While the following is not a comprehensive list, you ought to be able to match your needs with at least one of these programs. Major factors to keep in mind: Will your group need a leader or facilitator training? Is the difficulty of the program right for your group? Do you want a yearlong program, one that meets just for 8 to 10 weeks, or one that gathers only monthly?
Paulist Bible Study Program Aimed at the more advanced Bible reader in the parish setting--those with a little more background, perhaps some college theology courses--this nationally used program offers four Old Testament and four New Testament study series using both participant workbooks and a video, plus a leader's manual. Each unit has eight weeks of two-hour weekly sessions; many groups use one unit in the fall and one in the spring.
"People are more drawn to the units of the New Testament," according to Maria Maggi, managing editor. "We have many return customers. They begin with Jesus and the gospels, but once they feel comfortable with the format, they like the way it is set up--with the video portion, the sharing portion, the prayer session, and the activities." Contact Paulist Press or call 1-800-218-1903.
Little Rock Scripture Series Perhaps the most widely used Catholic Bible-study system currently, its popularity seems to come from a combination of factors, including solid, trusted scholarship in the commentary materials, thought-provoking questions, and down-to-earth language that is easily understood by the people in the pews. A good variety of books of the Bible are covered but not all. The series includes a video-based version for beginners and videos that accompany printed study guides if the group so chooses. It also offers a Spanish-language version, a children's version, and a young-adult version, as well as the main program aimed at English-speaking adults.
Participants like the blend of study and reflection, prayer, and especially the sharing encouraged by the questions in the study guides. It has a four-session leadership training component with step-by-step guides for running a program and practical tips to walk laypeople through the entire process of planning, registering participants, and facilitating sessions. Abbot Gregory Polan, a Benedictine biblical scholar, notes, "People learn to pray out of the Bible text, and that's a wonderful effect of the Little Rock series." For more information, contact: (501) 664-6102 or www.littlerockscripture.org. Materials published by The Liturgical Press. To order, call 1-800-858-5434 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share the Word Aims to lead people in the growth of their faith and to support people in their effort to become evangelizing disciples. A lectionary-based program used by some 10,000 people in faith-sharing groups or small Christian communities as well as by individuals, Share the Word is a small magazine published seven times a year. It includes articles to nourish one's spirituality and to encourage evangelizing, commentary on the readings for each Sunday, questions for group discussion or personal reflection, and reflections on all of the weekday lectionary readings. Many small groups find Share the Word to be a good program to follow up the Paulists' Renew program. Contact: (202) 832-5022 or www.paulist.org/pncea.
Scripture From Scratch A monthly four-page newsletter for a general audience of those who want to know more about the Bible. Also a good resource for a group looking for a less academic approach to Bible study. Provides new topics each month, such as "It's a Miracle! Signs and Wonders in Scripture" and "Sin in the Bible: The Path Away From God." Discussion questions follow the month's major article; plus, there are prayers, other suggested readings, and ideas for applying the Word of God to everyday life. Inexpensive at less than $1 a month and even cheaper for groups. Call St. Anthony Messenger Press, (513) 241-5615; reprints are available on its website: www.americancatholic.org.
Sunday by Sunday
Weekly lectionary-based, small-size four-page newsletter format beginning its 10th year and used by 25,000 people across the nation, mainly in small Christian communities but also in Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults programs and Scripture study groups. "Our philosophy is that people need to share their experiences of God in groups," says Sister Therese Sherlock, one of the two Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet--the other is Sister Joan Mitchell--who write and edit Sunday by Sunday. The format includes a prayerful introduction, a unique gospel in reader parts--"You take Jesus, I'll be Peter"--a commentary with reflection questions interspersed throughout ("Who sowed the gospel in your life?"), and a commitment challenge, which could be about justice, for example, or about love of neighbor. Inexpensive at $12.50 a year, with group rates available. Free guide with tips to help laypeople lead meetings. Published by Good Ground Press in St. Paul, Minn. Details: www.goodgroundpress.com or 1-800-232-5533.