Sit tight. This one is merry practical.
Since announcing God Breaks His Silence, a free Christmas study guide, a few friends and webbies have asked me how it might be used in their different contexts. So, before we get too close to Christmas Day, I want to give you my ideas behind the guide, as well as some suggested uses.
First, the book is divided into two parts under the headings For Bible Study and For Devotional Reading. Each have their unique spice, but they are duplicates of the actual reading itself.
For Bible Study was designed for personal reflection and group discussion. There are three lessons, with an introductory chapter that should be read prior to the first lesson. Each lesson contains an introduction, followed by opening thoughts to set the context and mindset. After that, two sections provide commentary, Scripture, and reflective questions to help participants engage the text. Finally, there is a conclusion and pages for notetaking.
For Devotional Reading was designed for those who simply want to read through the commentary and biblical passages. While the Bible Study will yield more reward, some people only have time for the devotional readings. At the end of each devotional, there is a call-to-action for personal reflection throughout the day. Like the Bible Study, the introduction, “Before the First Christmas,” should be read prior to the first devotional.
In addition, the book contains a section for small group leaders called “Notes and Guides.” Here, you will find a summary of each lesson, additional scriptures for the group discussion, and a Christian quote that speaks powerfully to the lesson content. These are extra resources to help you further the discussion. Use them as you see fit.
Using the Guide
Most of the the feedback is related to the study guide in a small group or family context (church classes included). This really is the most profitable way to use it. Besides praying for your group, reviewing ahead of time, and scheduling your meetings, here is what you do with the guide as a leader:
- Open in prayer. There is no substitute for this. You need the Lord to help you work through the material and have your heart worked by God. Ask Him to guide your way and speak to everyone through His Word.
- Read first. Each lesson begins with an opening that leads into Scripture reading and opening thoughts. Take the initiative and be the first to read the opening. Then, read the passage or have someone else read it.
- Ask the questions. As the discussion leader, I advise you to always read the questions in the lesson. This will allow you to control the conversation and keep it alive. Ask one question at a time and allow others to respond. Remember, most of the questions are reflective and do not have a specific answer. Encourage responses and be grateful for those you receive, even if they are strange. Also, remember that silence is not bad. Give them time to contemplate and form their responses. If needed, rephrase the question to help them understand it or simply respond first to lead the way.
- Allow others to help. The next two sections of the study contain a commentary and questions to interact with the passage. Here is where the additional scriptures (from “Notes and Guides”) come in handy. Ask someone to read the commentary. Then you can follow up with the questions like you did in the opening. (You will repeat this again in the second part of the lesson.)
- Conclude with reading and prayer. The conclusion will bring it all together and tie up any loose ends, so be sure to read it before closing. The conclusions end with a question to be considered during the participants’ personal time. It is not meant for discussion.
- Pray for them. It is good to close in prayer. You can thank God for anything new you learned and ask Him to help all of you appreciate what the Lord has done through the first Christmas.
- Allow others to lead. Before you go your merry way, consider asking someone else to lead next time. You can still prepare as a precaution, but you will find that others learn far more when they are preparing for the lesson instead of merely participating. If anyone volunteers, tell them how you did it and express your confidence in them to do it next time.
Also, if you are in a home or classroom that allows you to utilize multimedia, download the God Breaks His Silence: Small Group Kit that contains graphics and slides to enhance the settings. If you don’t have your copy of the guide, download the PDF by submitting your email below.
Finally, if you use the guide, I would love to hear about it. Fire off an email to me or post your comments below.