A question every small group leader contemplates when starting a new group or season is what content they will use for their study focus. Sometimes, this question is answered by church leadership if your church creates weekly study material based on the weekend messages or a church-wide groups-based campaign is about to kick-off. Ultimately, you want to have a philosophy and plan in place about how to handle small group curriculum.
We all have our biases about what we like or don’t like with study material, so I’ll be upfront about mine. I look for Bible-based material that comes from a trusted source, matches my church’s DNA (theology, core values, language, style), is clear with its purpose, manageable in size (5-8 weeks), is designed to build relationships and activate faith (through good, open-ended, application-oriented questions vs. fill-in-the-blanks and leading/predetermined-answer questions), has creative and engaging content delivery, and isn’t too thick academically or homework-wise.
If the curriculum is video-driven, I look for bite-size segments vs sermon length teaching, which encourages more interaction. Asking people to watch videos or do homework in advance of group meetings doesn’t seem to work for most folks and has a way of scaring off some personalities, so instead of “required homework,” I prefer material that enriches each member’s personal devotional life and challenges them to serve together. Rick Warren’s “40 Days in the Word” is a good example of this.
Find out if your lead/senior pastor has preferences about curriculum before you research and offer recommendations. A simple step like this might inspire greater alignment between the weekend programming of the temple courts and group life of the house-to-house in your church! The 12 criteria below is intended to help you think through the best choices for your group or small group leaders.
|Criteria to Consider||Question for Leader|
|Publisher / Author||Does the study come from a |
|Theology||Does the group curriculum look to |
the Bible as its source of truth and concentrate on the essentials of
our Christian faith?
|Scripture||Does the content do a good job at |
referencing Scripture and getting
group members to dig deeper into God’s Word?
|Purpose||Does the curriculum’s objective or purpose support your group’s focusthis upcoming season considering |
the personal goals of your group
|Communication||Does the language, emphasis and |
style of what’s being communicate
reflect your church’s DNA?
|Duration||Do the number of sessions require |
to work through the group materialmake it a reasonable commitment
for new or existing members?
|Video||If your group curriculum is video|
driven, does the average length of
each segment work easily within
your allotted meeting time?
|Engaging||Is the delivery of the content |
dynamic or boring?
|Questions||Are the questions designed to be |
thought-provoking, stimulate conversation, and promote life
|Homework||If there is homework, how much |
are participants being asked to do
in advance of meetings and how doyou think group members will
|Access & Cost||How easy does the access and cost of the material make it for people |
to join in? (This varies depending
on whether the content is for the
leader or the members, if it can be downloaded, etc. Find cost effectiveoptions.)
|Chemistry||Does the content fit the personality of the group? In other words, based on what you know about your |
group members, do you think they will resonate with the “feel” of the curriculum and the style in which \it’s communicated?
There’s a lot of great digital ‘on demand’ options available to stream Netflix-style through online resource houses like www.rightnowmedia.org so familiarize yourself with what’s out there and prepare to answer questions related to choosing and using curriculum for maximum impact.
Remember that curriculum is meant to serve your small group – not the other way around. Always be flexible and prepared to scrap the material if it feels like the energy of the group is waning. Essentially, the curriculum you choose should support the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. It shouldn’t feel like a chore to get through it, rather, it should be inspirational and faith-stretching!
At the end of each season in a small group’s life together, you want to see evidence of people loving Jesus more, loving others more, loving God’s Word more, and loving spiritually-lost people more. Remind small group leaders of this and how the Lord will use them, their group members, and many other factors including the curriculum, in the process.