Group Study for Books

The answer from McLaren on this matter is worth a separate posting, because so often I’ve found it difficult & challenging to lead a group study for books or the Bible (I know many feel the same way).

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… even without a formal study guide, I think you can use one of the methods below – pretty simple, but effective – to use the books in a group setting.

1. The Underline and Share Method If each member of the group is actually reading the book, each reader is encouraged to keep a journal and/or mark up the text – with agreements, disagreements, questions, personal examples, applications to your setting, etc. When the group gathers, each member is given a set amount of time – say five or ten minutes – to share his or her responses. This might seem awkward at first, but being given a set amount of time – without interruption – is quite a rare experience. After the person is finished, you can have another period for responses, or you can go to the next person and save responses for the end.

2. The Discussion Leader Method One person is responsible for selecting key quotes or themes from the chapter(s) being discussed. She might also prepare questions for discussion – making the questions relevant to your situation. If you have a skilled discussion leader, this is a great method. Otherwise, #1 might be better!

3. The Read Aloud Method If you aren’t in a hurry, the old art of reading aloud can be very effective – a number of people have let me know that they have done this with good results. They read a passage or chapter and then give their immediate responses. This is great for groups that never complete homework.

4. The Critical Reading Method This method trains participants to do critical reading. The leader basically does the same thing each time the group meets. First, she says, “Let’s believe the author.” This is a way of inviting positive comments about the passage. What did you agree with? What was well said? Only after the material has been dealt with “believingly” does she say, “Let’s now doubt the author.” This invites questions, disagreements, identifying dubious generalizations or loose logic. Readers try to imagine and express contrary opinions to what’s written. Finally, the leader says, “Now let’s respond as readers.” Here each reader talks about what he or she wants to do with the material that was read. Is there some application to one’s life or ministry? The group could also respond as a “we,” as a community or staff team or whatever. Once a group gets practice at this method, it can be very exciting and intense and productive.

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