my church is working through the community bible experience, a program for reading through the new testament, in small groups, using a particular packaging of the bible that’s more like a book club (stripped of verse numbers and columns and other notes that clog things up). we have hundreds of people engaged in this.
our junior high pastor was smart enough to realize that it was unlikely many of our middle schoolers could or would read the quantity of scripture needed to stay up with the 8-week plan the rest of the church is using. so she, creatively, took the CBEmini version of community bible experience, that The Youth Cartel worked on and promoted (never too late to try out this great, free resource, btw), and created a customized version. CBEmini takes groups on a 9-day journey through luke and acts. but in our middle school ministry, we’re reading through luke and acts over an 8-week span. so the readings each day are substantially shorter (but still a chunk for middle schoolers!).
as a result, each week when our 6th grade guys small group meets in my home, we’re recapping and talking about the passages they read that week. honestly, about 4 or 5 of my 12 guys are earnestly trying to keep up with the readings (and i think those are guys whose parents are doing the full new testament 8-week thing, a good endorsement of parents modeling something for the family). but i’ve noticed a few things:
1. these are the easiest small group times i’ve ever prepped for. the curriculum is the bible. and, each week, i simply select a few small portions from the week’s readings, and we read those aloud together. then, i have a small handful of open-ended questions to get discussion going (stuff like: what did you notice? what might this mean for you?).
2. the guys actually listen! when one of their peers is reading scripture, they seem to automatically understand that they shouldn’t interrupt or crack jokes or take us on wild tangents about what their dog did this week.
3. my guys are incredibly patient with each other. no one laughs when the reader mispronounces something or reads too slowly. really, i’ve never seen them be this gracious with each other.
4. normally our small group time is rather hit-and-miss in terms of substance. but during these weeks, every small group discussion has been rich with insight and exploration.
5. i’m not ready to chuck other curriculum out the window. there are topics we need to talk about in our small group that would be better handled with other approaches. but i’m loving the simplicity and hidden curriculum in this whole thing: beyond the individual insights and comments, we’re teaching these 6th grade guys that reading the bible doesn’t have to be scary or impossible.
i’m lovin’ it (thanks for that, mcdonalds). and i’d encourage you to try something like this.