Collaborative Bible Study Materials

The ESV blog has an article on Collaborative Bible Study Materials:

The Internet makes large-scale collaboration possible, with Wikipedia as Exhibit A. Theopedia and others have tried to do something similar for theology and commentary.

But sometimes smaller-scale ideas can be just as productive, as in the area of personal or family Bible study.

This is something that I have been thinking about for quite some time. I have written numerous Bible study series for our fellowship groups, complete with leader notes. I have toyed with the idea of contacting a publisher and trying to get some of them in print, but it seems to me that that is not the best way to get them into people’s hands. Many churches are reluctant to purchase a booklet for every member and potential guest of a Bible study group. Market considerations keep the minimum price up around $7 or higher per booklet.

What I envision is a collaborative site where pastors and other Christian leaders can share studies that they have prepared. To make it useful, it seems to be that it would be good to have a basic statement of faith that covered the essentials but was broad enough to include a wide variety of Christians. Each contributor could even have a profile indicating his or her background. It would also be possible to have someone review studies before they were made available publicly to provide some basic quality control. But perhaps a ratings system could accomplish this as well. As a busy pastor, I don’t have the time to wade through hundreds of pages of junk in order to find a gem (think of YouTube). There has to be some way to zero in on well written, exegetically sound studies without sorting through a lot of garbage. A few years back I obtained a free subscription to a sermons web site. There were lots of sermons available there, but I found very little that was really useful. I have pretty high standards for preaching, and expository preaching is still pretty rare.

Another question is whether or not to charge a fee for downloads. There are two possible reasons for charging a fee: (1) to help cover the costs of running the site, and (2) to provide the contributors with a small payment when their studies are used. The costs of hosting are minimal, although setting up and maintaining the site could run into some money. I think that author payments could help provide provide some much needed additional motivation for contributors. Then I would charge a per-church fee for downloads, based on the church/fellowship size, with permission to make copies for everyone in the group. There would need to be some sort of “preview” option to check out the study, and a feedback system so that newcomers could identify the authors whose work has been the most helpful.

I have even considered setting something up at cyberpastor.net. But it would only become useful if it “took off” and enough people begin to participate, and I think that it would be fairly difficult to gain the necessary momentum. Maybe it would be easier to get one of the big Christian sites to do something like this.

What do you think? Do you see a need for something like this? Would you participate? How could it be done? (ESV article sighted on Scott Yang’s Playground)

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