observations and readings about church ministry ideas, challenges, solutions, and trends
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
The Potential and Peril of Creating Your Own Curriculum
By Trevin Wax
Used well, the potential for discipleship is incalculable. Used poorly, the perils can lead to disaster.
I see too many churches using that hour poorly rather than well. The grace of God covers a multitude of our failures (thankfully), but this doesn’t mean we should shrug off our responsibilities in this area. I fear that many pastors are (1) unaware of what is going on in a church’s small group ministry and (2) unwilling to offer solid, biblical resources to the leaders of these groups.
This shouldn’t be the case. In North America, we have more good Bible study resources available than ever before, and we have more reason than ever to consider carefully the kind of teaching that takes place in groups. Most pastors would see the surrender of their preaching time to just anyone with a message as an abdication of responsibility. Why, then, would we direct our people to small groups where the leader may or may not open the Bible, may or may not have a solid doctrinal foundation, or may not even be qualified or fully equipped to teach?
When Paul laid down the responsibilities of an overseer, he included this qualification: “holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching andto refute those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Often, pastors are more concerned about encouraging believers with sound teaching and refuting false teaching only in the pulpit without giving enough thought to soundness in the small group setting.
Recognizing the potential and the peril of small group ministry, some pastors have chosen to align study materials for adults with the sermon series. There are benefits to this approach: alignment within the congregation, cost-effectiveness in curriculum, customization for the church’s needs. There are also drawbacks: the need for extensive pedagogical training of staff who may already be stretched thin with other responsibilities, the need for planning in advance, the tendency to move away Bible study and settle for commentary on whatever the pastor thinks.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been excited to share more about The Gospel Project Chronological, which we are starting again this fall for groups of all ages. But I recognize that many churches believe the sermon-based model best fits their congregation and are not going to adopt a Christ-focused curriculum for adults no matter how helpful it is!
For this reason, I’m excited about the launch of smallgroup.com. A good friend of mine, Michael Kelley, has helped develop this tool for pastors who want to provide biblically faithful content that (1) aligns with a sermon and (2) is fully customized to the needs of the church. This site gives church leaders the ability to tailor a study for their church in ways that are accessible and theologically sound. It also frees up staff members to do ministry among the people and not feel the need to create new resources from scratch every week. The studies are not only trustworthy, but the leader can serve as the final filter for the content his groups consume.
Discipleship in smaller groups is too important to not have a plan — whether you use some sort of curriculum like The Gospel Project or align your teaching to the weekly sermons. Whatever you lead your church to do, make sure you’re not wondering if but how you will equip and empower your leaders. As you consider your church’s philosophy, I encourage you to try smallgroup.comfor free.
Dr. Pat Ford joined Church Partnerships of LifeWay Christian Resources in 2007 after 35 years of ministry in church, university, and seminary settings. He can be contacted at 832-725-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter at @patford.