Did your small group take a break when the quarantine began last year? Think of all of the new group studies that were published during that time that you may have missed! Here’s a list of DVD and book-based studies that have been published since March 2020 – including some brand new ones. Consider one of these for your group to use over the summer or even in the Fall.
New in 2021
Before we go back to March 2020, let’s take a look at what is new in 2021.
Courage: Jesus and the Call to Brave Faith by Tom Berlin. Throughout Jesus’ life, he was called upon to be brave: in the face of his enemies, when being tempted, and certainly at the time of his death. By examining the life of Christ, we can begin to understand what true courage is and how God works in our lives when we exhibit a brave faith. United Methodist pastor and author Tom Berlin challenges us to unlock the courage that we already possess as Christ followers, and in doing so, we can begin to find the remarkable life Jesus offers us.
1 Corinthians: Searching the Depths of God by Jaime Clark-Soles. 1 Corinthians is basically a letter Paul wrote to a people who were trying a wild new social experiment known as a Christian community. Centuries later, our churches deal with many of the same issues Paul addresses: factions, sexual immorality, gender issues, money concerns, theological questions, lawsuits, problems in worship, and problems in leadership. Professor and Minister Jaime Clark-Soles explores these topics and the awe-inspiring, breathtaking world of the first-century church. You will learn to look at 1 Corinthians from a variety of viewpoints and apply its lessons to your own faith.
How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice by Jemar Tisby. This video study is a how-to guide for pursuing racial justice. By providing a series of hands-on suggestions for practice bolstered by real-world examples of change, Jemar Tisby offers viewers an array of actionable items to help them become proactive initiators of racial justice. Far more than a simple list of items to do, it also provides a simple framework to help viewers consistently interrogate their own actions and maintain a posture of anti-racist action. This study offers viewers the opportunity to be part of the solution to racial problems in the church and the nation.
What’s So Amazing About Grace? Updated Edition by Philip Yancey. In this revised and updated video study, bestselling author Philip Yancey explores the concept of grace—the one thing the world cannot duplicate and the one thing it craves above all else—and explores what it looks like in action. Yancey offers compelling and true portraits of grace’s life-changing power. He searches for its presence in his own life and in the church. He asks how Christians today can contend graciously with moral issues that threaten all they hold dear. And he challenges each of us to become living answers to a world that desperately wants to know, “what’s so amazing about grace.”
Sacred Pathways: Nine Ways to Connect with God by Gary Thomas. As believers in Christ, many of us today fall into the trap of thinking we have to approach God in a certain way. This one-size-fits-all mentality typically leaves us feeling frustrated and distant from God. But the truth is that not every person will engage with God in the same way. Bestselling author Gary Thomas uncovers nine spiritual “pathways” that people have used over the centuries to grow closer to God. He provides tools for participants to assess their key pathway and encourages them to investigate the ways they most naturally express themselves in their relationship with God.
Mysteries of the Messiah: Unveiling Divine Connections from Genesis to Today by Rabbi Jason Sobel. Rabbi Jason Sobel uncovers connections between the Old Testament and New Testament that are vital in giving us a complete picture of God’s plan for sending Jesus into the world as the Messiah. As Rabbi Jason unlocks these connections, participants will come to understand: How the foundation of the Bible (The Torah) fits with the rest of Scripture; How the Torah answers the question of “who is the promised seed?”; How all of the Bible works to give a picture of the promise of Messiah; What implications this has for their lives as the Old and New Testaments come together.
Bible Studies of 2020
These excellent studies from United Methodist publisher Abingdon Press focus on a specific section of the Bible.
Words of Life: Jesus and the Promise of the Ten Commandments Today by Adam Hamilton. United Methodist Pastor Adam Hamilton brings modern eyes to the most important set of ethics in history. He considers the commandments in their historical context, considering the meaning of each commandment in Hebrew, unpacking how Jesus reinterpreted them, and showing how every thou-shalt-not was intended to point to a life-giving “thou shalt.” He also explores how the latest research in science and psychology illuminates these commandments, rightly understood, as a way of ordering one’s life beautifully in the present day.
Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven by Amy-Jill Levine. What must it have been like to hear Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount? What did his words mean to people in the crowd? How did it change their lives? What do his words mean to us today and how do they change our lives? Did his listeners interpret the sermon as we do now? Dr. Amy-Jill Levine explores the major topics in the most popular sermon ever delivered, providing historical and theological context and using a solid knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures and moral teachings.
Proverbs: Pathways to Wisdom by Dominick S. Hernández. The book of Proverbs invites people to grow in wisdom—biblical wisdom in order to journey down the right path. This study explores the biblical book’s well-known verses and prevalent themes in a manner that offers various interpretations, opening the way for us to see how they apply to our modern world. You’ll learn about the authorship, genre, and historical setting for each of these verses, which will broaden your understanding and bring more meaning to familiar passages.
Hebrews: Grace and Gratitude by David A. deSilva. Author and New Testament scholar David deSilva traces the themes of grace and gratitude through the book of Hebrews, helping us to see the connection between God’s grace in our lives and the gratitude we can express for our salvation when we answer the call to invest ourselves in God’s mission in the world. He helps us discover a bold perspective on the meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection in light of the Old Testament, allowing us to hear afresh God’s call to a life of faithfulness.
Christian Living Studies
While we have all been focused on how to live through a pandemic, we must still ask ourselves how to live as Christians. These studies offer biblical guidance on Christian living in such a time as this.
The Wesley Prayer Challenge: 21 Days to a Closer Walk with Christ by Chris Folmsbee. The Wesley Covenant Prayer has been used in Methodist services around the world on the first Sunday of the year since John Wesley introduced it in 1755. Wesley expected that people would pray this prayer as a way of remembering, renewing, and surrendering themselves in complete trust to God. Author Chris Folmsbee invites readers to consider words from the Wesley Covenant Prayer each day for three weeks, while reflecting on their meaning in the context of the larger piece.
You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God’s Presence and Power by Max Lucado. When life feels depleted, does God care? Max Lucado looks at the miracles of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John. John chose the stories and events from Jesus’ life that he believed would give his readers strength, empower them, lift them up, and speak life into their situations. Today, take courage that you are stronger than you think because God is nearer than you know. This is the message of the miracles . . . that with God you are never alone.
Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move by Andy Stanley. We never know what or who hangs in the balance of the decisions we make. But what we do know is this: private decisions have public implications. Andy Stanley gives you five key questions to ask when you have a decision to make and you’re not sure what to do. These five simple questions will empower you to: Make better decisions with fewer regrets, Pause when feeling tension over a decision, Take the long view, Look for the wise option, and Focus on the relational impact of decisions.
Dream Big: Know What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It by Bob Goff. Bestselling author Bob Goff provides a wildly inspiring yet utterly practical blueprint for helping participants find and reach their greatest God-given dreams. He shares stories from the Bible that show how God called certain individuals to follow him—regardless of their lack of “qualifications”—and how those people changed the world when they dared to follow God’s dreams for their lives. In the same way, God is calling us to step into the version of our lives that he intended for us before others told us it was impossible and once again dream big.
If your small group is still meeting on Zoom, or maybe even outdoors, or doesn’t prefer to use a video, these books are excellent choices for a group study. Many of them offer discussion questions or a leader’s guide for intentional group facilitation.
Reunion: A Bible Study for Churches Getting Back Together by David Kalas. This season has been unique in the history of the church and in the life of each individual congregation. United Methodist Pastor David Kalas provides a resource to help pastors, group leaders, and congregations navigate these uncharted waters. It will help people come back together, reconnect with one another, rebuild their churches, and move forward into an even better future of serving God together. The book includes a Leader Guide.
Looking for God in Messy Places: A Book about Hope by Jake Owensby. This book for anyone who has ever been frozen in place by loss or regret or endured suffering, cruelty, or rejection. Quite simply, it is a book about hope. How to find it. How to practice it. How to grow in it. How it makes life worth living. Because when we look for God in the middle of the mess, we find hope. The book includes discussion questions. Amplify subscribers can find short accompanying videos for each session on that platform. The first video is available free to everyone.
Lies My Preacher Told Me: An Honest Look at the Old Testament by Brent A. Strawn. In this concise volume, Brent Strawn addresses ten common “lies” or mistruths about the Old Testament, from perceptions of God’s personality (the “angry Old Testament God”) to the relevance of the Old Testament for Christians. Written by a leading scholar in Old Testament and designed for easy reading and group discussion, this book will expand your thinking about the Bible’s First (and largest) Testament. The Center for Leadership Excellence hosted a webinar with the author, and your group can watch the recording.
Scripture and the Skeptic: Miracles, Myths, and Doubts of Biblical Proportion by Eric Huffman. United Methodist Pastor Eric Huffman helps readers understand and cope with confusion about the bible and provides answers to questions by reframing it as a perfect and seamless story. Huffman illustrates how the bible, even the parts some consider ungodly, presents the beautiful story that God intended to tell. Includes resources for group discussion.
Spiritual Growth through Books
These books intend to lead readers along a path of intentional spiritual growth and discipleship.
Life in Christ: The Core of Intentional Spirituality by Steve Harper. United Methodist Pastor and Professor Steve Harper helps us recognize our tendency to search for life through rules and dogmas rather than in relationships with other people and with God. By living in relationship, we live as enlivened Christians, the abundant life God intends for us and the life we long for. He encourages us to see the spiritual life as a movement, where we are always on the way, taking steps forward to continually align our lives with Christ. Harper provides a wealth of helps, including a set of questions for reflecting on each chapter, a discussion guide for conversing about the book in a group, and extensive reading lists for further enrichment.
When Christ Lives in Us / Cuando Cristo Vive en Nosotros by Justo L. González. Written in both English and Spanish by the renowned author Justo L. González, this book explores how today’s Christians may walk with Jesus in eight specific forms and acts of ministry: calling, praying, feeding, healing, commissioning, teaching, witnessing, and giving. This bilingual resource is a combined student/leader book that includes discussion questions at the end of every chapter.
Gospel Discipleship: 4 Pathways for Christian Discipleship by Michelle J. Morris. Each individual brings a unique set of skills and gifts to the mission field and therefore needs to understand what type of disciple he or she is. Learn how to engage in self-reflection which can then help you define a path to discipleship that fits your context. The Participant Guide is designed to provide individuals with assessment tools to help them clarify their path. The Congregation Guide, a resource that functions as a program leader guide, helps assess and define discipleship paths for a church as a whole.
Hear It, See It, Risk It: How Faith Grows by Steve Cordle. This book is about how we learn to trust God more deeply, and in the process receive more of what God has always intended and promised to us. Perhaps you would like less fear and more of God’s power owing through your life. You might desire more confidence that you are forgiven and that you have eternal life. If so, this book is for you. You can purchase a Next Generation Small Group Study Bundle from Market Square Books that includes a live session with the author, digital copies of the book, leader’s guide, Powerpoint slideshow, and handouts.
Foundations Revised and Updated for the 2020s: An Introduction to Christian Practices by Phil Maynard. Growth as a disciple begins with a good foundation. We need to learn how to pray, how to begin reading the Bible, how to live in authentic relationships, how to have a devotional time, how to use the resources God has provided, how to discern our call to serve, and how to share our faith. In this new updated edition of Foundations, these basic foundational spiritual disciplines are presented in an easy-to-understand and very practical workbook-style format. You can purchase a Next Generation Small Group Study Bundle from Market Square Books that includes a live session with the author, digital copies of the book, leader’s guide, Powerpoint slideshow, and handouts.
In our current social and political climate, groups may benefit from looking at contemporary issues through biblical interpretation. These books are intended to use in group settings for this purpose.
Who Stole My Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny by Jennifer Butler. If this is a question you’ve asked yourself recently, if you have found yourself looking at those who claim a faith in God and wonder what Bible they are reading, you are not alone. Rev. Jennifer Butler, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister and the CEO of Faith in Public Life, reclaims her sacred texts rather than allowing the Bible and her faith to be stolen from her. She shows us the Bible’s liberative story arc from Genesis to Revelation through imaginative storytelling grounded in biblical scholarship. Each chapter connects a key turning point in the Bible to America today. She concludes each chapter with movement stories that connect each Bible passage to faithful strategies for resisting tyranny.
A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion by Mark Feldmeir. Mark Feldmeir, pastor of a 3,500 person, politically diverse United Methodist congregation, explores eight of the most divisive issues of our day—climate change, racism, immigration, healthcare, medical aid in dying, Islamic extremism, homosexuality, and social isolation and suicide—through the lens of “a politics of compassion,” the motivating, unifying ideals of the gospel that insist that we work together for the benefit of the common good. Through a series of axioms, or principles we can all agree on, Feldmeir seeks to identify those shared values that affirm our commonality and inspire a more creative and collaborative approach to finding practical solutions and healing our divisions. Each chapter includes a study guide for small group conversations.
A Bigger Table Expanded Edition with Study Guide: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz. A Bigger Table invites readers to envision a church that is big enough for everyone, by holding up a mirror to the modern church and speaking clearly on issues at the heart of the Christian community: LGBT inclusion, gender equality, racial tensions, global concerns, and theological shifts. John Pavlovitz shares moving personal stories, his careful observations as a pastor, and his understanding of the ancient stories of Jesus to set the table for a new, positive, more loving conversation on these and other important matters of faith. This new edition includes a small-group study guide complete with ideas for exploring A Bigger Table in a congregation-wide sermon series and program along with a new foreword by Jacqui Lewis and a new afterword by the author to explore the challenges of living out the bigger table when voices of hate and exclusion seem stronger and louder than ever.
There were several new studies for women’s groups added during quarantine as well. See our post on New Studies for Women’s Groups for titles from Barb Roose, Jen Hatmaker, Jennifer Cowart, Melissa Spoelstra, and more.
Request These Resources
These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.