- Here’s something that may sound harsh, but I’ve found it to be true on a number of occasions: some sermon-based curriculum is just plain bad. That doesn’t have to be an indictment of a church, a volunteer, or even the whole sermon-based system. The reality is that creating good, quality Bible studies is hard work. And when we need to rely on volunteers or staff members working in their spare time, you’re not likely to get the same quality of material as you would from an established publishing house.
- Finally, it’s also been my experience that groups and group leaders can begin to resent the lack of control present in a sermon-based system. Sometimes a group wants to study something specific for a specific reason. Other times groups simply grow tired of taking the same approach to Bible study week after week. In either case, frustration can build up when churches don’t allow flexibility in what their groups can explore.
A La Carte Curriculum
Despite the popularity of sermon-based curriculum in recent years, the most common option for group Bible study is still having group leaders—or in some cases church staff—select curriculum for their group on an a la carte system. Meaning, the group studies something different every 6 or 12 weeks, and the group often chooses a variety of different types of material.
There are many benefits to this approach, including the following:
- Allowing groups to choose their own curriculum means that groups have a greater sense of control and ownership of what they study. This can be especially meaningful for the members of a group, because it allows everyone in the group to have a say regarding what the group will study next.
- In a similar vein, allowing groups to choose their own curriculum means they have a greater chance of experiencing variety in what they study. Group leaders typically know when something is getting stale. When given the freedom to study what they want, groups can do an expositional study of James, a topical study on relationships, and book study featuring an exciting new author—all in the same year.
- Finally, groups that manage their own Bible studies will often choose professionally produced curriculum from an established publishing house. Most of the time—not all of the time, of course—this means groups will encounter material that is high quality in terms of both production and theology. These studies often feature well-known authors who are experts on their topics. They also typically include a number of additional options for teaching and promotion, including video.
There are many other positives of allowing groups to choose their own curriculum. But there are many potentially negative consequences, as well, including these:
- As mentioned earlier, groups that choose their own studies have to actually spend time and energy choosing what they want to study. Sometimes this process can be exhausting, especially for the group leader. This is especially true when different people in the group have different ideas about what to study.