Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Read and Learn: About BSD

Justice Seeker suggested that I write a post about the very successful Bible Study Discussion program at my church and share how it is set up and why it has been so well-received throughout our community.

First the caveat--I am relatively new to the program, so I don't have personal experience with its development. However, at our recent retreat for BSD leaders I asked about its history.

Some call BSD "BSF light" because it was created on the BSF model, but with more “grace and mercy.” For those not familiar with BSF, it is an interdenominational Bible study that is quite demanding and requires consistent attendance. I have never been to BSF, but it does have a reputation for being quite theologically conservative in its approach. When I first visited BSD, I was concerned about that until the Teaching Leader cited John Calvin in her lecture!

BSD was created by a woman in my church about 20 years ago and grew to almost 500 on Thursday mornings. She did use the BSF curriculum, which she adapted to a more Presbyterian point of view. Eventually copyright issues forced BSD to look for another curriculum and after trying a few different ones, it is now using a curriculum written at Sunset Presbyterian Church in Portland. (Sunset PC is now an EPC church, but was still in the PCUSA when we began using their materials.)

The basic organization of BSD remains similar to BSF: small groups discuss the lesson for the week with a designated group leader (who must be a church member); discussion is followed by a lecture by a Teaching Leader; and the small groups have a luncheon once a month. Child care is available at the church for all participants and it includes a short lesson for the kids based on the scripture their mothers or grandmothers are discussing that day. Group leaders meet together before their small groups for prayer and review of the day’s lesson and commit to contact each member of their group weekly outside of the group meeting.

Today, more than half of the participants in BSD are not members of my church. To prevent denominational squabbles, we discourage participants from talking about their own church, pastor or denominational viewpoints. Sometimes that is quite tricky! We do have several coed groups that meet on Sunday mornings as well.

I am very impressed with the commitment and consistency of the leadership and the participants in BSD. Many of these women are intimately familiar with the Bible as a result of many years of engaging in this high-expectations study. I think that the twin emphasis on study and fellowship is the key to the longevity and popularity of BSD.

It seems to me that the success of BSD comes from the intense and consistent focus on prayer, study and development of relationships between participants. Do you have a successful adult Bible study program at your church? If so, what do you think makes it successful?

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