First: Choose your study and seek support
Step 1: Pray
“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
If you start with prayer and remain in prayer throughout the study, you will find that God will bless your efforts and your work will be more fruitful.
Step 2: Choose the study that’s right for your group
Most groups begin The Great Adventure with a study that gives them the “big picture” of the Bible. Ascension offers two studies that provide an overview of the entire Bible:
The Great Adventure Bible Study System also includes two foundational studies—Matthew and Acts—that are ideal follow-up studies for groups who wish to continue their Bible adventure. In addition, Ascension offers nine other Great Adventure studies.
If you are scheduling a longer study, such as The Bible Timeline, Matthew, or Acts, consider dividing it into spring and fall segments.
Step 3: Seek parish support
The support of your pastor, parish priest, director of religious education, or other parish leaders can help make your study a success. Before speaking to your pastor, it may help if you are able to explain what the study is about, how it works, and what help you will need.
You’ll be prepared to do all of those things if you read through this guide and familiarize yourself with the study you would like to offer. You can even preview a full session from any of The Great Adventure studies. Call one of our customer service representatives at 1-800-376-0520 if you have any questions.
Consider sharing this short video with inspiring stories from people who have used the studies about the life-changing impact of The Great Adventure Bible Study System. This video is posted on the Ascension website, so you can easily feature a link to it in any of your promotional materials.
For more tips on gaining support from your parish’s leaders, click here.
How much homework is required?
It depends on the study. In general, we recommend that participants allow at least 90 minutes to complete the readings and respond to the discussion questions. We also suggest that home preparation be done in several sittings over the course of a week, which will help create a habit of daily Bible reading and prayerful meditation.
Second: Plan your study
“Two are better than one … A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12
Step 1: Assemble a team to help
Roles on a Bible study core team
Bible Study Leader:
Organizes the study and trains and leads core team
Lead groups of 8-12 people, keeping discussions on time and on track
Makes Bible study a prayer intention and leads prayer for core team
Gets word out about the study in the home and neighboring parishes
Makes participants feel welcome
Registration and Communications Coordinator:
Handles registration and communications with participants
Handles room setup and can run audio/visual equipment
Child Care Coordinator:
Organizes child care for participants
Remember, one person may be able to take on more than one role.
What are you looking for in a facilitator?
A good facilitator is a “people person” who is friendly and faith-filled and knows how to listen attentively. This person should be confident enough to keep the discussion on track and kind enough to do this in a charitable and friendly way.
Small-group facilitators don’t need to be teachers, catechists, or theologians. One of the benefits of running an Ascension study is that the video presentation brings the biblical expert to you. Facilitators do not provide the content for the conversation; they make a great conversation possible by guiding the discussion effectively.
How many small-group facilitators will you need?
It depends on the size of your study. We suggest having two facilitators for each table of eight to twelve participants so you will always have a substitute facilitator if needed. This will also allow you to pair the more experienced facilitators with the newer facilitators.
Step 2: Talk through with the team how you are going to run your study
How Ascension Bible Studies Work
Participants read a bit at home before meeting so everyone comes ready to participate.
Small-group discussion helps you obtain a richer understanding of the readings and better apply them to your life. Easily led by a small-group facilitator.
The presenter offers unique insights and profound connections. You gain a deeper understanding of the topics and their relationship to the Catholic faith.
Review of Responses:
This is done at home before the reading of the next session to help you read the Scripture passages in the proper context.
The time needed for each session varies depending on the length of the videos for the particular study and the time your group takes for the small-group discussions.
Consider how you can creatively deal with time or logistical constraints:
Flexible Ways You Can Run Your Great Adventure Study
There is a way for everyone to be able to participate in a Bible study!
Groups with limited time can have participants stream and watch the video portion for each session independently and then gather together for a shorter period for group discussion and fellowship.
Gather with your group for each session to watch the video sessions and for group discussion and fellowship. (Use the physical DVDs or stream with our online access.)
Groups that can’t physically meet can have participants stream the video portion and then plan to meet for discussion using a video chat option, like Skype or Google Hangouts. This is perfect for deployed men and women, or for distant friends and relatives to connect.
Ways to find core team members
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify and ask the right people
- Consider those in your circle of friends and acquaintances
- Ask for recommendations from your pastor or parish leadership
- Ask those you see at daily Mass or Eucharistic Adoration
- Approach people who have just completed RCIA
Core team member checklists
The following checklists provide convenient step-by-step lists of the tasks required to run a successful Bible study:
Step 3: Order study materials
Your study group will require one DVD set. Most study materials, like workbooks, come with online registration credits that allow participants to get online access to a study’s videos during the duration of the study.
Every participant, study leader, and facilitator will need a workbook.
In addition, everyone should have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as a Catholic Bible. We recommend The Great Adventure Catholic Bible to accompany you on your journey. It incorporates the same color-coded learning system that is the foundation of The Great Adventure Bible Study Program.
How are Catholic Bibles different from Protestant ones?
Catholic Bibles include all forty-six books from the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Old Testament that includes the thirty-nine books of the modern Jewish canon, plus seven books Jews consider sacred but didn’t retain. Protestants chose to follow the shorter Hebrew canon. The Catholic canon also includes additional text in the books of Esther and Daniel. Catholic and Protestant Bibles contain the same twenty-seven New Testament books.
Third: Promote your study and create your group
“Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” Matthew 5:15
Step 1: Get the word out about your study
- Invitation by the pastor, especially from the pulpit
- Announcements at Mass
- Personally invite people
- Posters and flyers
- Parish bulletin
- Parish website
- Registration table after Sunday Masses
- Email blast to parish list
- Social media like Facebook and Twitter
In general, you should begin promoting your Bible study about eight weeks before it begins.
Step 2: Register participants
Every study has a customizable registration form, as well as a study schedule that you can customize with the dates for your group. You can download these at ascensionpress.com.
Step 3: Register your study at ascensionpress.com in order to access the online videos associated with your study
Everyone who purchases a workbook so that they can participate in a Great Adventure group study can access the study’s videos online for the duration of the study. This guide walks you through the steps to register a study and access the videos.
Ascension offers free promotional resources for every study
- Sample pulpit announcements
- Sample bulletin announcements
- Graphics and logos you can use to design your own promotional materials
Visit ascensionpress.com for links to your study’s resources.
Preview a study’s introductory video for free
In addition to sharing details about your upcoming study, you can offer parishioners the chance to preview the study’s introductory video. Simply share a link to ascensionpress.com. Once your parishioners register for free memberships at ascensionpress.com, they will be able to preview the first video of any Ascension study for free.
Fourth: Run your study
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Step 1: Help prepare small-group facilitators for their role
Let small-group facilitators know that the keys to successfully facilitating a small-group discussion are these:
- Create a welcoming, positive environment
- Keep the discussion on topic
- Keep the discussion on time
- Ensure everyone has a chance to participate
View this 10-minute video to learn everything else small-group facilitators need to know.
You may want to consider offering a facilitator orientation a week or two before your study starts in the same time slot your group will meet. See our Suggested Agenda for Small-Group Facilitator Orientation.
Step 2: Establish a means for easily communicating with participants
Once people register for the study, use the contact information to create an email list. Email is a great means of communicating reminders, updates, and scheduling matters.
You may also want to consider establishing a Facebook group. Facebook is effective for more conversational topics, such as prayer intentions, Bible quotes, and questions about the readings. A Facebook group will help your group to stay connected, even after the study is over.
Step 3: Ensure participants return week after week by focusing on two key elements:
- Friendly hospitality - Participants come to sessions to learn, but they also come to be part of something. The more they feel welcomed, the more they will want to stay. Hospitality does not have to be elaborate; it might just be a heartfelt smile and a word of encouragement to come back the next week. What is most important is that people feel like they belong.
- A positive small-group experience - One of the main reasons people come back to Bible studies year after year is because they develop a close bond of friendship with those in their small groups and feel that they are part of a caring community.
Looking for more tips about running your study? Check out what Jeff Cavins, Sonja Corbitt, and more of our friends have to say about running a successful study.
Step 4: Celebrate and keep it going
At the end of your study, celebrate coming together in Christ, whether it’s cake and punch at the end of your last session or a potluck the following week. If your group is small, you can even set aside some time for participants to share their personal experience with the study.
Continue the community online. For instance, if you have established a Facebook group, let participants know that they can continue to post prayer requests, articles, podcasts, videos, songs, books, meditations, Scripture verses, ideas for future studies, or anything else they find helpful to their faith journey.
Keep growing together spiritually. Attend Mass or Eucharistic Adoration together. This is also a good opportunity to bring others into the group by offering an open invitation to anyone who wants to attend.
Talk about what’s next for your group. Ascension offers many options for continuing your faith journey.
Fifth: Choose your next study
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19
Ascension offers several paths for continuing your faith journey.
A grand expedition through the Bible
Ready to explore the Bible in depth?
Continue with the foundational studies—Matthew and Acts.
Then select from Ascension’s in-depth studies of individual books or themes of the Bible.
The heart of the Catholic Faith
Want a deeper understanding of the foundations of Catholicism?
Wisdom for life
Interested in applying your faith to everyday life?
An overview of the entire Bible
Looking for a refresher on the big picture?
Pressed for time?
Looking for a study with shorter sessions or less homework?
For young people
Looking for a Bible study designed for teens or middle-schoolers?
The Bible study leader’s reference room
Companions for your Great Adventure journey
Recommended reading for further exploration of the Bible
Church documents on Scripture
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 50-141
- Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord), Pope Benedict XVI (2010)
- The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission (1993)
- Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation), Vatican Council II (1965)
- Divino Afflante Spiritu (On Promoting Biblical Studies), Pope Pius XII (1943)
- Spiritus Paraclitus (Norms and Guidelines for Scriptural Exegesis set out by Pope Benedict XV in 1920)
- Providentissimus Deus (On the Study of Holy Scripture), Pope Leo XIII (1893)
Websites worth a look
- www.ewtn.com (for answers to questions, search under Faith/Catholic Q&A)
- www.catholic.com (the Catholic Answers website)
- www.cuf.org (Catholics United for the Faith)
- www.usccb.org (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; for the readings of the day, a searchable New American Bible, information on the new Missal translation, and more)
- www.vatican.va (the official Vatican website, for church documents)