Weekly staff meetings to study the Word

Almost ten years ago, our staff team decided that it was important to hold weekly meetings to study the Word together. This may not seem like something special in itself, but it becomes more interesting if we say we’re in Chile, a very long country with nearly 4,000 km from one end of the country to the other. Fortunately, this distance can be reduced thanks to the internet.

Over the past ten years, the staff team of GBU Chile has met every Monday afternoon for a couple of hours. We study the Bible together, pray for each other and the movement, and plan our weekly activities. The staff in Santiago (the capital, located in the centre of the country) meet in the national office, while the workers from other cities connect with us through the internet. This meeting is our weekly priority.

The meeting consists of three parts: The first part is dedicated to an inductive Bible study, which lasts about 45 minutes. We successively study complete books of the Bible. At the beginning of each semester, I send our calendar to the staff with the meeting dates and the people responsible for directing each weekly study. In this way, we have advanced a lot in our Bible studies over the past ten years: we have studied the Minor Prophets (they took us about a year and a half!), John and the epistles of John, Genesis, Revelation, Acts and we are currently studying Luke. The second part of our meeting contributes to the intimacy of our staff team. It is a time of mutual prayer and intercession. Each one of us shares their blessings and current struggles and is prayed for by the others. We also take time to pray for specific situations the movement is facing. Lastly, each one of us answers the question: What are you doing this week? This helps us organise our work and know what the other staff will be doing, even if they are 1,000 km away!

I personally believe that these weekly meetings have been key to the operation and growth of the Chilean student movement during the past years. On the one hand, they help staff workers from distant cities feel part of a body which encourages and exhorts them. Pedro Valenzuela, Santiago advisor, shared: ‘It is good to feel like a work team, no matter where we are located.’ On the other hand, I believe that these meetings help us to identify with our students, given that the main strategy of our movement is small group Bible studies. This time together helps us model these small group studies for the students we are pastoring, while also making us aware of the difficulties involved in finding and setting aside space for studying the Bible in our current world. Last of all, these meetings help us to understand that this is the Lord’s work, that we are the ‘channel and not the source’ of living water, and that the agenda of our life is directed by the Lord.

Gustavo Sobarzo, General Secretary of GBU Chile
gsobarzo (at) gbuch.cl

Entering into the Big Story

We tend to always turn to the same books of the Bible – those which are easily accessible and which we have grown to love. Could it be that some aspects of God’s character and purposes therefore remain hidden to us? God gave us 66 books, not 13 or 40!

Word UP is a project run by TSCF, the IFES movement in New Zealand. It encourages students to discover the whole Bible. I talked with Li Lian Lim, TSCF staff worker to find out more:

_Please describe the Word Up project.
Word Up is a Facebook forum for reading the Word individually and together. The Facebook page enables students to ask questions and to help others with their questions. We also use it to post resources and the daily reading plan.

In 2011, Word Up started with 99 days of reading Psalms in the summer. In 2012, we encouraged students to read the New Testament in 27 days. One book per day. Now we are challenging students to go zipping across the Old Testament in four months.

_What motivated you to run Word Up?
When I talked to some student leaders, I realized that they had never read the entire Bible. In Christian circles, Bible verses are often quoted out of context to support a variety of Christian positions. I hoped that after reading through the Bible, students would start to appreciate the big picture and see how individual passages fit into this context.

_How are students involved in setting up the project?
Last year, a group of student leaders tried out the material before the Facebook page was launched. They rejected what they felt would not connect with students and suggested alternatives. This year, a team of students has made a monthly commitment to blogging daily on the Bible passages being read.

Zane Norvill, one of the bloggers writes, “The accountability of needing to write something for others motivates me to spend more time meditating on a passage. When I am reading just for myself, I don’t always grasp or remember it as clearly.”

Create your own Word Up! Join the students in TSCF on facebook. Or let this project inspire you: How can you start to explore unfamiliar parts of the Bible? With whom could you share questions and thoughts from your personal Bible reading? Have you ever read through a Biblical book in one go? If not, give it a try!

Sabine Kalthoff

Further Information on Word Up:

Using Internet Opportunities

At the IFES Bible Study Consultation last February, research reports showed that one of the weakest areas of Scripture engagement in most IFES regions was “personal Bible study.”

In response to this a small working group came up with an idea to help: Use social media to encourage students to get into Scripture on their own on a regular basis. The hope was that having an “instant Bible study” on a student’s Smartphone, email, or Facebook page each day might inspire them to be more regular in their personal Bible study. This project was named “Thirsty.”

Four staff from the IFES region of North America volunteered to take on Thirsty as a pilot project for a year. Our goal by next June is to have 500 regular users. Thirsty delivers a passage of Scripture each day along with three inductive questions to a blog site, Facebook page, email inboxes, and Smartphones via a text message.  The passages go consecutively through books of the Bible. The study questions are written by a multi-ethnic, multi-national group of staff and students. Thirsty users can interact with each other about the daily study on the blog site or Facebook page.

Take a look for yourself: http://thirsty.ifesworld.org/ A video presenting the Thirsty project can be found at http://vimeo.com/28412649/.

Since Thirsty was launched Sept 1 there are about 250 regular users, and more than 3000 people from over 60 countries have visited the blog page. We don’t know how many of the users are new to regular personal Bible study or whether these are regular Scripture users switching to using Thirsty. We’ve received enthusiastic feedback from some of the regular users who really appreciate the way the inductive questions help them think more deeply about the passage and apply it to their lives.

A full evaluation of the Thirsty pilot project is scheduled for early 2012. At that time we will also consider how Thirsty could be shared and expanded among other IFES movements who may be interested.

Bob G., InterVarsity/USA
For more information contact: Elizabeth.english (at) intervarsity.org

Other New Projects Using the Internet to Strengthen Personal Bible Study:
_WordUp: 99 days of reading psalms. Cf. https://www.facebook.com/groups/wordup.nz/ The documents on the facebook page include some very creative videos on Bible study.

_Reading through the Bible in one year. A facebook group started by a Danish student.
Cf. http://www.facebook.com/groups/222475794471032/