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Facts and Questions about the Whole-Church Initiative

» What is the Read the Bible for Life initiative?

The Read the Bible for Life initiative is a whole-church initiative focused on growth in biblical literacy. The pattern in most churches will be to:

  1. Offer the nine-session group study (READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE: LISTEN. UNDERSTAND. RESPOND) as a foundational experience for the whole church.
  2. Then the church will read through the Bible chronologically in a year, as the pastor preaches through the highlights of the Bible's grand story year.
  3. READING GOD'S STORY: A CHRONOLOGICAL DAILY BIBLE and/or A READER'S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE can be used day-by-day as members of the church read through the Bible together.


» What is the role of this website in the initiative?

Through a variety of tools found on the website, we seek to help the local church by offering a multifaceted strategy for raising up disciples who are rooted and growing in the Scriptures. These tools include the book, Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God's Word, a small-group study entitled, Read the Bible for Life: Listen. Understand. Respond., a chronological Bible called Reading God's Story, and a tool entitled, A Reader's Guide to the Bible. On the website you also will find a blog, podcasts, links to and other helpful websites, video interviews with top scholars, and information for holding the Read the Bible for Life initiative in your church.


» What are ways a church can be involved in the initiative?

There are a number of ways a church could be involved. The greatest impact will occur is the whole church is involved in the initiative, since the Bible will be engaged on multiple levels—individually, in families, in small-group contexts, and as a worshiping community, with everyone tracking through the story of Scripture together. Yet, the timing might not be right for your whole church to join the initiative at this time. In that case, the materials can be used in a variety of small-group contexts, including Sunday School, home Bible studies, and community Bible studies. You also can do a personal study or go through the Read the Bible for Life materials as a family.


» What is in the Leader Kit?

The Read the Bible for Life book (B&H, 2011), a workbook for the group study (LifeWay, 2011), three DVDs, and a CD-ROM with supplemental articles, Bible-study tools, and suggestions for the church-wide initiative.


» Whom does the initiative target in the church?

The initiative is designed to help people grow in their reading of the Bible, regardless of where they are in their spiritual maturity.


» Who should lead the initiative in a church, and how should they prepare?

Leadership of the initiative will vary from church-to-church, but the pastor(s) of a church needs to lead the way if the initiative is to succeed. It is recommended that the leadership of the initiative (pastors, elders/deacons, small-group leaders, etc.) read the book READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God's Word.


» When will the various resources be made available?

The book READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE and the accompanying group study have a release date of January 1, 2011. READING GOD'S STORY: A CHRONOLOGICAL DAILY BIBLE and A READER'S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE will be released in Fall 2011.


» What is the difference between the book and the small-group study?

The book is based around a narrative interview style. In the book George Guthrie interviews top scholars, pastors, and others about how to read the Bible more effectively. Small-group discussion questions and a brief exercise are also included at the end of each chapter.

The group study has taken a sixteen-chapter book and focused the most basic principles in 9 30-minute sessions. The format has George Guthrie teaching a small group, with video interviews and creative teaching segments included in the presentation of key principles for reading the Bible well. The group-study also has a workbook with 5 days of exercises for each of the 9 weeks of the study. It would be ideal for a person to go through the study and then reinforce the teaching of the study by reading through the book.


» What role is played in the initiative by the book?

The book READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE can be bought by individuals, used in small-group experiences, and/or read by the leadership of a church. The book is designed to help lay a basic foundation for reading the Bible well. There are application exercises and small-group discussion questions at the end of each of the 16 chapters, and two Bible Reading plans are in the appendix.


» What role is played by the small-group study?

The accompanying group study, READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE: LISTEN, UNDERSTAND, RESPOND is a nine-week, small-group seminar on reading the Bible more effectively. Each session is approximately 30 minutes long. The group study sessions contain the most basic principles from the READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE book and is meant to be the beginning place for the vast majority of people in the church. The group-study is facilitated by a workbook, which contains five days of exercises for each week. There also are small-group discussion questions for each week. The idea is that most churches will offer the small-group study to the whole church prior to the church reading through the Bible as a community in a year's time. Yet, the study can also be used for basic education of new believers or new members in the life of a church. It can be used in any small-group experience or even individually.


» How much time is needed for the video sessions each week?

Each video session is approximately 30 minutes in length. You should set aside at least 30 minutes for small-group discussion. If it works with your schedule, 45 min. of small-group discussion time is even better. The format of a given week is as follows:

  1. Small group discussion to:
    1. overview the video session of the previous week
    2. discuss the small-group questions for the week (which are based on the exercises of the previous week).
  2. Watch the next Video
  3. Optional: there can be a question/answer time at the end of the video for the leader to field questions about the video session.


» Can the small-group study be done other than in a weekly format?

Yes. For example, the videos and small-group sessions could be done every-other week, or over two intense weekends (like a retreat). However, the problem with the latter is that the curriculum is designed to help a person grow in basic skills of reading the Bible over time. An approach that takes at least nine weeks will be more effective.


» Are the exercises in the workbook designed for beginners?

One of our greatest challenges was to design the workbook to stretch more mature believers, while offering a beginning place for those who have not read the Bible before. Therefore, the exercises are an attempt to offer some exercises that anyone can do, while raising the bar a bit, stretching everyone to grow in Bible reading. This will mean that beginners should be encouraged to do what they can in the exercises and come to the small-group time ready to learn from others. No one should feel pressure to "fill in all the blanks"! The goal should be to learn something each day and understand that we are all in a process of growth in our Bible reading.


» Can individuals get access to the video sessions?

Yes. The video sessions can be downloaded for a small fee from


» What is the difference between READING GOD'S STORY and A READER'S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE?

READING GOD'S STORY is a chronological Bible, which lays out the Bible in chronological order. Based on the HCSB translation, the Bible is divided into 6 readings per week for 52 weeks. The Bible also is organized according to 3 grand "Acts" and 17 "Scenes" that carry us through the story of the Bible, from Creation to the end of Revelation. Each Act and Scene has a brief introduction to orient the reader to that Act or Scene.

A READER'S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE is also laid out according to the chronological daily reading plan (6 readings per week), but it can be used with any translation of the Bible. The main feature of the READER'S GUIDE is a brief commentary each day, coaching the reader in how to read the portion of Scripture for that day. In this way, the principles from the book READ THE BIBLE FOR LIFE and the small-group study are reinforced throughout the year. There is journaling space for each day and small-group discussion questions at the end of each week. The READER'S GUIDE also has a fold-out timeline, giving the reader the opportunity to fill in the top 100 people and top 100 events of the biblical story during the year.


» Are there discounts if we buy the resources in bulk?

Yes. The book Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding & Living God's Word, published by B&H can be bought by the case for a discount at any LifeWay retail store, online at, or by calling 1-800-448-8032. Also, once a church has bought a Leader's Kit ($99), the church can purchase "Z-sets" of the DVDs/CD-ROM for $60 each. The Z-set is made up of the 3 DVDs and the CD-ROM from the Leader's Kit. Z-sets can be ordered by calling Customer Service at 1-800-458-2772.


» How can a pastor preach through the Bible in a year!?

Good question! The goal of this approach is to choose select, representative passages that will focus on the highlights of the story of Scripture, so that people will begin to understand the framework for the Bible's grand, amazing story. Sample sermon series will be available on this website.


» Do we have to start our read through of the Bible on January 1?

No. The materials in the initiative are not dated, but rather laid out according to weeks and days (e.g. "Week 1, Day 2," etc.). Therefore, the church could start their read-through at any point during the year (e.g., at Easter or the beginning of the school year in the Fall, or January 1).


» How can I encourage people who don't have time to read every day?

First, organize a prayer team; this is a spiritual battle. Second, don't be afraid to raise the bar. People often live down to our low expectations of them. Help people to understand that 20-30 minutes per day is discipline, but it is a fraction of the time we give to relatively unimportant tasks each day. This discipline can become a delight as we seek God in His Word on a daily basis. Finally, strongly encourage people to interact with a small group on a weekly basis. The group experience can provide a vital context for learning, accountability, and encouragement.


Five Quick Tips

1. Organize a prayer team for the initiative. Engaging God's Word is a spiritual
matter, and a serious effort at praying for the initiative in your church can be
powerfully effective (James 5:16).

2. Make sure the whole leadership team of the church is on board. The leaders of the
church need to lead the initiative with integrity, modeling a life focused in the
Word (Hebrews 13:7).

3. Integrate the whole church experience. For maximum effectiveness, various
aspects of the church's life need to be integrated around the initiative. If the
initiative is treated like an optional program for the select few, the church-wide
impact will be limited. On the other hand, if family, small-group experience,
personal devotions, and worship experiences are all integrated as the church
walks through growth in the Word together, the impact can be great.

4. Build an atmosphere of encouragement in the small groups (Heb. 3:13). People in
your small groups probably will range from immature believers to those who are
more advanced in the faith. It is critical that the small groups foster an
atmosphere in which people grow in the Word in a way appropriate to their stage
of spiritual maturity. In other words, those who struggle with discipline or with
grasping more difficult concepts should experience an encouragement that helps
them progress and celebrates their growth.

5. Encourage individuals to work with an encouragement/prayer partner (other than
their spouse!). Having a friend who can walk with us as we learn a new discipline
can be wonderfully helpful (Eccles. 4:9).


How to Host a Whole-Church Initiative

» Offering a Church-Wide Emphasis

In the Read the Bible for Life initiative a church uses the foregoing tools in a biblically oriented, whole-church approach to greater biblical literacy.

1. Offer group studies. The church begins by using Read the Bible for Life Workbook and Leader Kit to train people in how to read the Bible more effectively. Offering the study before the church starts reading the Bible through together will prepare readers for an enriching experience.

2. Launch chronological, one-year Bible reading. Involve the whole church in reading the story of Scripture together, using Reader's Guide to the Bible, Reading God's Story: A One-Year Chronological Bible, or both. This website provides additional tools for implementing a churchwide emphasis, including small-group resources, sermon outlines, and suggestions for worship services.

The combination of training, daily interaction with God's Word, small-group discussion and encouragement, the Word preached, and worship promises an effective means to greater depth in biblical literacy for your church and a more biblically oriented life together as God's people. The same resources can also be used in an ongoing way to train new members and new believers in how to read the Bible effectively, laying a strong foundation for their lives and ministry as part of the church community.


» Planning a Small Group Study

Who. This study should appeal to church members who want to grow in their understanding and application of God's Word. Read the Bible for Life is also an excellent tool for reaching individuals who are unchurched but who nonetheless acknowledge the Bible's authority or those who simply may be intrigued
by the subject.

Where. Studies can be offered at any site that has a DVD player and adequate room for par ticipants to meet comfortably. Suggestions include a church, a home, a community center, a workplace, or a prison.

When. Offer the study anytime the church calendar allows for nine consecutive weeks to complete the study. If your church plans to read the Bible through together beginning in January, offering this study in the fall will equip church members to read with greater understanding and meaning.

Suggested Planning Timeline.

Six to eight weeks before:

  • Order materials by writing to LifeWay Church Resources; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN 37234-0113; phoning toll free (800) 458-2772; faxing (615) 251-5933; e-mailing; ordering online at; or visiting a LifeWay Christian Store.
  • Enlist study leader(s).

Four weeks before:

  • Begin promotion. See "Promoting the Study."
  • Distribute materials to leaders.

Two weeks before:

  • Continue promotion.
  • Distribute workbooks to group participants or make them available for purchase.
  • Decide on details like refreshments, greeters, attendance keepers, and name tags.
  • Have worship bulletins or inserts printed.

One week before:

  • Continue promotion, including bulletin announcements or inserts.

After the study:

  • Involve the church in reading through the Bible together, using Reading God's Story: A One-Year Chronological Bible, Reader's Guide to the Bible, or both.
  • Consider preaching messages that support the weekly readings in the chronological Bible for an entire year.
  • Consider offering other studies on the Bible, such as Growing Disciples: Live in the Word by Philip Nation or Living God's Word by Waylon B. Moore.


» Promoting a Small Group Study

The following tools are provided on the CD-ROM for promoting a small-group study, church- wide emphasis, or community campaign.

  • Bulletin template
  • PowerPoint® slide
  • Promotional poster
  • Read the Bible for Life logo

Depending on your target audiences, you may also want to use e-mails; the church's Web site; announcements in worship services; and radio, TV, and newspaper ads.


» Offering a Small Group Study

The following process is recommended to complete a group study, using the workbook and the leader kit.

1. In session 1 participants will watch DVD session 1. As they watch, they should complete the DVD viewer guide on page 9 in the workbook.
2. During the following week participants should complete the daily studies in week 1 in the workbook on their own. These lessons will expand on the DVD teaching they have viewed.
3. In group session 2 participants will discuss the material they have studied during the week. Then they will watch DVD session 2 before completing week 2 in the workbook during the following week. Each subsequent group session follows this pattern.
4. An optional group session is provided on page 205 in the workbook for groups that want to follow up on their individual study of week 9 in the workbook.

Here is a suggested format for group-study sessions. Open and close each session with prayer.

Session 1
1. Welcome participants.
2. Lead the group to complete "Getting Started" on page 8 in the workbook and to share responses.
3. Identify the purposes of this study:

  • To help people learn how to read the Bible more effectively and consistently
  • To help people learn how to apply Scripture faithfully and speci cally to their lives
  • To help people grow in their delight in God's Word

4. Review the process for completing each week's individual and group studies, as explained at the bottom of page 8 in the workbook.
5. Share any details from the introduction to the workbook, pages 5–6, that you think would be helpful.
6. Mention ways participants can go deeper if they choose:

  • Do more in-depth study of the Scripture passages in the workbook by using a study Bible, a Bible dictionary, and Bible commentaries.
  • Choose a passage from the week's study to memorize and meditate on. Write the passage on an index card and spend 5 to 10 minutes each morning memorizing and meditating.
  • Read the trade book Read the Bible for Life as a companion to the workbook.

Sessions 2–9
Use the discussion questions provided in "Group Experience," which appears before each week's study in the workbook.

Session 10 (Optional)
An optional group session is provided on page 205 in the workbook for groups that want to follow up on their individual study of week 9. No DVD is provided for session 10.


» Leading Small Groups

Every Christian is called to be a leader. Some are more gifted at leadership than others, but we worship a God who calls each of us to in uence the people around us—to lead them to a fuller understanding of who God is, of what He has done for us, and how He wants us to live our lives. This collection of ideas is intended to offer you some helpful hints about how to lead a small group through a study, whether it's your first time or your hundred and first.

1. It's not about you. Let's get one thing straight from the beginning: leading a small-group study is not about you. It's about God.

2. Operate in God's strength. The best leader is one who is rst a follower of God. Ask God to empower you to lead beyond your abilities and return to this prayer often.

3. Operate in joy. If you adopt a joyful disposition throughout the study, others will follow.

4. Encourage accountability. Accountability matters, so early on encourage people to walk through the study with at least one other person.

5. Prepare, prepare, and prepare. If you're going to facilitate effectively, you need to have mapped out how you'll begin the group meeting, what questions
you'll cover, approximately how much time you'll devote to each of them, some proposed answers for each question, and a way to bring the meeting to effective close.

6. Model the way. Lead by example, not just by what you say.

7. Create a safe environment for sharing. Share your own struggles. Admit your own challenges with the issues being discussed. It's also important to be supportive early in the study of almost every comment. Remain sensitive to others' traditions.

8. Hone your listening skills.Concentrate on what each person is saying, rather than thinking about your own response.

9. Stay on point. Everyone benefits when a leader steers the conversation, and everyone suffers when he or she does not.

10. Be sure Scripture is your filter. When group members suggest solutions to problems, don't shy away from asking whether their suggestion aligns with Scripture. If, as group leaders, we persistently come back to the Bible as God's standard, our group members will too.

11. Listen for segues to the next question. Expert facilitators listen closely for
comments that connect to where they want to go next and quickly use those comments to move the discussion forward.

12. Echo what has been said. This is an essential facilitation technique. Echoing makes it more likely that the rest of the group will respond to that person's comment rather than follow with an unrelated comment.

13. Connect the dots. Another way to enhance the flow of discussion is to connect some people's comments to other people's comments: "So Sherry, you think the verse calls us to action, but Fran, two minutes ago you said you didn't understand it that way. Can somebody else help us out here?"

14. Cut off dominators. Let's face it: they're out there. Many groups are blessed with that spirited person who contributes a little too much, diminishing the experience for everyone else. Usually, if the leader doesn't take control of this situation, no one will.

15. Ask for people's opinions. Make a list of phrases you're comfortable with and use them at strategic points to draw in quiet group members. Sometimes this little nudge can be a turning point for someone.

16. Frame questions using why and how. Usually, these will require more thoughtful, extensive responses than a question that begins with who, where, or when. If your goal is to get people talking, think about reframing the questions you ask.

17. Permit silence after you ask a question. Give people time to think. Let them muster the courage to answer a tough question. Give them a moment to hear from God if that's the prompting they are seeking.

18. Stay with fruitful conversation, even if it's taking too much time. Sometimes a question will stimulate lots of discussion. Be exible and learn to discern when to deviate from your original plan.

19. Use a board or easel if appropriate. Many people will retain more of what's said if they've both heard it and seen it in writing.

20. Summarize key points. Many people will find it instructive if you can recap some of the more important lessons from the discussion.


Read the Bible for Life Resources

» Promotional Tools


» Sermon Series


» Download/Import Reading Calendar


» Study Tools & Articles: Weeks 1 - 2

Week 1: Reading the Bible for Life

Week 2: Reading the Bible in Context


» Study Tools & Articles: Weeks 3 - 4

Week 3: Reading the Stories of the Old Testament

Week 4: Reading the Law and the Prophets


» Study Tools & Articles: Weeks 5 - 6

Week 5: Reading the Psalms

Week 6: Reading the Stories of the New Testament


» Study Tools & Articles: Weeks 7 - 9

Week 7: Reading the the Teachings of Jesus

Week 8: Reading the New Testament Letters and Revelation

Week 9: Reading the Bible Today


Read the Bible for Life Endorsements

"Our small group started the study this evening. To say that our time together was blessed is a HUGE understatement. Specifically, we experienced a supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit at the end of the study. There was great humility and brokenness evident. This is going to be exciting. Thank you for providing these materials."

- Ronnie Keith Sharp

We did the Read the Bible for Life video series as a midweek adult Bible study and found it to be excellent. The material presented was most helpful, and shared in an enjoyable format. Well done! We did a morning and evening session, 9 weeks, so that people could choose when to come. We are planning a followup in about a month to see how people are doing in their studies/devotions and in their use of what they learned, and will do the optional ending session then. Thank you for some very encouraging materials!

- Pastor Lenn Zeller, St. Paul's Church, Stowe, PA

Bible Study Feedback

Graham Mayfield: I love the idea of looking at scripture as a whole. I can see how everything goes together so much better. You can see the flow and God's design pointing to the coming of Jesus. It is very encouraging to see that Israel struggles constantly just as we do and God was persistent in showing His love and mercy towards them even though they were still sinning. God is consistently showing us love, mercy, and grace in much the same way even though we continue sinning.

Chuck Maxwell: I have a fresh perspective and affection for the compassion of God.

Donne Smith: I love to see how it all fits together and seeing God's heart for people.

Amanda Blankenship: Everyone reading the same thing at the same time has often sparked conversations that have allowed me to get to know other church members more intimately.

Rob Maxwell: The Big Story has been very encouraging. Going through the Bible with the small groups provides opportunities to see where I need help and where others are. This has gotten our group closer and has brought out the true meaning of accountability.

Ann Maxwell: The Big Story is helping me be consistent in Bible Study and to see that God is the main character and center of the whole thing. Also it has helped me remember that all scripture is God breathed even the parts that are difficult to understand.

Charlie Havner: The Big Story is an in depth study affirming the importance of God's word in our daily lives, teaching us diligence and discipline through reading daily scripture to become more like Christ.

Sarah Mayfield: The Big Story has given me new insights into God's word and shown me how consistent God is and how His promises are eternal.

Trista Havner: The community that reading through the bible as a church has created has been invaluable. It's so refreshing to talk out the word and share my heart with my brothers and sisters.

Kimberly Evans: The Big Story has led me to realize how applicable the entire Bible is to daily living. Seeing God's grace proven through the trials of his people, their rejection of Him, and their constant rebellion gives us hope.