APPLICATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN COMPLETION
“The crowning part of your task in searching the Scriptures is to discover ways the truth applies to your own life and the lives of others” Chuck Swindoll, God’s Word for You, p. 111
The Goal Is Life Change for your Group Members
The people in your small group are there so that they can grow spiritually. Life change is the goal. One book on small groups states, “Maturity is measured by demonstrative growth in our love for God and for others. It is not a completed program or the acquisition of a skill, but a continual expression of love in our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with another” (Andy Stanley and Bill Willits, Creating Community, p. 64).
What the Goal Is Not
The goal of our small groups ministry is not do studies and check off books of the Bible as having been “completed.” In his book, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, Steve Gladen writes, “The goal is to get the Word of God and the truth of God into the lives of the people who sit in that room with you. You want to see it become more than just another learning experience. You want to see the truth of the Scriptures reflected in the lives of the group members” (Gladen, Leading Small Groups with Purpose, p. 110).
The goal is not to just do the curriculum and check a box saying you have completed it. Too often that is the case with groups and if they are not careful they can easily slide into this habit.
How to Make Application More Important than Completion
There are five basic tips you can follow to make sure that that application is more important than completion in your small group. I love a quote by Chuck Swindoll, “The Bible was not given to satisfy idle curiosity; it was given to transform our lives” (Chuck Swindoll, God’s Word for You, p. 115).
With that said, here are five ways to transform lives with the Bible.
1. Keep Your Group Focused on the Bible and Your Curriculum
It is easy for your group to get into discussions of sports and the weather.[ref]Notice that “politics” is not included in my list of things that people can get talking about. As much as possible, avoid talking about politics in your group. Politics is one of the most polarizing and argumentative topics that people can get into. So try to keep your group from discussing politics.[/ref] Sometimes the Bible might mention something that reminds your group members about a topic or story that is not related to what you are talking about. Do your best to keep your group focused on talking about the Bible and the curriculum you are using.
2. Encourage Your Group to Work Through the Lesson Before Coming to the Group
Gently, kindly, and regularly remind your group that they should be working through the lesson on their own before coming to the group. Spending a little time praying about the study, reading the passage a few times, and writing down their answers will help them learn and grow. Tell them not to worry about writing down the correct answer or using full sentences with correct grammar. The goal is to get the people engaged with the Bible and the discussion questions before they arrive to group.
3. Give Plenty of Time for the Application Questions in Your Study
Facilitate the group in a way that gives plenty of time for the application questions at the end of the study. Set a pace for your group and make sure that you keep the group moving so that you don’t have to rush through the most important questions of your discussion: the application questions. In the Wiersbe Bible study guides these are the “Looking Inward” (questions 11-13) and the “Going Forward” (question 14) sections.
4. Have Your Group Do the Application Assignments and Then Follow Up with Your Group about Those Application Assignments
One of the most powerful and encouraging parts of leading a small group is that you get to hear the stories of how people are learning and growing through the study that you facilitate. But, to do this you need to pay careful attention to what people say they are going to do based on the application questions in your group. Then, in the next week or two you need to follow up with people about what they did and how it went. Do this with a servant’s spirit and kind attitude.
5. Don’t Insist on Finishing One Lesson Every Week
It is okay to stretch your studies out longer than doing one lesson per week. Take your time working through the curriculum for your group. If you need two or three weeks to cover one lesson that’s okay as long as people are staying on topic and are applying the material to their lives.