Engaging with Scripture for medium-sized gatherings

1. Bible study books galore

There are literally thousands of Bible study books, especially ones for small groups. You will need to browse a selection to match the style, language and approach of the book to your group and context.

a. Lectio Divina

Three open BiblesLectio Divina is a dynamic, life-orientated approach to reading the Scriptures, encouraged by and dating back to the early Church Fathers around AD 300. It is a way of praying with Scripture that calls one to study, ponder, listen and, finally, pray from God's word. It follows a four-step approach (first recorded by a monk, Guigo Cartujo, in 1173) based on:

  • reading;
  • meditation;
  • prayer;
  • contemplation.

There are quarterly free downloads available from the Bible Society website with helpful directions if you are going to lead Lectio Divina in a group setting rather than as an individual.

It can be hard to find time to speak to God when your day is full of work, family and the pressures of daily life. Lectio Divina invites you to savour and mull over God's words quietly, slowly and intently until you begin to respond to what God is saying.

It helps you build that vital bridge between your encounters with God and everyday life with its joys, humdrum and challenges.

Bible Society offers you a year-long series of potentially life-changing encounters based on the weekly reading plan for Sunday worship.

Each one is free to download and contains a guide to using the Lectio Divina four-step approach. They are also available in French, Spanish and Portuguese.

b. Wise Traveller series

Footsteps in sand

Life is not neat or painless, but is instead stuffed full of meaning, mystery, beauty and sacred encounters, all shaped by our relationships with people, places, ideas and stories. The Wise Traveller anthologies are for anyone interested in deepening their awareness of 'spirituality' as part of life.

Wise Traveller offers pathways into biblical thought by taking Christian spiritual classics – Celtic, monastic, contemplative, Eastern, evangelical and other traditions – and placing them alongside new and original meditations, stories, poems and exercises by contemporary authors recognised for their creative and experimental approaches to exploring faith.

Offering an open-ended, non-directive approach to Bible reading and prayer, there's help for those with questions who don't want just easy answers. A devotional pattern provides opportunities for reflecting on your journey through life, and background notes offer routes into Scripture.

Published by Scripture Union, the Wise Traveller books are available from bookshops and online retailers.

c. Encounter with God series

Encounter with God comes from Scripture Union's range of adult Bible resources, encouraging regular Bible study and prayer. With overviews, introductions and comment, it unpacks individual books of the Bible in a relevant and informative way. Encounter with God is also available in electronic format - download to your Pocket PC, Palm or laptop.

d. Multi-Sensory series books

A drop ripples out in waterThere are now ten books in the Multi-Sensory series: Church; Message; Parables; Prayer; Prophets; Scripture; Seasons; Together; World; Worship. The series can be found on the Scripture Union website.

Sue Wallace, Multi-Sensory Scripture.

This collection of 50 innovative and creative ideas that explore all the senses will breathe new life into engaging with Scripture. Practical and easy-to-follow directions will help you make the most of teaching times. This invaluable resource includes varied ways for exploring the senses to expand understanding of the Bible.

Ian Birkinshaw, Multi-Sensory Parables.

15 ready-to-use sessions on the stories Jesus told - for creative churches and small groups. Uses a flexible menu approach, including options for experiencing study, worship, meditation, drama, art, craft, games, worship, prayer, liturgy.

d. Living Well - Complete Resource Book – Susan Sayers

A coffee cup Living Well is a community partnership approach to exploring what it feels and looks like to live God's way and be content. Created as a series of 15 sessions over 12 months, it is relaxed, affirming and flexible. It is centred around a Fairtrade, café-style weekend breakfast or lunch, and designed across the full age range so as to encourage practical community building. It runs weekly for four weeks, then once a month for the rest of the year, so there are 15 sessions in all. Each session lasts for an hour and a half, including refreshments.

The activities for each session are described in detail and all instruction sheets and handouts - attractively designed and in full colour - are included on the free CD-ROM, ready to personalise where appropriate and print out.

Rather than teaching directly about the Christian faith, the course aims to offer people from a diversity of backgrounds a fresh way of looking at ordinary daily living, affirming our humanness in the context of God's love. It meets people where they are, opens up possibilities and celebrates the privilege of being alive.

Session titles:

  1. Exploring who we are;
  2. The planet and the universe we inhabit;
  3. What's good about being human;
  4. What's hard about being human;
  5. How God loves us in our humanness;
  6. How we keep in touch with one another and God;
  7. How we treat one another;
  8. How we deal with pain, evil and change;
  9. How we can live contented lives;
  10. Living in two dimensions at once;
  11. Living well as God's human 'family';
  12. Living well in working and playing;
  13. Living well as spenders;
  14. Health of body, mind and spirit;
  15. Exploring who we are.

e. Imaging the Word

A man looking at photos at an exhibition

One of the best sources of images for liturgy/worship is a series called Imaging the Word. There are three volumes (volume 1volume 2 and volume 3) that follow the lectionary with prayers, reflections and images from art/photography round the world.

They are big books and quite expensive, but they are one of the best resources we have seen. All three volumes are really worth getting.

2. Storytelling and talks using film, music and TV clips

a. The Damaris Trust resources

Frames of cine film

A fabulous and vital resource for anyone wishing to communicate their faith in the language of contemporary popular culture – particularly using films, music and TV.

Tools for Talks

With many facilities such as:

  • illustration finder – suggests illustrations to enhance your theme, subject or issue from the latest films, music and TV – updated every week.
  • passage picker - suggests relevant bible passages for your theme.
  • bible commentary - helps you to understand your bible passage.

Film & Focus

For each film there are:

  • Downloadable clips from the film to stimulate discussion;
  • Discussion questions, drawing out the main themes of the film;
  • Free publicity material, including posters, invites and a downloadable movie trailer;
  • Menu suggestions, to take the effort out of catering;
  • Fun post-film activities, such as games or quizzes.

Talking About... - DVD talks series

  1. Talking About Jesus
  2. Talking About Prayer
  3. Talking About Forgiveness

b. Nooma DVDs

Rainbow colours on the surface of a CDRob Bell has created over 20 short films (no longer than 14 mins) called Nooma. These are on biblical themes for discussion groups/home groups/personal reflection or use as inspirational talks that get you thinking.

Here are some of the titles with synopses of themes. You can see a short online clip for each title on the Nooma website. The Nooma films are available on DVD, streaming video or mp4 downloads. Each DVD includes a 32-page booklet.

  1. RAIN: Where is God when it really hurts? (11 mins)
  2. FLAME: What it involves to really love somebody. (11 mins)
  3. TREES: Meaning. Destiny. Purpose. Do our lives matter? (13 mins)
  4. SUNDAY: God wants our hearts. (12 mins)
  5. NOISE: How do we 'hear' God? (12 mins)
  6. KICKBALL: Do we really trust God? (12 mins)
  7. LUGGAGE: Does revenge ever truly satisfy? (13 mins)
  8. DUST: Does God have faith in us? (14 mins)
  9. BULLHORN: How do we love others? (12 mins)
  10. LUMP: How do we deal with things we're ashamed of? (12 mins)
  11. RHYTHM: What does it mean to have a relationship with God? (12 mins)
  12. MATTHEW: Understanding times of grief and bereavement. (14 mins)
  13. RICH: When enough is enough. (12 mins)
  14. BREATHE: Understanding how God 'breathed' his 'spirit' into us. (14 mins)
  15. YOU: What really matters in our lives? (13 mins)
  16. STORE: Understanding anger. (14 mins)
  17. TODAY: Longing for the past, for the 'good old days'? (11 mins)
  18. NAME: Do we really accept who we are? (11 mins)
  19. OPEN: Does God answer prayer? (12 mins)
  20. SHELLS: Is life one big busy 'to do' list or appointment schedule? (10 mins)
  21. SHE: Is God male or female? (13 mins)
  22. TOMATO: Dying to ourselves in order to truly 'live'. (13 mins)
  23. CORNER: Why do we often feel empty, even when we get what we want? (12 mins)
  24. WHIRLWIND: What do we do when there aren't nice, neat answers? (12 mins)

3. Online Bible resources 

a. WordLive

A hand holding a mobile phone

Scripture Union daily downloadable online Bible podcast and other resources. This is a brilliant resource!

WordLive invites you to step into a multimedia Bible reading experience and deepen your relationship with God.

WordLive offers a fantastic range of creative approaches you can follow to engage with God's word. WordLive is designed to be intuitive and simple. Each day when you log on you will be prompted to pray and then read the Bible. The next step is up to you.

Using the revolving carousel that sits underneath each day's Bible passage, you can watch a video, listen to the Bible passage, dig deeper into further Bible study, dip into creative prayer suggestions and explore other activities. Choose from: Podcast; Pray First; Today's Reading; Close Encounters; Further Study; Video; Illustrations; Worship Song Audio Track; Daily Question; Talk; Series Overview; Main Point; Audio Bible Passage; Group Discussion; Topical Thoughts From Today's reading; Speak Lord.

You can sign up to receive a daily WordLive email or podcast. Or you may prefer to access WordLive through your mobile or pda.

b. Glo Bible software

A mouse for a computerGlo is an interactive Bible with a world of media, resources and tools to help you get closer to the word of God. It brings the Bible to life through HD video, images, animations, maps, reading plans, 360 degree virtual tours and more. It uses the New International Version (NIV), the King James Version (KJV) and the Contemporary English Version (CEV), with more translations due in updates.

Explore the world of the Bible through volumes of interactive content. Glo provides simple intuitive ways to browse biblical content through five main lenses:

  • bible;
  • atlas;
  • timeline;
  • media;
  • topical.

Once into the pages of Scripture, it displays resources and media related to each verse. You can also see the where the major stories of the Bible happened on an atlas along with map overlays, tours, photos and expert video.

4. Utilising drama/storytelling

a. The Comprehensive Dramatised Bible

A spotlight on red theatre curtainsIdeal for reading aloud and group dramatisation; a fresh and imaginative approach to the Scriptures. The Comprehensive Dramatised Bible uses the actual narrative text primarily from the easy-to-read Good News Bible. It allows the Bible to speak for itself and makes the dramatisation of passages and reading aloud really easy. Church groups, schools and religious education programmes can now access the Bible in a vivid and lively way, making the positive participation of religious study truly interactive. Through this approach the Scriptures are brought to life in a contemporary and effective way to provide greater access and enjoyment of the Bible's message.

Using the established modern texts of the Good News Bible and the New International Version, with the additional Jubilate liturgical psalms, The Comprehensive Dramatised Bible will be of immediate assistance to all who want church worship, group studies, youth events, school assemblies and religious education programs to come alive.

The Comprehensive Dramatised Bible includes:

  • all the Bible narrative dramatised;
  • Bible teaching arranged for choral speaking where appropriate;
  • major worship psalms set simply for reponsorial use;
  • full cast listing with each reading;
  • denominational liturgical responses;
  • indexes to characters, subjects, worship themes and seasons.

b. Inspired by the Bible Experience: New Testament or whole Bible

An apple with headphones around itInspired by the Bible Experience is a fully-dramatised reading of the Bible performed by an unprecedented ensemble of distinguished African-American actors, musicians and personalities. The cast includes such recognisable voices as:

  • Denzel Washington
  • Angela Bassett
  • Blair Underwood
  • Juanita Bynum
  • Shirley Caesar
  • Kirk Franklin

and more.

The dramatisation is further enriched by an original music score, composed by Grammy award-winning producers. The recording is truly contemporary, using the accessible and trusted Today's New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible. The features of Inspired by the Bible Experience provide a rich listening experience, helping you hear the words of Scripture as if for the first time.

c. Testimony

Close-up of a young man's face

The simple sharing of personal life stories of how a particular Scripture has been outworked in our lives is a treasured resource for the church. How rich and varied the stories are, and what a testimony to God's work in people's lives! Many of these stories tell of God's goodness - the ways in which his blessings have been so obvious.

But there are also the regrets and failures that some are willing to speak about. As they speak with conviction of God's lavish grace and his completely adequate forgiveness, their stories are a healthy encouragement for people of any age. We all need those stories, and they ought not be told only at their funerals!