When Amanda Horvath moved from Boston to the Denver area for school, she was looking for a place where she could find a sense of community.
“I immediately felt at home when I started attending South Fellowship’s Summit group for young adults,” she said. “Not only did it provide me a community and support system, I met my roommate there.”
The Summit is one example of new approaches to one of the classic pieces of church culture — Bible study.
Instead of meeting in a church basement over coffee and snacks, many of today’s churches are taking the study of scripture into the community — and into people’s lives. For some churches, that means going to members’ homes, meeting in a bar or restaurant, and even fitting discussion into fitness routines. No matter where or when the study happens, it’s all about intertwining faith and daily life.
“We have our meetings at our members’ homes every week,” said Yvonne Biel, director of Young Adults Ministry in Littleton’s South Fellowship church. “We talk about life decisions and who we are as people. Our members know they’re loved by God and our community.”
The Mile High Vineyard church, which has locations in Arvada, Lakewood and Westminster, also employes a lifestyle-based approach to its Bible study groups, called Circles.
“We believe life is lived not in rows, but in circles,” said Corey Garris, pastor of the Arvada Vineyard location. “We don’t have a prescription for how the groups have to go or what they have to cover. Because of this, we can have one group that focuses on marriage issues, another that does a more traditional Bible study approach, and another that is more community focused.”
In both The Summit and Circles, the Bible is used as a touchstone and starting point for the meetings. Sometimes, the chapter or verse complements a Sunday sermon, and other times the meetings follow their own path or curriculum.
“All our groups have the basic elements of community and connection, and we make sure there is some kind of content, as well,” Garris said. “We want to energize people’s intellects, and we follow that with prayer time.”
For Horvath, one of the best parts of The Summit is how it connects people to each other’s lives, and the comfort that comes from digging deep into life and spirituality.
“Our meetings usually include dinner, and we rotate on who is cooking for the night,” she said. “We go through the reading and ask some of the bigger questions — things like what is your image of God, and how does it impact our lives.”
These approaches seems downright traditional to new interactive approaches to Bible study, like that of Faith Rx’d, which blends faith and fitness.
“Our program started out of the experiences of my wife, Becky, who competed in cycling and in CrossFit,” explained Jim Conzelman, co-founder and operations director of Faith Rx’d. “As she competed, we started building a fellowship of Christian athletes, and we built our program around that idea.”
Since its creation, Faith Rx’d has expanded to about 63 area chapters around the world, with the Conzelmans running the operation out of its Littleton headquarters. The Denver chapter meets about three times a month for sessions that feature biblical discussion and high octane workouts.
“Our camps always have some kind of focal point, perhaps a chapter or a devotional,” Conzelman said. “It’s an opportunity to step away from your daily life. It’s an opportunity to put faith in a fitness context.”
One thing all these approaches have in common is discussion — and fellowship rarely stops when the meeting is over. Small groups will often gather after the meeting, sometimes at a bar or restaurant.
“As leaders, we’re just here to provide feedback and ideas for the group leaders,” Garris said. “This is about transforming lives and fostering growth in our members.”
Through her group, Horvath has made some of the most important connections of her life.
“I’ve found people I can trust and be vulnerable with,” she said. “We celebrate life’s big moments together and support each other in the hard times.”