CPx: Discovery Bible Studies, pt i
I’ve written at quite some lengths about the small Bible studies we are starting and encouraging in our outreach time but have yet to spend much time actually describing what that looks like. I keep promising it and so this will be the first (of likely many) post to tackle that subject.
I’ll preference this by saying this method is called “Discovery Bible Study” for a reason: it’s designed to be simple enough for anyone to lead and deep enough that it draws non-believers into obedience to God. It’s actually simple enough that even a nonbeliever can lead it (and in CPM situations this is more often than not the case).
And it’s the role of the leader that I think deserves first mention.
In truth — facilitator is a much better term then leader. They aren’t leading in any traditional sense; rather their role begins and ends with providing direction in keeping the conversation going. There are three things in particular that are worth mentioning.
The facilitator is not there to preach or teach in any way, shape or form. They just facilitate conversation. Pushing their opinion to the exclusion of other opinions or dominating the discussion is definitely out of the question. Participation is definitely acceptable (and encouraged!) but their voice counts the same as all the others.
The facilitator is there to insure that participants stick to the passage at hand. The idea with Discovery Bible Study is that participants are generally nonbelievers and have little to know exposure to Jesus so this is generally not an issue. It starts them out recognize the authority of scripture and it’s importance. Where it becomes problematic is when you get Christians in that group (or people with nominal knowledge of the Bible). They “hyperlink” and bring in verse and such outside of the scope of the passage at hand. Sometimes they might relate but it often only succeeds in confusing someone who is just beginning to discover Jesus. Another goal with sticking to the passage at hand is that you teach good Bible study habits. From the beginning they learn the importance of studying complete passages and not (as all too often happens) ripping verses out of their context to (often) say something that the Bible actually doesn’t. And if this is done right, from the very first study you build into the group the DNA of obedience to God and His Word.
A good facilitator also keeps his eye out for over-talkers and under-talkers. Just as you don’t want any one person dominating the discussion, you also don’t want any voice being left out (or drowned out). The facilitator, when he sees this happening, can politely (yet abruptly) silence the conversation (*”That’s really a great thought. Juli what do you think.”) In the same way he can gently nudge those that aren’t talking to speak up and share their heart. A good bit of the meat of Bible study comes in the group interaction; if you don’t have this, it’s less likely that people will be impacted as they should be.
Church Planter As Facilitator?
Ideally, the church planter (US!) should not be the facilitator. The process (described in coming notes) is designed in such a way that the facilitator can learn along side everyone else. Being a nonbeliever (or not) doesn’t disqualify from this role as the group is not yet a church. Not only that, you want people from within the context you are ministering to feel empowered to do this themselves. Ultimately, they are the ones that will reach their culture better than we ever could. It’s good to get them started in such a way that they are empowered to do that from the get go.
In some circumstances, it might be for the church planter to facilitate. When that happens our role isn’t any different than above. Not only that, we have to pay special attention to the mandate NOT to preach or teach. As I said, it’s called discovery because people are discovering Jesus. It’s not about us preaching or teaching our opinions at them. This is particularly hard to do and is a reason for the church planter not to facilitate. Instead, though, we can ask lots of questions and get them thinking about scripture critically.
If we facilitate, we also have to deal with the hand off. We can’t lead forever; at some point local leadership must take over if the group is to survive. If this is done from the start, it never actually becomes a big issue.
Honestly though this is something we are still trying to work out. The rhythm I am finding myself in is facilitating the first meeting and then getting our key man (or woman) — whoever introduced us to the group — to facilitate from then on; my role then is to simply show up, help when necessary and encourage and mentor burgeoning leadership.
Look for part two soon, hopefully as early as tomorrow. It’ll go into further detail of the structure.