Sample Series for Small Group Bible Study

adapted from a seminar given at Urbana 06

Below are three sample sets - Parables, Encounters with Jesus, and Luke - for organizing a semester's worth of small group Bible studies, followed by some comments from our experience doing this on campus.

You don’t have to keep these lists in the order they are, and they’re likely longer than what you could fit into a semester. They don’t include every potentially good passage. Feel free to work with them and to make your own; they’re just samples of some of what we have done.

To learn about leading a study, see the companion article here.

A Parables series

Treasure in the fieldMt 13.44
Pearl of great priceMt 13.45-46
House on the rockMt 7:24-27
Great banquetLk 15.1-7
SamaritanLk 10:25-37
Lost coin, lost sheepLk 15:1-10
Lost sons (usually 2 studies)Lk 15:11-32
Pharisee and publicanLk 18.9-14
Laborers in the vineyardMt 20.1-16
Unforgiving servantMt 18.23-35
Wheat and taresMt 13.24-30
Shrewd managerLk 16:1-13
Rich man and LazarusLk 16.19-31
Rich foolLk 12.13-21
Ten virginsMt 25:1-13
TalentsMt 25:14-30


An Encounters With Jesus series

Preaching in the synagogueLk 4.14-30
Big catchLk 5.1-11
Come and seeJn 1.35-50
Call of LeviLk 5.27-32
Wedding at CanaJn 2.1-11
Centurion’s servantMt 8.5-13
Woman at the wellJn 4.3-29
Woman who weptLk 36-50
Man by the pool at BethsaidaJn 5.1-9
Woman caught in adulteryJn 8.1-11
Mary and MarthaLk 10.38-42
Woman bent over doubleLk 13.10-17
Man born blind (usually 2 studies)Jn 9.1-41
Ten lepersLk 17.11-20
Rich rulerLk 18.15-30
LazarusJn 11.1-44
Mary’s perfumeJn 12.1-8
Blind man sits by the road and he cries…Lk 18.35-43
ZacchaeusLk 19.1-10


A Luke List (create your Own Series)

*^Jesus speaks in the synagogue4.14-30
*^Big catch of fish5.1-11
@Children in the marketplace7.18-35
 Two debtors7.36-50
*Sending of the 7010.1-24
*^Mary and Martha10.38-42
@^Friend at Midnight11.1-13
@*Demons, division11.14-26
*Woe to Pharisees11.37-44
*Woe to lawyers11.45-54
^Man with full barns12.13-21
 Waiting servants12.35-40
*Woman bent over double13.10-17
^Great Banquet14.12-24
 Lost coin, sheep15.1-10
^Lost sons15.11-32
@^Shrewd manager16.1-13
^Lazarus and rich man16.19-31
 Persistent widow18.1-8
 Pharisee and tax collector18.9-14
*!@Rich ruler18.18-30



Not really parables, per se; these are more like action scenes or teachings of Jesus. However, some of these are well worth consideration.
^These 12 are my all-time most-recommended Luke bible study passages, based on the impact I've seen them have over the years.
!These also appear in Mark, but I don't think doing the Luke version would necessarily ruin it for people if they do Mark later (The one Mark/Luke passage that I think is much better if saved for people who do the whole first half of Mark is the Parable of the Sower).
@Passages that require some interpretive savvy to get it right.


Notes on these lists:

On campus, I (Alison) really like doing parables in one semester and then encounters in a second. I think this gives people a chance to work primarily with one kind of literature at a time (parables and then narrative) which can make learning inductive study more efficient. It also gives people good and varied exposure to Jesus’ life and ministry.

Over four years of university, I hope students will have several opportunities-–at least three-–to study most of these passages. Looking again at what you thought you already saw often prompts new seeing. Often when people have studied a passage early in their student life and then become leaders themselves, the same passage takes on a whole new significance because they can see it in their own lives. It’s thrilling when that happens to your friends…and to you.

Some of these studies are harder to teach than others. When in doubt, work at the passage yourself first. You should teach what you are convicted about-–but you have to grasp the text well enough to be convicted by it and help others hear it. So if you’re not sure, get in touch with an InterVarsity staff worker or a pastor who can help you understand. It’s okay to change texts if you need to.

It’s also okay if you have some studies that flop. That’s part of learning. Don’t worry if you picked the ‘wrong’ passage one week. Perhaps people didn’t get it. Think about Jesus’ disciples-–they often didn’t get it, yet they still grew to lead the Church. If you have a whole string of difficult studies, consult a more advanced teacher for some help.

Don’t buy into the myth that this is the easy stuff and the Epistles or the Book of Revelation is the ‘real’ thing. Jesus’ teaching is some of the most difficult stuff in the world. It’s Jesus, after all. He challenges everything. Even if people don’t initially get excited about these kinds of studies, stick with it for awhile and you will very likely see folks come around to recognize the depth, excitement, challenge, and significance of what they’re studying.

You'll notice that we don’t generally include passages from Mark’s gospel. That’s because we usually teach that book inductively as a whole, either at city/script in Toronto, at camp and other InterVarsity contexts, or in weekly two-hour blocks in churches and on campuses. Contact us if you’d like more information.

You’ll also notice we don’t include Passion narrative in these lists. This is for two reasons: first, we cover that material in Mark studies, where we have the cumulative story to work with; and second, the more casual nature of these Bible studies can make it difficult to delve into such ‘heavy’ material.

Finally, you may be wondering about whether you can or want to do such a Bible study as an evangelistic outreach. We’ve had great experience including seekers in our studies and strongly encourage you toward this. Sometimes people with churched backgrounds feel like they already know the stuff (or are supposed to know it) and don’t ask a lot of questions. Nonchurched people, on the other hand, will often break open a study by asking exactly what they’re wondering.

When you think about Jesus’ ministry, you’ll notice that he didn’t differentiate his teaching to the crowds from his teaching to the disciples until the end and except when they pursued him with questions. Anyone can come to understand what the scripture says; the issue is whether we’re willing to deal with it, apply it, live in it. Maybe some of the nonbelievers around you will be willing to explore the scripture with you and to try living it. What they need is not so different from what the lifelong followers need, and that makes inductive Bible study a great inreach as well as outreach.


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