—an 8-session study to search for truth as Angie Smith unfolds the story of our matchless Savior—His mission, miracles, and message. Through her signature wit and accessible style, Angie unpacks Scripture in a way that’s easy to understand, regardless of how long you’ve been studying the Bible (a great option for new believers!). This study will deepen your understanding of Jesus through biblical, historical, and cultural insight and help you see Him less as an iconic figure and more as an intimate friend.

Starts on Thursday, January 7. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 11, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

 

Option 2 – U – turns with Tony Evans

Consider kicking off 2021 with one of my favorite teachers, Tony Evans. In this 6-session study about God’s direction over your life, Dr. Tony Evans shows you the reality of human freedom, the consequences that come from bad choices, and the way to reverse the consequences. By aligning your life choices under God’s Word and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him, you can experience the abundant life Jesus has for you. You get to choose whether or not you want that. And sometimes, you get to witness God change the direction of your life.

Starts on Wednesday, January 6. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 10, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

 

Option 3 – The Battle Plan for Prayer with Alex & Stephen Kendrick

Develop a deeper walk with God as you seek the Lord for your battles first. The Battle Plan for Prayer Bible Study equips believers to create their own prayer strategy and be specific and strategic in prayer. This 8 session study features teaching by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick on the topics of: what prayer is and is not, why God wants us to pray, specific areas of prayer, specific strategies for prayer, and more.

Starts on Tuesday, January 5. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 9, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

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RightNow Media Limited Free Access

For those of you that aren’t familiar with RightNow Media, they are an online platform that offers access to over 20,000 different biblically-based videos for small groups, church leaders, families, youth groups and more. Normally, your church must sign-up and pay big bucks to give their members access. I find this annoying because not every church can afford to give all of their members access. We’ve been asking for a way for individuals or small groups to access the vast video library on their own to no avail. However this year due to the COVID19 crisis, RightNow Media has generously opened up at least part of their library to the general public for free. That means that from now through July 2021, you can get free access to thousands of videos including amazing small group studies. Just go to RightNow Media and click on link at the top that says “Access Limited Library”. You will instantly be able to stream their content on all your devices like iphone, android, tablets, Roku, fireTV, chromecast, etc.

We love using RightNow Media for our virtual small group because we can simply watch the videos on our own before meetings and then just get-together to discuss the questions and video notes. We each buy or download (some are free) our own discussion guide for the given study and do the personal exercises during the week between meetings. Here are my three favorite Books of the Bible Studies from RightNow Media and because I’m all about honesty, I’d suggest you avoid Philippians by Jo Saxton and Ephesians by J.D. Greear (not much substance).

The Book of 1st Corinthians with Jennie Allen

In this 12-part series, author and speaker Jennie Allen walks into the messy lives of the Corinthians and takes us through Paul’s words to the conflicted church. We’ll see how the truth of the gospel and the Spirit of God can empower us to choose to follow Jesus every day of our lives.

 

Gospel of Mark with Francis Chan

In this 11-part series on the Gospel of Mark, author and speaker Francis Chan invites us to walk with him along the ancient ways of the Master. Tracing the steps of Jesus and the Twelve through Israel, Francis explores the major themes of the Gospel of Mark, and asks: Are we willing to take this journey to embrace discipleship?

 

The Books of 1, 2 and 3 John with Tony Evans

Comfortable Christianity often means a weak Christianity. In this study on John’s three letters, Dr. Tony Evans challenges Christians who have grown comfortable and complacent in their faith. Fellowship with God is the essence of our faith, and Tony walks through 1, 2 & 3 John to paint a picture of love, obedience, and truth. In a world that hates Jesus, we are called to love Him and His people with a fierce love.

NOTE – the study and leader guides are all included and can be printed out directly from RightNow Media for this small group study.