Can I do a book study with my CG?


We get this question all the time at Vintage: “Can my community group do a book study?” The short answer is yes, with answers to the details in the FAQs below:
1. When is a good opportunity to do a book study with my group?

Typically when multiple people in your group have recently voiced a specific question or interest. For instance, if folks in your group say they have no idea how to go about praying, reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller is a great place to start. Alternatively, you as the leader might identify a specific area in which to challenge your group to grow; perhaps your group isn’t really invested in practicing community with one another, so you could read Life Together by Bonhoeffer. Studying through a helpful book together is a great catalyst for growth, both for your group members individually and for the depth of your group’s community.

2. When can we meet to talk about the book?

Whenever you like! This is an excellent way to cultivate the life of your group, so meeting Saturday mornings for coffee or over lunch after service on Sunday are awesome to that end. It’s also easier to figure out meeting times when only some people out of the group are participating (see Q&A number 4).

3. Can we do a book study in place of our normal weekly meeting?
Yes, though it’s highly recommended for you to mix it into your normal rhythms for gathering. So you might keep your normal Bible-study discussions as the default, but mix in a book study once a month or every other week. Understandably that doesn’t work for everyone, or for every book, so if you’re interested in putting a book study in place of your normal gathering every week for a period of time, that’s doable, with some specific stipulations. There are certainly situations in which this could be really helpful for your group, especially if multiple people have voiced interest but have no ability to meet outside your normal weekly gathering (looking at you, parents). If that’s the case, and everyone in group is interested in participating, then yes, you can do a book study in place of your normal weekly Bible study with two caveats:
  1. Once you’re finished with the book study, the next thing you do as a group for a season should be the discussion guides. 
  2. You shouldn’t spend more than 1/4 of any one year in book studies. That should inform the books you pick to study; don’t pick some tome that will take you 30 weeks to read.
Those two caveats are meant to help your group members keep the purpose for your CG at the forefront of their minds: our communities exist to make much of Jesus and be shaped by God’s word.

4. Does everyone have to do it?

Nope! You can always do a book study with just part of your group. This is an excellent way to get folks together in smaller, more intimate groups, which yields great discussion and will build into your group as a whole. Consider doing one study with the ladies in your group while doing another study with the guys in your group. Having only part of your group participate is especially helpful if the book’s topic is a little niche or heady for some; I wouldn’t try to make everyone read City of God by Augustine, for instance.
5. Do I have to lead it?

Nope! This is a great way to equip someone else in your group to lead, particularly if it’s someone you could see leading a CG one day. I would talk over what that person is thinking for the book study, just to make sure it’s relatively in line with the expectations in this post, set them loose to lead, then check in to see how it’s going.

6. How do I decide on which book to read?

There isn’t a formal approved list, so the best place to start is by talking it over with your coach or pastor. They’ll be able to talk you through the ideas you or your group are having for a study and make recommendations for which books would be helpful for achieving the end result you’re wanting. Keep in mind that not all books are helpful for all people, particularly in the context of community group (ex. doing a book study on Tina Fey’s Bossypants might be fun, but it doesn’t really jive with why community groups exist).
7. What if the book I want to read is a book of the Bible?

Great! If you’re planning to do this study outside of your normal weekly gathering, awesome! Check out Q&A number 6 about book choice, then get it going. If you’re interested in doing this in place of the discussion guides, read Q&A number 3.

8. Is there anything to watch out for when planning a book study?
Definitely. First off, if you’re primarily doing a book study to try to fix some hole you perceive in a group member’s theology, or to correct your group on a specific topic, or anything like that, I would urge caution. A catalyst for growth is different than a correction. If that’s the spot you’re in, I would hold off and talk things over with your CG coach or a pastor. There’s likely a less confrontational way to approach the situation. Alternatively, if you’re interested in doing a book study because Bible study has been stale lately, I would advise against try to shake things up with some book because it won’t actually solve the problem. There’s could always be a chance people are having a hard time studying scripture because they simply don’t understand it, such that reading a book like 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible could be really instructive. But if you want to read a book because scripture has been boring to your people, the problem isn’t with the reading material.