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Collaborative Small Group Bible Studies
Rev Aaron Chan
If you are a Bible study group leader, I believe you will probably make as much time and effort as possible to prepare before the study even if you have an extremely tight schedule (though our ‘best effort’ may just be a humble 'limited company'). Sometimes, the Bible study session goes well and can encourage brothers and sisters to speak and share readily and freely without much silence. Some other times, the discussion may not be as smooth. There may be questions we cannot fully answer and we may even hear 'complaints' from brothers and sisters, leaving us wondering whether we have adequately prepared after all.
On the other hand, if you are a participant of a Bible study, you may not have time to prepare due to the busyness of life and, so, during the session, you have a lot of questions to ask but do not know where to start. You may also shoot the leader with all kinds of questions, or even go far off the topic. In that situation, the leader may only give a 'one-directional lecture' to keep the situation under control to avoid the embarrassment from questions and doubts that are hard to respond to.
What actually is a group Bible study? It is really a discussion that requires basic preparation. By "basic preparation," I mean reading the Scripture passage for the study, its basic interpretation, and the questions and suggested answers, etc. The leader will need to elaborate on the basic material and, based on this, try to motivate the group to explore the content more deeply and broadly for more relevant discussion and application.
Bible study participants are also obliged to read the material in advance. Prepared participants know relatively better which questions are key questions that must be asked. It is in such a situation that the questions and answers would naturally broaden and deepen the discussion and application. It will be like a well-trained soccer team in which every player is tasked with supporting other players and whenever possible, passing the ball to the teammate best placed to score the goal.
In addition to the usual basic material, some group leaders search online for relevant information for further elaboration to enrich the discussion. In fact, mastering the basic material and creating the opportunity for members to ask meaningful questions is what would lead to a beneficial, fruitful small group Bible study. Leaders should not think that they know everything. Instead, they should explore the answers to the questions together with the members. They should try to get every member involved. Such leaders, however imperfect, will be able to conduct the study as a team and lead the group in the right direction. Having said that, besides making individual and group effort in our Bible studies, we should leave room for the Holy Spirit to work so that we can be enlightened by the truth and be united with each other.