Contact: Joni Sullivan Baker, Buoyancy PR, 513-319-3231, firstname.lastname@example.org
CINCINNATI, Apr. 3 /Christian Newswire/ -- As neighbors watch with curiosity, every Tuesday night the cars begin to gather at Linda and Don's suburban Cincinnati home, and about a dozen or so adults pile out carrying books, sometimes carrying food, then disappear inside.
It may surprise the neighbors to know that these men and women are merely a fraction of the estimated 11 million adults in the United States who meet each week with a small group from their church for Bible study, discussion and prayer.
According to one study, more than two-thirds of Protestant churches have a small groups ministry program.
"Folks who have participated in small groups find that they feel more connected with the church at large, and that they develop deep friendships that could not have come about without the group environment," said Susan Rigby, coordinator of small groups for Hollywood Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California.
Keeping these thousands of small groups provided with study materials is a growing area for Christian publishers. Then there is also the challenge of finding and training leaders for all of these groups.
Standard Publishing, one of the nation's most-trusted publishers of Bible study resources, is expanding its efforts in providing resources for the church with its launch of a new line of materials for such small groups and their leaders.
"In leading small groups—and in leading the leaders of small groups--the same questions would come up—and the same fears," said Matt Lockhart, Executive Director of Product Development for Standard Publishing. "We felt there was a real need to provide a resource to churches that answered the questions, offered solutions, and encouraged and motivated these small group leaders."
They are introducing four "How-To" Small Group Help Guides this month to help small group leaders, followed in June with their first series of small group studies.
The Small Group Help Guides provide jitter-calming practical advice for leaders of small groups who are just getting started, or those who have gotten over the first hump and now are facing challenges of managing their group. Written by leading small group specialists with decades of experience in leading small groups and leading small group ministries, the quick-read guides contain practical nuggets of help for starting, leading, and dealing with problems in small groups.
The Tuning into God series that releases in June provides four six-week sessions that explore lyrical themes found in four icons of pop music—the Beatles, Rolling Stones, George Strait, and The Eagles. Each stand-alone study uses an album of classic songs from one of the groups to prompt discussion of Biblical truth.
The Beatles' series, for example, includes a session based on "The Long and Winding Road." Other well-known songs used include "You Can't Always Get What you Want," in the Rolling Stones-themed study, as well as The Eagles' "Take it Easy," and George Strait's "Living and Living Well" in those studies.
"We are so delighted to add this new line of resources to meet the needs of the churches we serve. Our small group materials offer solid, thought-provoking Bible content in innovative topical packages, and provide leaders the practical helps they need to keep their groups going and growing," said Ron Cox, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Standard Publishing.
"Churches that rely on us for Sunday School curriculum and Bible study materials have been asking when we were going to start offering them small group studies. We wanted to enter this important area of ministry resources with high quality products our customers could trust, just as they trust our existing Bible study products," he concluded.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Standard Publishing is a recognized leader in providing Christian products and resources for churches and families. Since its founding in 1866, Standard Publishing has been providing true-to-the-Bible resources that inspire, educate and motivate Christians to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. For more information, visit www.standardpub.com.
SMALL GROUP HELP GUIDES:
Each $7.99, 96 pages
Let's Get Started
How to Begin Your Small Group Ministry, by Dan Lentz
I'm a Leader…Now What?
How to Guide an Effective Small Group, by Michael Mack
Now That's a Good Question
How to Lead Quality Bible Discussions, by Terry Powell
Why Didn't You Warn Me?
How to Deal with Challenging Group Members, by Pat Sikora
TUNING INTO GOD SMALL GROUP STUDIES:
Each: $6.99, 48 pages
Tuning into God: Considering Songs from 'The Beatles 1"
Tuning into God: Considering Songs from George Strait's "50 Number Ones"
Tuning into God: Considering Songs from the Rolling Stones' "40 Licks"
Tuning into God: Considering Songs from "The Eagles: The Very Best Of"
FACT SHEET: Small Groups in America
-- Approximately 11 million, or 55%, of the nation's 20 million Evangelicals participate in small groups each week, according to researchers at The Barna Group.
-- Of Protestants overall, 32% participate in small groups each week, per Barna.
-- Churches attest to the importance of small groups in the lives of their members: "Folks who have participated in Small Groups find that they feel more connected with the church at large, and that they develop deep friendships that could not have come about without the group environment," according to Susan Rigby, small groups coordinator at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California, as stated on the church website.
-- More than two-thirds of American churches use small groups in some way in their churches, according to research from smallgroups.com.
-- 68% of those surveyed by smallgroups.com said small groups were important or central to the life of their church.
-- Commitment of senior pastors is key; 65% of churches surveyed by small groups.com that have established a small group ministry said their senior leaders "preach it and live it."
-- Involvement in small groups has nearly doubled over the past 12 years. As measured among all Americans, involvement increased to 23% in 2006 from 12% in 1994 when Barna began tracking the involvement.
-- For comparison, 24% of all American adults attend Sunday School; 65% of all Evangelicals.
-- And thanks to Barna we also know this:
The city where Christians are most likely to be involved in a small group: Shreveport, Louisiana.
Least likely: Albany, New York
For more information or to interview an expert about small groups, such as authors of Standard Publishing's new series of Small Group Help Guides, contact Joni Sullivan Baker, Buoyancy PR, at email@example.com or 513/319-3231.