The window of opportunity churches have to accomplish the critical mission of teaching and training disciples through their groups is also tight. Regardless of ministry approach, the average group meets for about an hour a week for study. Considering vacations, potential bad weather days, and group breaks, at best the people meet for group Bible study 48 hours or less a year. That’s two days.
Clearly discipleship is not limited to those two days. Community must not be confined to the study time. But those two days of meeting around the Bible must not be squandered. Those two days must be maximized. If you only have two days a year to study in groups, it is wise to have a discipleship plan that intentionally guides people to greater maturity in Christ.
The most common and essential element in a wise discipleship study plan is the Word. Studies must be rooted in Scripture, and over time people must be exposed to the totality of the Word. Studies must also be focused on Jesus because only He transforms the heart. The starting point for a discipleship plan may vary based on the group/class, but all studies must get people to the text and to Jesus.
At LifeWay, we offer three distinct ongoing Bible studies for groups. With Bible Studies for Life, we start with real-life issues that people face everyday, we bring the Scripture to bear on those issues, and over time we expose people to the whole counsel of the Word. With The Gospel Project, we start with a systematic plan to show people how all Scripture points to Jesus. With Explore the Bible, we start with a plan to walk people through all the books of the Bible.
A pastor might say, “One sounds like practical theology, one sounds like systematic theology, and one sounds like biblical theology.” Three different approaches, but each one helps people encounter the Living Word (Jesus) and the written Word.