16 Bible Studies For Your Small Group, by Ryan Lokkesmoe
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This book was somewhat disappointing. I came into this book with somewhat high expectations, that the book would contain deeply interesting and striking examples of Bible studies that one could have with a small group. My expectations spring in large part from my experience, as I have been the part of quite a few small groups in which there has been scintillating biblical discussion of deeply interesting passages and topics. But this book simply doesn’t measure up to those high expectations. Indeed, it appears that many of the Bible studies provided as samples in this book exist for the main part of seeking to justify and build up the small group itself. If this was done intentionally, it would seem to indicate that this particular book is designed for the forming and storming and perhaps norming of a small group fellowship where one has to hash out standards of behavior and where one is encouraging an attitude of love towards other members of the small group. This is not a book that is designed for well-performing groups that want striking and deep and insightful studies, but is designed to teach the basics of how to behave in a small group, for what it’s worth. That is certainly a necessary task, just a more basic task than I was expecting.
This book is relatively short at about 150 pages or so, and it is divided into a simple format, with sixteen studies on various topics being bookended by an introduction that encourages ever deepening study of the Bible (which assumes that these studies are likely to be deeper fare than the reader is used to) and a conclusion that discusses what it means to be the church. IN between, the sixteen Bible studies discussed cover shockingly straightforward material. For example, the book opens with studies on fellowship with God (1), as well as fellowship with brethren (2), which would hardly appear to be in dispute with a group of believers who was assembling together as part of a small group. After these very basic justifications of the existence of fellowship, there are equally basic and practical exhortations to love one another (3), keep gathering (4), put each other first (5), and build each other up (6). After that there are studies on how to be clothed in Christlikeness (7), how to be humble and hospitable (8), how to dodge divisions (9), and be givers of courage (10). The author takes task with judgmental people in a rather judgmental way (11), discusses how to be sacrificial sharers (12), and then closes with a set of studies designed to look at the roles of members as fellow servants and co-heirs (13), citizens and soldiers (14), workers (15), and prisoners and co-sufferers (16).
If you need or would greatly be able to use a book like this, it is likely that you are setting up a small group that does not have much experience in how to work. It does appear at least from this book that the author expects small groups to be something that a congregation would want to set up and look for some basic and fundamental material to work with. It is possible, of course, that at a later time the author may revisit this particular subject and create a series that has increasingly more challenging and exciting Bible studies that can take a well-functioning small group into the depth of biblical study and reflection about a great many subjects including specific passages that the group may find to be of interest, although the format included here seems to be too superficial to deal with deep doctrinal questions as only a few verses can be discussed with the sort of questions and approach the author takes with the material. Still, there is at least a bit that this book indicates could be done with the format of small groups that the author favors that would allow for interesting discussions of suitably small subjects.