This document provides a quick overview of 4 elements to consider when starting a Chronological Bible group based on the materials provided through Chronological Bible Teaching (W3: Women, Worldview and the Word; M3: Men, Mindset and Message; and S3: Story-Shaped Students) It is not meant to be an exhaustive checklist, but rather a starting point. The best way to know how to begin a group is to see it in action. If someone is doing a CBT small group in your area, ask if you can attend one session. There are some unique elements to studying the Bible through CBT that are not part of a typical video-driven Bible study with an accompanying workbook. This is a study that is discussion-based (not homework-driven) and seeks to encourage lifelong Bible disciplines in the participants.
4 Elements to consider when beginning, maintaining and wrapping-up a CBT group:
1. Prayer: In all things—commit it to prayer and ask God to assemble the group.
Determine not to move until He acts. By waiting for God to put people in your path, you are not assembling the group in your own strength but guiding and training those who God has naturally placed in your life. You seek those who have a desire to learn and be held accountable to grow because God has been at work in their life.
Who has God laid on your heart?
Who has been asking you questions about the Bible or spiritual things?
2. Environment: Look for progress in the lives of others--not perfection--and affirm that behavior in their life.
- Identify the needs of the group and meet in the place and time that most meets those needs. A typical CBT group takes 1-2 hours depending on discussion. Leave plenty of time to answer questions, encourage or be available to help.
Bible Literacy is a life-long, year round journey and cannot be accomplished in 6 weeks, 10 sessions, every other month or even a school year. Consistency is important. Meet weekly and as often as possible. Take breaks when needed but avoid breaking for long periods of time. There are 52 stories in the material and depending on how often you take breaks, it realistically takes 12-18 months to go through all the stories (It sounds like a long commitment compared to the typical 6 or 12 week studies but the rewards are great. I promise—the group won’t want to stop meeting! BUT . . . see #4 element)
- Create a training environment. Just as a personal trainer helps others meet their physical goals, you as the leader(trainer) are helping others to meet their spiritual goals. These goals are agreed upon at the first meeting. The core value is to increase Bible literacy among the group. The 4 primary ways you do this are:
- Commit to daily reading of the Chronological Bible to provide a systematic way of reading through God's Word.
- Record and process His Word and/or God’s activity in your life through journaling (just a little bit each day, it does not have to be perfect!).
- Active prayer always links back to a trust that God is good and His Word is true.
- Determine to memorize scripture as you go through the material. This also increases your Bible literacy as you memorize and review verses so you can recall them easily.
The above disciplines are their “homework” for the week. The CBT small group materials do not provide weekly homework for participants to complete. Their efforts during the week are spent building a relationship with God through His Word, processing and prayer. The rest of the work is done “around the table” at the weekly meetings (See #3 element).
- Look for progress! A disciplined life is a life that is not wasted for the Lord. Encourage group participants to firmly commit to growing in basic spiritual disciplines (read scripture, journal, pray, memorize) in their everyday life. This will benefit them far beyond the group experience.
3. Discussion: Teach the BIBLE. Workbooks do not grow & change us spiritually. God’s Word accomplishes this.
The primary text of the CBT materials is the Bible, not a workbook or note guide. Only the leader has the small group guide (W3, M3, or S3). This is a BIG departure from other studies but there is great benefit in allowing participants to process the story in real-time so as to allow God to meet them where they are that day-not on Friday of last week when they completed their workbook page. It makes everyone a little uneasy at first but after a few weeks, groups really begin to love it as an effective way to learn.
The basic format of each group discussion is as follows:
- Open with a short prayer and commit your group time to the Lord.
- Orient the group to where the story falls in the 14 eras, reviewing past stories you have discussed.
- Read the Core Truths of the story.
- Read the scripture passages.
- Ask the questions as they appear in the guide and wait for others to answer. Refrain from answering the questions for them if there is not a quick response. The value of a discussion format is that participants are processing in real-time and allowing the Holy Spirit to show them things in Scripture they haven't seen before.
- Ask each member to share at least one thing from the story they learned about God that they had not seen before.
4. Wrap-up: Walking for a season with a group is an important part of allowing them to take what they have been taught and teach it to others.
A typical response at the end of a study is, “What do we want to do next?” CBT is a real departure from the cycle of Bible studies. The primary goal in CBT is to build Bible literacy. By ending the group, the leader is giving back the weekly time to the participants to go and invest in others what has been invested in them. This is the best way for them to grow in their own spiritual walk with God. Teaching others takes many forms: accountability group for the daily Chronological Bible reading, teaching CBT materials to adults, children, youth or telling friends the big story of the Bible through the 14 eras.
Wrapping up the group doesn’t mean you never talk again. Keep up with them by having lunch, sharing what they are doing with their time they used in Bible study before the group ended, or getting together for a summer book club to read something that is spiritually edifying. These all give the leader an opportunity to check in on the group and see how they are doing spiritually.
It is very important to communicate from the very beginning that the group will come to an end after the 52 stories have been covered. Resist the temptation of others when they beg to continue (Yes, this happens almost every single time!). Determine in your heart to try Bible study in a new way--as a trainer. Your desire is to help them become self-sustaining in their growth. You do not want them to be dependent on you, or any other leader. You want to help them read and know scripture for themselves.
Bible literacy always brings revival among God’s people and literacy comes from reading, studying and living out what Scripture says in everyday life.