My Approach to Small Group Curriculum

Like most things in life, my approach to developing curriculum for our small groups is a work in progress. At its core, I follow a traditional instructional design model commonly known by it’s acronym—ADDIE. This describes a basic five step approach to design:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluate

Our church’s ministries are structured around a school calendar year, so the calendar dictates the timing of my instructional design process. For example, I am in the Development & Implementation phase of the process right now. In the spring (April & May), I will Evaluate the effectiveness of our small group curriculum by surveying both our small group leaders and our congregation. During the summer months, I perform the Analysis and then Design phase based on the feedback I receive from the Evaluations as I look toward the next school year. Following this process leads to continuous improvement using small steps.

Our Small Group Curriculum Objectives

My overarching instructional objective in developing small group curriculum for a church is to help teach biblical principles and apply them to life. This involves several supporting objectives:

  • Teach the Bible within context. This helps learners understand the big picture and to connect the grand themes of the Bible rather than learning the Bible as a disconnected web of stories. This includes helping learners grasp the historical, cultural, archaeological, and societal aspects of the times in which the Bible was written.
  • Teach the key doctrines of the Bible. This helps to incorporate systematic theology into the teaching of the Bible so learners have a solid doctrinal foundation to their life and they can apply doctrine to their life decisions.
  • Teach a self-study approach to the Bible. This helps learners study the Bible for themselves and helps them develop the basic tools they need to draw more meaning from the Bible study.
  • Teach the Bible with real-life application. This helps the learners distill biblical principles and apply them to their own unique life circumstances.

With these objectives guiding the development of our teaching materials, I hope to help each member of our church synthesize a biblical worldview that guides the development of their values and life decisions. This, in a word, is discipleship. As men and women grow in their faith and understanding of Jesus Christ, they are encouraged to teach and equip others (2 Tim. 2:2).

Current Content Components

Here is a brief summary of the various components we use to accomplish the objectives outlined above:

  • Weekly Sermon Handout—each week we will insert a handout in the worship folder that will tightly coordinate the sermon with the lighthouse discussion guide. Folks will be encouraged to take notes during the sermon, and these notes will help prepare them for the group discussion.
  • Weekly Lighthouse Discussion Guide—each week every attender of First Family will receive a Discussion Guide as part of his or her worship folder. The discussion guild will help prepare members for their group discussion time and will closely sync with the major theme of each week’s message.
  • Weekly Leader Guide—each week we will provide via email detailed discussion notes for lighthouse leaders to help them prepare to lead the discussion during their Lighthouse meeting.
  • The Compass – a weekly newsletter that assists our families in growing spiritually and in effectively discipling their children. Each issue of The Compass is focused on the specific themes and biblical text that will be taught the following weekend in our services. (You can subscribe to receive the weekly compass here.)
  • Lighthouse Ministry Website — to help coordinate the information tied to the Lighthouse Ministry, we have developed a ministry-focused website located at This site will host digital copies of all the resources connected to our Lighthouse Ministry, including the weekly curriculum.
  • Faithlife Study Bible—to provide a better study environment for our church family, FFC has adopted the FaithLife Study Bible as our digital Bible app. FaithLife is developed by Logos Bible Software and tightly integrates with both Logos (the Bible software our teaching team uses), and Proclaim (the presentation application we use). You can learn more about the FaithLife Study Bible at
  • FFC Connect Online Community—this is a private social network for First Family that will assist us in managing the day-to-day relationships that combine to create First Family Church. From children’s checkin to online giving to our church-wide calendar to group management, FFC Connect will help carry the conversation forward the assist in building close relationships within First Family.
  • Review Groups—As First Family grows to multiple campuses and a teaching team approach with Todd, Carlos, and Chris, it is important that everyone is on the same page. As a result, we need every Lighthouse to be a review group.
  • Curriculum Publication Schedule—our teaching team meets weekly to coordinate the theme and key points of each week’s message and group curriculum. The teaching resources will be available to Lighthouse Leader on Thursday afternoon 10 days in advance. The curriculum will coordinate for the Sunday message a week in advance.

Each component is designed to help move our congregation one step along the path to spiritual maturity. In developing the curriculum, I look for ways to supplement the teaching to connect with various learning styles and levels of biblical knowledge.

If you have questions about how you can implement some of these components into your small group ministry, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Photo Credit: R Joanne via Compfight