This may push the envelope too far?
I've got to first of all say that I love the effort and research that all of the authors, researchers, graphic designers, and marketing that goes into the LifeWay Sunday School material... (some of you may even be reading this?)
However, Has anyone found things like Precept Ministries International to be better? I personally have been using LifeWay stuff for years until the church I'm in started growing and I noticed that most of the new people were not getting plugged into "Sunday School" until we stepped out of the box and offered two new classes:
1) PIT Crew (Parents of Infants thru Teenagers) A class that addresses issues for parents
2) 40 Miniute Bible Studies (by Precept Ministries)
Both of these classes instantly attracted over 40 new people in Sunday School in one week and sustained growth over the past 6 months. This growth could either have come from just starting something new or by offering other classes than the traditional Quarterly type of class.
I would like to see LifeWay consider partnering with Precept Ministries in offering some more non-traditional Sunday School Quarterlies.
I want to say one more time; "I'm thankful for all the current and previous efforts of LifeWay and all of your authors." I hope the spirit of my intent is heard and not lost in the somewhat emotionless letters of this discussion board
[This message was edited by WAM on December 04, 2004 at 12:31 AM.]
WAM, I understand and have been there too. I have taught young adults in Sunday School for almost 20 years. Most of the churches where I taught "required" us to use the Explore the Bible material. I totally agree that there is a wealth of information in this, but at times I have had to spend a great deal of my prep time in integrating "application". There are some helps and changes that have been made recently that seem to indicate feedback has been received and noted. However, I often wish those who put it together would realize very few of us "gather as a department and sing a hymn each week" to begin our time together.....
One thing that has been successful for me is utilizing studies by Intervarsity Press. These usually involve a 10-12 week stude of a Bible book or a topic such as "Angels", "David", "Faith". These studies provide good discussion questions to be used in a group and each session is based on a particular Scripture.
So I get what you are saying and you are right on! Sometimes the ETB seems to start repeating the same points over and over, week after week and that is when I have been known to "take a break" for a week or two to insert a lesson that will minister better at that time.
Years ago I would sometimes be told that I must use only SB literature. Over time, my pasters seem to realize there is room for that and other biblically based literature. I will have to check out the Precepts Ministries material---sounds good too!
Lifeway has done a better job in the last 5 years at getting out better literature. Of late they have aquired the Serendipity line that seems promising.
As to the use, I would encourage all leaders of small groups not to teach only from the "quarterly" but teach from the heart. A good leader will spend ample time with God and get a word from the Master and take it to those being lead. Material is not really the issue, leadership is. When we quit making excuses about the literature and start enlisting holy spirit filled leaders our classes will become discipleship ministries.
I am not saying that all leaders are not doing this, it is just amazing that we place so much importance on a piece of literature. Life is not found in a book but in a life. Unless God has first taught a principle in me I cannot fully teach it to others.
I would remind you that Lifeway is not the only intitution out there with resourses. I encourage all our leaders (SS, discipleship etc) to search the heart of God and find the best material out there that will help others know God more fully.
I agree with what you are saying. The most important thing we can do is to pray and seek God's direction as to what material He wants us to use. God has called me to teach a Sunday School class of young ladies in their 20's and some are in their 40's. LifeWay came out with new material called Master Works and it has really made a change for the good. Two classes are using this material and everyone enjoys this better than what we had before. God has really given me awesome lessons outside of the Sunday School material. I spend my time in prayer seeking God's direction in what my class needs for that particular week. It is such an honor and responsibility to teach God's Word and I always pray for my flesh to be put aside and ask God to empower me with his Spirit to teach each class, His way.
When the issue of what kind of literature to use in a Bible Study the main answer will always be "use what works for your church." In my church we beleive that the problem with many Bible Studies is there are teachers who do a good job of regurgitating what they read in their teachers guides, and have little knowledge in what the passage says. Think about how many Bible Study teachers today do their lesson prep on the day before they teach (even some pastors do it)? Or how many teachers have been coxed into teaching, because their education minister needed someone badly. To make sure that our teachers were called to teach (which is another issue) we train them, give them the tools to help them develope their own bible lessons from the scriptures. If they can pull out applications and principles from the passage, without the aid of a commentary, or some other reference material, then we know that this individual has potential. We have had some who beleived God had called them to teach and after attending the training sessions, realized that maybe they were not.
Now another advantage we have found is that if we develop our own lessons/studies we reach our people where they are. We can divise the upcoming lessons to meet the individual where they are at that time in their life. After all I think we can all agree that our church is not sometimes going to be the same church the SBC demographics suggest.
Now this is not to say I'm against all the other things, I use the "supplements" personally and so do others, but we first rely on what the Holy Spirit says to US through the passage, before we see what He said to someone else.
Well that's my beef for now...
I would be very interested in hearing specifically what some of you may be doing in this area. I'm delighted someone started this thread.
I know many churches have resorted to writing supplements to existing curriculum or even writing their own. Are you seeing any trends in this area in the churches of those you know? How are you working within your church's framework to try to account for the unique needs of each group and member in your Bible study groups?
I can order any material I want for my class but since LifeWay came out with Master Work, we really like it. It is a smaller scale version of doing a Beth Moore study, which we like. Since I teach a class of all women I would love to see material just for women to fit the Sunday School hour. Like I said above, I pray and ask God to direct me in the way He wants me to lead my class. God holds teachers responsible for how we teach and I have spent 4 days of preparing and studying for my next lesson. It is hard to go into class if you have spent only a day to prepare. I am accountable for each person in my class and I only want to teach what God lays on my heart. I know alot of people in my church are tired of their material. Most of them do Explore the Bible and I have heard so many complaints. I love in-depth Bible studies and it is hard to go from that to most of the material I have seen for Sunday School. Anywayyyyyyy I guess that is all I have to say right now.
Thanks for asking about trends and unique needs.
Our church for the most part uses LifeWay curriculum. What we noticed as rapid growth began was that our Sunday School attendance was mostly unchanged.
1st: We took an honest look at our current classes first. Not related to curriculum but personality of the current classes. They were meeting the exact need of those attending the class.
2nd: We considered the curriculum, again it was meeting the exact needs of those attending, but not that of the new younger adults that were coming.
3rd: Next we had to research what to do about the missing "link". What we found was these people were looking more for just bible study.
Thanks for asking Craig,
I don't know if it's a "trend" where I am, but most SBC churches in our area use the SBC curriculum. Churches outside the SBC that I'm aware of use the "topical" approach to Bible Study, but as to who does the curriculum, I do not know.
For us, we determine needs of the classes in various ways. Pastor/teachers/directors meet regularly and discuss where each class is. We primarily study through a particular book of the Bible, so we look at which book of the Bible would best meet the needs/questions/life of the individuals. During the course of the "study" we outline the lessons based on those "observations." We have questions that the people work on during the week about the passage of Scripture studied. Questions are designed for all ages so that families can study together. Teachers are to take the passage and break it down into major divisions, as well as come up with principles and applicaition. Because the teachers know where their classes are, their priciples and applications become very relative to the individuals.
Does it meet an individual's immediate need? Surprisingly yes! Granted we may not have talked about "divorce recovery" particularly, but what was said helped the individual in what they were dealing with in their "divorce" or other areas of their life.
Lifeway material is top notch! That is all I ever use. One reason for this is that I know that Lifeway material will undergird the doctrinal position of our church. I have found other materials to be unpredictable in this area.
I am not saying lifeway is the only way but it works very well for us. One reason for this is that Lifeway materal is designed to work in conjunction with FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy which we employ here.
With Lifeway material all Sunday School classes can be "open groups" which allows growth to occur as Newbelievers and seekers come into the fold.
I have heard it said, "a good teacher can make a good lesson out of average material but a poor teacher will butcher the best of materials." If we spent as much time training good teachers as we do designing and producing materials, LifeWay, Cook, Standard, and others would not have such an impossible task in front of them.
While some praise the Quarterlies, let me testify from personal experience and make a observation.
I was raised on Sunday school Qurterlies from the time i was able to read them. I might have been able to quote a FEW verses and tell you where they were at in the bible, I was EXTREEMLEY well versed in the bible stories, but dumb as rock in doctrines.
Iattended a Different Baptist Church denomination in 1981, they taught from a bible in all lessons, they answered tough questions and also taught "TOPICAL" lessons, the church offered basic doctrine classes. Which i attended.
When i left that church i knew more doctrine and about the nature of my GOD in 3 years than i learned from 18 years of quarterlies, I later attended Bible School some 20 years later after leavng this church. I could see things clearer and also caught things being taught that i knew were Traditions of Men, I had enough discernment to not be caught up in those teachings.
NOW research has indicated that as a denomination, we are EXTREEMLY well versed in Stories, BUT not in Doctrine,
( info recently in last year published , I believe either BP or Barna, or possibly both)
If we keep loosing membership who are on MILK to cults and other denominations, shouldnt this tell us that we NEED MEAT of the word in our Scriptural Diets,
Not all material is a one size fits all,
Do not avoid the tough passages, do verse by verse, and ALSO do topical in the SS,
Make different levels of material, according to spiritual maturity, and INCORPORATE Basic Doctrines withn it. Through Topical and Verse by Verse teaching
PS my home church has been teaching basic doctrines for some 3 years now, just the other week, not only was the question brough up BUT WAS DISCUSSED with interest , intellect and Scriptures about the "Sons of Angels with the Daughters of Men" in Genesis and the Demons preached to in Hell by Christ. I understand here recently , Divorce and Remarriage ACCORDING to the scriptures is being Discussed and NOT DICTATED to the sunday school class, While many older members are struggling with it, It is being systematically addressed SCRIPTURALLY. The older Members are engaging into the discussions and searching the scriptures, as are the younger members too.
Now name me a church who uses JUST the Quarterlies who can address such issues and NOT have a mess on their hands. This church Addresses such regularily, And it is a VERY rural church.
YES they Use quarterlies, but not always, and they TEACH on Wednesday nights more than they PREACH.
A senior (founding) member told the pastor the other day, that for as long as she can remember in the 45 year history of the church, she has never had a pastor who Taught her so much, and she has learned more in the last few years than through all the Preaching she has heard over the previous 40 years.
IS not TEACHING synomonous with FEEDING
and PREACHING with EVANGELISM / PROCLAIMATION of the GOSPEL
This thought even makes me Hungry,, time for a snack
Blessings and Food for thought
[This message was edited by Decree.Info on December 09, 2004 at 11:29 AM.]
You make the point very clear Decree.Info, I believe that if our publishing company only produces "one size fits all" material that we end up not fitting anyone. I'm thankful that I don't have to buy only from our SBC publisher, but I would like to challenge ourselves to explore more than what we've been doing.
When I looked at the history of my local church and saw that everything but Sunday School was growing, something neeed to be addressed, it was and growth began in S.S. As a result, baptisms increased, discipleship happened and disciples don't want to miss out on something that God is doing.
Thank you LifeWay for changes that you are making, go another step and do somethng gutsy.
WAM and friends thanks for the great discussion... I like the idea about doing something gutsy to take our discussion another step... in your minds what are some of the things LifeWay (or any publisher for that matter) could do that would be gutsy and help minstry leaders achieve their Bible study goals better in today's culture?
Are there any publishers or ministries out there you've come across that you believe ARE doing some gutsy work?
Earlier on the board someone brought up information about the "Master Works" series that LifeWay has just come out with. I have gone on-line and looked at what this is, and I think that is a gutsy step that looks very promising, I've ordered a copy to take a look at.
I like what Precept Ministries International has done with their "40 Minute Bible Studies" series.
I understand that there has to be a market for new stuff. I have some S.S. classes that would not be happy if they didn't have what they've always had, (however, I've learned they get over it if it's good). so it makes it hard to do something that maybe tradition drives the market down another road.
I think that the on-line options have not been used at it's full potential yet, I think the LifeWay Community is a great thing to explore. I've got one class that we are going to start in March that will use MSN Messenger as the class room. This class will officially meet on Saturday night, but communication can happen virtually any time that the class is on line. I don't know yet all of the details, I have a man in the church that is doing all the tech work to set up the "how" I will facilitate with scripture and starter questions and then see what happens. Our hope is that we will connect with some of our church members friends that don't go to church any where but may be interested in "listening" to our conversation. We are writing guidelines and laying out the ground rules right now. If anyone else has done something like this I would be interested in your thoughts and ideas.
Craig, LifeWay is the champion in S.S. curriculum and discipleship material, I'm thankful for the ministry you guys provide for us. The responsibility for the success of S.S. is played in our court. I'm mainly looking for material that people won't just take home and put on the shelf with their Bible, I want material that will lead them to want to spend time in the Bible not a quarterly.
Thanks for being open and know that I respect LifeWay's work in providing doctrinally sound teaching aids for us. When I want discipleship and Bible study material I start with LifeWay.
There are many new ideas that could be incorporated into our curriculum to get our students into the Bible. The quarterly seems to work well with the older generations in our church who are accustomed to the quarterly way. However, many of our middle-aged and younger adults and teens do not relate well to these quarterlies. Granted, innovative teachers will take the Lifeway material only as a launching point and then develop whatever they must to be as effective as they can.
That being said, here are a couple of suggestions (for what they are worth). I have found students participate well if they have a fill in the blank type follow along handout. Such handouts are often used by college profs and pastors along with powerpoint. These outlines can be taken home and can include follow up through the week Bible study passages. Perahps this wuld be an alternative to the quarterly book that you take home and place on the shelf.
Another suggestion would be to follow the Experiencing God, study course type format. For example, make the entire material a through the week preparation and personal reflection time rather than a read through the lesson real fast on Saturday night so you can say you studed your lesson for Sunday morning type material.
Thanks, Craig, for your utilization of this format to better understand the needs of educators in our churches. Thanks also for all you do!
In reply to your question, '
i gave my home pastor and now where my current church membership is located at a copy of Ryries Christian Doctrines, book , actually a text book from school, i also have provided from my library church history books, and book study and survey texts,
The Church thrive on their teaching, Their is more than just preaching, I am in process of providing computers with bible software and commentaries for teachers so thay can prepare their lessons, ,
i have also remembered classes i attended as a single that were Themed classes, topical, what god says about a certian subject, Usually one that marrieds had no desire to hear,
approaches that can permit this level of "MEAT" in studies would be helpfull, we already know we can produce milk, also material that can post different views, critical thinking, our faith in light of others, many want ot know the differences, but have no teacher to teach them, and short of a convert who has been through all of them , very few can address these subjects, from different viewpoints, by providing the different views and scriptural supports for them, it may remove the traditions of men and restore our denomination to its true roots of the scriptures, and also develop a healthy pride in knowing the way we have chosen is in line with scriptures,
It also checks false and bad doctrines along with checking traditions and whims of men too.
What i am addressing, is textbook material for the layperson, the first two years of a undergrad degree in a bible college, a sunday school material for this kind of education maybe streamlined, would be a very gutsy resource, maybe a wednesday night study material for teaching more in depth stuff.
We can always simply tell the stories, and statistics show Southern Baptist are well versed in Stories, but generally unable to find them, or locate their references, Statistics also show we are weak in knowing what we believe and why, based upon scriptures. the last i read the Assemblies of God were better indoctrinated than we were.
What ever you offer below this level of teaching is fine, but I have seen the need for this deeper level learning in too many churches to ignore it,
The bottom Line is this, If you give the different views , and address the tough passages instead of tiptoeing through them , The Word of God WILL NOT COME BACK VOID Isa 55;11 AS long as it encourages and enables " Reasoning of the Scriptures" Acts 17;2
Wnat great "postings" you guys have put into this. Believe it or not, LifeWay wants to provide what you need! And we have many things that you probably don't know about. Your questions, concerns, suggestions, etc., will help all of us here get "gutsy"!
I appreciate this input. Craig Kendall is working on some very "gutsy" material himself right now and you are helping us get strong ideas into the mix.
No doubt we need great doctrinal and biblical materials. It is always a tragedy when any teacher only parrots back what is in the material, whatever it may be and whoever may have published it!
Bless you all!
Thanks for the work from Lifeway, I'm thankful for the new gutsy stuff coming from LifeWay.
I see Four groups of people at play here.
1) Publisher, 2) buyer, 3) teacher, and 4) student (potential and current)
I start with the student; what kind of student do we have that is currently not growing or being challenged in his relationship with God? (This student is easy to identify because they're usually not doing anything gutsy for God)
Then I look for a teacher that is willing to teach in a way that captivates and attracts a class of students that even makes all of the other classes uneasy because they see something new happening.
As the buyer (church) I pray as I look for material that is biblical and doctrinal. I trust the Spirit to lead and that's why I love LifeWay. but as I'm praying and looking to reach a younger generation I must find something that can help us create a WANT in them. I've known they need God, they just don't want Him yet. Thank you for helping us reach Twin Falls, Idaho. Our Sunday School has grown triple over the past 2 years. I love that this is not just numeric growth, it is disciple growth.
If we want disciples that will live gutsy, we will use material that will help us get them there.
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