There are so many different discipleship resources out there that it can be hard to find the right one.
This means that some of us stick with what we know, using resources from the same producers time and again. And if they seem to work why change? But no one agency has a monopoly on discipleship and we all appreciate a bit of variety now and again. For others, the choices available are so wide that they are left reeling, unable to make up their mind. What is often helpful is a personal recommendation from a friend or colleague. This narrows down the selection and makes the choice easier.
But what if our original premise is wrong to start with? What if there isn’t such a thing as ‘the right one’?
In my recent yearlong study trialling five different Bible engagement resources, no single resource was liked by everybody in the focus group (and conversely no resource was disliked by everybody). This was despite all the participants in the research coming from the same church and being of a similar age. There was no “right one” which suited the entire group. Perhaps this isn’t that surprising: we all have our own personality traits, learning styles, interests and sense of how we grow spiritually.
What is more surprising is that the use of different resources ended up being really helpful for the group. It was one of the reasons for the group’s longevity. Those members who disliked resource “A” knew that it would finish in 4 or 6 weeks’ time and they would move onto resource “B”, which they may like more, and this hope kept them going.
At the end of the study, the group were discussing the various resources that they used. Here is part of that conversation which captures the value of variety.
Joan: I think the fact that we changed resources [was very helpful] […]. It was better than just having the Bible for the year.
Sarah: That would have been heavy weather.
Gary: We are all different and have different ways of doing things. I think if we’d have tried to just do one thing it would have appealed to some but not to others. At least with these [five resources] we can all say, ‘well I liked that one but I didn’t like that one.’
Joan: That was a strength.
Gary: Yes absolutely.
Maria: Like sampling a box of chocolates, one likes one and one likes another.
So when faced with the tough choice of what the next discipleship resource should be, perhaps we need to worry less about choosing ‘the right one’ and rather focus on having a diverse range within our churches. To do so may, over time, ensure that everyone will at some stage use a resource they particularly benefit from and will reduce the likelihood of people dropping out.
By David Ford
Dr David Ford is a postdoctoral researcher at the CODEC Centre for Digital Theology. His research interests focus on the relationship between people and the Bible.
Would you like to read more of David’s thoughts about digital discipleship? You can download a free introduction to his research from Trove using this link: https://discipleshiptrove.com/view/store/codec-biblical-literacy-1
David will be hosting a free event to discuss his research on Bible reading and discipleship at St Hilda’s Church in Sunderland on Thursday 28th June, from 7-9pm. If you’d like to find out more or book a place, please email: [email protected].