Make Your Own
Producing your own curriculum can be an affordable and effective alternative, especially if you'd like to use videos. Over the years, I've worked with dozens of churches who have created their own curriculum. Some partnered with the team at Lifetogether Ministries for full production services, while others sought out coaching to create curriculum themselves. One year, we even coached a church of 50 people who produced their own curriculum with a group of volunteers.
While self-produced curriculum is definitely more work than purchasing curriculum off the shelf, a curriculum featuring your pastor's teaching can be incredibly successful in your congregation. This can be done in a variety of ways with a team of teaching pastors or just the senior pastor in all of the sessions. Many churches have some video capability. Start with the equipment you have—you'll be amazed at how far you get. We live in an age where an Oscar winning documentary was shot entirely with an iPhone. With the HD capability of many devices or low cost DSLR cameras, most churches have access to something which can create great curriculum.
A word of advice: ditch the DVDs. Many people don't even have DVD players any more. We now consume video with Hulu, Netflix, On Demand video, Apple TV, Roku, Fire Stick, and other devices. To make your videos compatible over a wide variety of options, simply upload your videos to Vimeo or YouTube. If you're looking for a service to host your videos for streaming, I'd recommend MediaFusion.
It's also not as difficult as you might think to create the study guide. For some quick tips on writing great questions, read "Writing Questions That Spark Discussion" and "Tips for Facilitating a Group Discussion." For in-depth help, I recommend How to Ask Great Questions by Karen Lee-Thorpe, LessonMaker from NavPress, or even the Serendipity Bible. These resources will help get you started by giving you great examples.
In the small group world we have a phrase, "Don't do life alone." Don't produce curriculum alone either. Think about who you need to help produce a curriculum: a project manager, videographers, video editors, writers, editors, photographers, and graphic designers. These roles are not normally on a list of ministry positions at most churches. But think about the possibility you are opening up for new people to serve in ways that align with their gifts and abilities. The church of 50 people I mentioned earlier only had one paid staff member: their senior pastor. On a Sunday morning, he asked who had the abilities needed for creating curriculum, and hands flew up. The church created a great curriculum on faith and managed to connect 100 people into groups. Now, they're a church of 70 people, and have created more studies since.
With all these options for inexpensive studies, your groups should never have trouble finding a quality study that fits your budget.
—Allen White is a pastor, teacher, writer, and speaker.