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"Bible-Study-In-A-Box" Multiplies Pastor's Efforts

Parish

St. Vincent De Paul
Charlotte, NC
Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte
United States

More Info

For more information, email Gail Buckley.

"Catholic Scripture Study" (CSS) is a substantial, engaging, do-it-yourself, and thoroughly Catholic Bible Study that is spreading like wildfire."

"I think CSS is one of the best Scripture study programs out there..." Fr. Mark Lawlor, Pastor St. Vincent de Paul, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

"I’ve seen lives changed through this CSS Bible Study." Fr. Timothy Reid, Matthews, North Carolina, USA

The need it meets

We simply can't exhaust the riches of Scripture in Sunday homilies.

  • Parishioners also need to spend time with the Scriptures in a small group setting, where they can go deeper in a personal way.
  • Parish priests don't have enough time to lead so many groups themselves.
  • At the same time, they need to be confident that do-it-yourself study resources are providing solid doctrine.

Where it came from

Gail Buckley, convert and parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul, Charlotte, NC, is the Founder and Executive Director of Catholic Scripture Study.

Working with faithful Catholic authors, priests, and editors, CSS has produced 30-week programs of study with user-friendly materials, ongoing one-on-one support, and comprehensive online resources.

  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • The Book of Exodus
  • The Gospel According to Matthew
  • The Gospel According to John
  • The Book of Revelation

How it works

A CSS Core Team include volunteers in the following positions:

  • Study Leader - Implements and oversees the program in a home or parish and chooses the core team to run it. Study Leaders (if not the parish priest) are encouraged to work closely with their pastor.
  • Class Administrator - Assists the Study Leader with administrative duties.
  • Group Leaders - Facilitate small-group discussion.

Class Format (90 minutes):

  • Opening (15 minutes) - Settle in; opening prayer; announcements.
  • Discussion Groups (45 minutes) - Participants break into small groups to discuss the study questions for the weekly lesson. (Participants are expected to read the lesson material and answer the study questions prior to the weekly class.)
  • Ideal group size is 10-12 members, including Group Leader.
  • Lecture (30 minutes) - All participants gather to watch a DVD lecture based on the lesson.

The results

This program, originally launched in 2003 with the Gospel of John in Charlotte, NC, and has mushroomed into an international organization with over 400 classes offered worldwide.

In Charlotte the number of study groups and attendees has steadily increased every year.

  • Enrollment at the classes at St. Vincent de Paul alone has hovered around 150-200 students.
  • Students from other parishes who originally participated at St. Vincent have taken it back to their home churches and neighborhoods.
  • Six studies are currently active in various Charlotte parishes with three more in outlying suburban areas.
  • One study that started last year at Belmont Abbey College has grown from eight to more than 30 student participants in one year.

Key elements

Keys to effectiveness are:

  1. leadership and participant commitment to a 30-week program
  2. access to a DVD player and screen
  3. finances to cover material costs
  4. quality and practicality of the materials

How to implement it

The website http://www.cssprogram.net tells in depth how to implement these programs. CSS offers direct contacts for regional support as well as web-based support.

Other helpful elements:

  • If possible, recruit Group Leaders with experience and a burning desire for leading a Bible study.
  • Integrate the program for adults with the current faith-formation program for children - so the whole family learns their faith simultaneously.
  • Offer Bible studies in the evenings (e.g. Wednesday or Sunday nights) along with youth group or faith formation for kids.
  • Offer these studies during the day to women who stay at home or mothers of small children (be sure to offer child care).

Reverend Mark Lawlor is pastor of St. Vincent De Paul.

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