In "The Crisis of Biblical Literacy," Kenneth Berding explains the severity of our lack of knowledge and understanding of the Bible:
Christians used to be known as "people of one book." Sure, they read, studied and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don't do that anymore, and in a very real sense we're starving ourselves to death.
This is a reality we face in our churches today, especially as small-group pastors and point people. Sadly, our church realized we were contributing to the sad state of biblical illiteracy. Our small-group model recruited leaders by saying, "If you can push play on a DVD player, you can be a leader." The bar was set low for leaders, and our group members followed suit. As time went on, many members left their Bibles at home as they turned their focus to watching the "program" and answering the basic questions found in the guide. If Scripture was mentioned in small groups, it only flashed on the video for a few seconds or took up a few lines in the leader's guide.
In response, we decided to change our small-group model to help our members become more familiar with God's Word. The new model, which we call Life Groups, no longer relies on a DVD; rather, it relies on the Bible. With God's Word as the focal point of the meeting, people are bringing their Bibles, finding their way around Scripture, and reading God's Word out loud.
Groups spend time reading and discussing passages in the Bible. Leaders ask questions that honor the truth of the passage. Group members realize that the Word of God is alive and moving as people share different perspectives. Everyone participates and engages the Bible, and they realize it's not as intimidating as they once thought. After all, the Bible was written for all of us!
A Discipleship Problem
In order to change our model, though, we had to take a look at how we were recruiting and training leaders. It was apparent that our current methods weren't reaching our goals of making disciples through small group. We knew that if we wanted to see discipleship happening, we'd have to invest in and equip our leaders with tools to make it happen—and a big piece of that is empowering them to read and understand the Bible for themselves.
So we changed how we train our leaders. We ask a lot more of our leaders now, but we also empower them with the tools they need to lead. Most jobs spend time training their employees, but for some reason in the church we think it's asking too much to spend time training leaders. When we look at Scripture, though, we see Jesus spending valuable time teaching and training his disciples. Why wouldn't we do the same?
To invest in our leaders, we've created a two-part training program. Part One training usually takes place on Sunday mornings over the course of four weeks. Recently, however, we've started offering a "boot camp style" of this training on a single Saturday morning for people who are involved in other ministries and are unable to attend on Sunday mornings. We cast a vision for the ministry and discuss leadership responsibilities and expectations. During the final meeting, we do a study on Acts 1:1-11. By doing the study together, potential leaders get to see how the small-group discussion should flow. We choose this particular passage because it leads well into Part Two of training. In the passage, the disciples are looking up in the sky, and two men in white appear and tell them to get on with their mission. After we've studied the passage, we ask potential leaders if they're ready to get on with their mission.