Every Bible study group has a story, a history. We don’t usually think of a small group as having a “history.” After all, small groups are not permanent; members come and go, times change. One group ends; another group forms. Small groups, and especially Bible study and prayer groups, are important to the life of the local church and to the Church overall.
Kerygma resources are developed to support these groups, with materials designed to encourage Christian growth and formation, to build community through interaction and discussion of Biblical texts and themes.
Here is the story of one group that formed almost 20 years ago for summer-time Bible study.
People have long been spending their summers at Little Point Sable, a beautiful spot on Lake Michigan. Outdoor worship services were first held there around 1900, initially in a tent, and then in a tabernacle--an open-air auditorium with a roof. A residents association formed in 1927 and built a small stone church that has been used for worship since 1928. And yes, there is still a hymn sing on Sunday evenings.
Nineteen years ago, a group of 8 women formed a Bible study group for summer residents at Little Point Sable. Lynne, the founder, participated in a study group during the year and wanted to continue during the summer months. Joyce, another original member, joined because she appreciated “the discipline of regular Bible study and wanted an opportunity to know some members of my summer community on a deeper level.”
Fast forward to summer, 2018. The “Friends in Faith” Bible study group has grown to approximately 28 women and meets at the nearby little stone church, having outgrown the living rooms at each other’s houses.
I first learned of the Friends in Faith group when one of their members called to order Kerygma study materials for this year’s study, That You May Believe: The Gospel of John. While other materials are used, Kerygma studies are a valued tool for this group.
About 20 women attend the weekly meetings from July through Labor Day. Most of the members of Friends in Faith are Protestant and some are Catholic. The collective group represents a range of theological perspectives from progressive/liberal to very conservative. Some, but not all, participate regularly in Bible study during the year, in their home communities. For about the first five years the Bible study group at Little Point Sable read “religious books.” Shirley, a member of the group and an ordained pastor, recommended Kerygma Bible studies because they work well within an interdenominational group.
Participants meet on a weekday morning for about an hour and 45 minutes—it is summer after all. The first fifteen minutes is a time to say hello and get settled. As another participant, Julie, wrote, “We use the Kerygma series currently. We are expected to prepare from our study guides for the next lesson, but we all know that life gets messy sometimes and that may not happen. We come anyway and the nature of our discussion and the small group work we do allows us to participate even when we can't always fully prepare. We often read the same passages from different Bible translations and that can be very interesting.”
Shirley, the ordained pastor in the group, kicks off the summer study by leading the first session, and then, invites others to lead. Throughout the summer there is a different leader each week, allowing everyone to experience learning from a number of angles. As Shirley observed, “Who learns more—the student or the leader?”
An important part of the meeting is the prayer time, the 10 or so minutes at the end. Members share requests with the knowledge and mutual trust that “what is shared in the group, stays in the group.” The group secretary sends out emails to those who weren’t able to attend in a given week and, with permission, shares the joys and/or concerns for prayer and giving of thanks. Their support for one another extends into the “off-season” as emails are exchanged year round with updates about previous prayer requests as well as new requests.
According to Julie, “Being part of a group is important and healthy. We all come for our own personal needs and reasons. But essentially the bonding of women in a common pursuit and, in this case, studying the word of God is a basic foundation for who we are.” At their last session of the summer, Shirley officiates as, together, the group partakes in the Lord’s Supper.
A men's Bible study group started about 8 or 9 years ago, as they saw how the women benefited from their study, and how Friends in Faith had introduced people to Bible study who had previously not participated in one. Today, about 6 to 10 men meet weekly in each other’s homes.
A founding member of the group, Fred, wrote that the group has used a number of Bible study materials. They studied each of the gospels, but “were having a hard time keeping on the same page. Then we tried the Kerygma series and we had a winner! It gave us structure and a leader’s guide that we pass on to the next session’s leader.”
Doug, another member of the group, wrote, “For me, and perhaps others, summer brings more freedom from other responsibilities and offers more time to do serious Bible study.
Tell us about it. We’d love to hear about your group. Contact Peggy Heely at Kerygma at email@example.com