By Michael C. Mack
1. Use a reading plan. A wide variety of daily Bible-reading plans are available in churches and on websites. Have your group choose a plan and agree to use it. That way, everyone is on the same page, so discussion can be more dynamic.
2. Focus. Some groups focus on less Scripture, say one to three chapters a day, and read through books of the Bible. I like this method for groups who want to commit together to reading through certain Bible books and getting more in-depth than the previous option.
3. Intently focus. An even more focused way of getting into God’s Word is to read just one chapter throughout the week, but to read it each day from different versions. Use commentaries, study notes, and other tools. Keep journals and use other methods to contemplate and pray through God’s Word. Usually more mature Christians enjoy this method, but if you use it, also have some “lighter” questions ready for when visitors come.
4. Get topical. Use a topical Bible, concordance, or chain reference to study a topic of interest thoroughly. During the week, group members study the topic on their own and come to the meeting prepared to share. What topic? The shepherd-leader should try to discern this with lots of input and ownership from the group. A dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide the group’s direction and discussions is vital.
5. Be devotional. I visited a group recently that uses the Jesus Calling devotional. They simply use the reading for the day they meet and discuss its implications and applications for their lives. Other groups use devotionals such as Our Daily Bread or My Utmost for His Highest. Members read the Bible passages as well as the devotional thoughts each day, and come to the meeting prepared to share.
6. Read what you want, but just read! I’ve found that in many groups, individuals find their own methods of Bible reading that fit their time schedules, personalities, and level of spiritual maturity. The important thing is that everyone keeps their commitments to getting into the Word each day, and the group encourages one another and keeps each other accountable to that. All group members come prepared to share one thing that jumped out at them—or where they heard God speaking to them. The group leader and other members ask questions and enter into the dialogue, sharing how God has used that verse in their own lives. This option may be called “chaordic”: living as a group on the edge of chaos with enough order to give you a pattern for discipleship.
Michael Mack is the author of 14 small group books and discussion guides, including I’m a Leader . . . Now What? (Standard Publishing). He also leads church training events and consults with churches through his ministry, Small Group Leadership (www.smallgroupleadership.com).