by Janie Stephens, BSF Executive Assistant
“See I Am Doing A New Thing”
The past few months have been for me a season of new things. In August 2017, I joined the staff at BSF HQ. That meant a new city, new friends, new home, new church, new BSF class, new things to learn and many new opportunities to depend upon the Lord. New things are wonderful. But new things can also be hard. Familiarity takes its time to settle in.
BSF has had a year of new things as well. This blog article would be one example. Before this year, BSF never had a blog. And this blog was delivered to you via mass email, which is also new for BSF.
Another new thing introduced this year in BSF is Discussion Group Options. These rolled out about the same time I moved to San Antonio — August 2017. The original intent of these options was to accommodate those who are either new to BSF or new to studying the Bible. Throughout this year, more and more BSF classes have embraced these options, and we continue to learn new and exciting things from their experience and feedback.
What Are Discussion Group Options?
Discussion Group Options are a way to help group members conversationally engage with God’s Word. Each option presents a different approach to the Bible passage. We can think of these options in two categories:
1. Options that use the BSF questions
2. Options that use the “Three-Question Bible Study Method”
Discussion groups that choose to use the BSF questions may conduct their group discussion in a variety of ways. They may choose to discuss all the questions. Or they may choose to discuss only some of the questions. Or they may choose to discuss some of the questions with freedom to discuss other questions raised by the group members.
“We are never having to rush through a question, but can take time on the questions that we are confused about or touched our hearts and minds or convicted us. It makes it less of a question-and-answer, and more of a conversation.”
— Sophie, 19, second-year BSF member
The second category of options incorporates the time-tested “Three-Question Bible Study Method.” This method utilizes variations of the following three questions:
1. What is the passage about? (fact question)
2. What do you learn? (lesson question)
3. How will you apply it? (application question)
Each BSF group leader is free to use this “Three-Question Method” in a variety of ways. One group leader may choose to forgo discussion of the BSF lesson questions all together and instead use the “Three-Question Method” entirely to guide conversation about the passage. In this way, the group leader trains his group members in proper Bible study techniques. With practice, group members are equipped to sift through the facts of the passage to ultimately draw out, discuss and personally apply truths embedded within the passage. Another group leader may choose to use the “Three-Question Method” as a grid to select five to six questions from the BSF lesson for their group to discuss.
“One of the best benefits of this approach is that it allows us to go very deep on one or two questions. … In allowing more time to share and discuss on these questions, I find the relationships deepen and that we are more vulnerable and authentic in areas where we are struggling with particular Scriptures. I appreciate the insights others bring in these discussions that we would not normally have time for in the standard format.”
— Anne, 42, fourth-year BSF member
Why would a group leader choose not to discuss every question on the BSF lesson? Because to discuss fewer questions in the same amount of time creates space for group members to flesh out their thoughts, ask questions and have a real, fluid conversation about God’s Word. Every BSF lesson includes fact questions, lesson questions, doctrine questions and application questions. By utilizing the “Three-Question Method” as a grid for question selection, a group leader is assured his group will experience a well-rounded conversation about the Bible passage.
“These options have allowed historically quiet group members to get in on the action. Guys who took a bit longer to speak up were cut off in the old way [of conducting discussion group]. Now that talking might go on for 6–10 minutes unimpeded, they can get in. The group leaders were amazed at the spontaneous contributions of their ‘quiet men.’ ”
— Mike, Teaching Leader
Why Offer These Options?
Our goal is that every BSF discussion group member encounters the heart of God through the Word of God, so that we may know, love and follow God. This goal will never change. However, the method and means by which we accomplish this goal can change.
Since BSF’s inception, our approach to in-depth Bible study has been a four-fold method:
1. Questions for personal study
2. Discussion Group
4. BSF Notes on the passage
This four-fold method is tried and true. However, we’ve realized two of the four folds — questions for personal study and discussion group — have become somewhat fused. The questions are meant to be a tool to prompt our thinking and capture our hearts as we personally engage with God through His Word. They are a springboard for our discussion, but they should not be the limit of our discussion. When we have spent significant time with the Lord throughout the week, meditating upon His Word and applying it to our lives through use of the BSF questions, we won’t necessarily need the lesson questions to prompt our thinking during group discussion. We will have plenty of material to discuss simply because we have spent time alone with Jesus.
“I love the concept because it leads to a more robust conversation between members of the group. I’ve noticed some members who have been hesitant to share opening up more. I think it’s led our group to become closer in Christ together without the pressure of being rushed through the questions.”
— Kari, 39, second-year BSF member
Wouldn’t you say time with Jesus is the ultimate goal of in-depth Bible study? In fact, have you ever thought about what in-depth Bible study truly means? How would you define the word “in-depth” as it relates to Bible study? Would you define it in purely academic terms? Is the true meaning of in-depth Bible study simply that we can recite facts and knowledge about biblical content? Or does “in-depth” go far beyond that? In-depth Bible study should go straight to the heart — God’s heart, our own hearts and the hearts of our fellow group members, with whom we so desire to connect through the truth and love of God.
“God is moving in our class and in the guys in ways I have never seen before in BSF. It is amazing. This past Monday I asked the guys to put away their lessons as we began discussion. They were shocked. We had a rousing conversation…one of the guys asked if we were going to do this regularly. Thank you for your vision and implementation of this new format. I think it will breathe new life into BSF.”
— Gregg, Substitute Teaching Leader
If “heart-connection” is our aim, then our hope, prayer and desire for these new options is simply that they begin to break down the barriers that hinder the “heart-work” of in-depth Bible study.