The Difference Between Discovery Groups and Bible Studies

Most of us have been in numerous Bible studies, but what about a Discovery Study? Is there a difference? And does the distinction matter when it comes to discipling people who don't yet know Jesus?

The Discovery Bible Study, or Discovery Group, is one of the primary tools we use to see Disciple Making Movement happen. You‘ve probably heard us talk about it a lot here at CDM, and we're gonna be talking about it again today. In this episode of the CDM Podcast, Paul and Rebecca address the DNA of a DBS and how it differs from a traditional Bible study. While traditional studies often focus on attaining knowledge for believers, Discovery Studies are all about facilitating obedience among non-believers.


Will the Real DBS Please Stand Up?


A lot of things are masquerading as Discovery Bible Studies or Discovery Groups these days, so the goal of this blog is to identify some key qualities that not only make a DBS what it is, but also distinguish it from more traditional studies.


So, how do you know if a DBS is the real thing? Multiplication. The thing is, if we don't have the DNA of movement within our groups then we won't see multiplication, and if we aren't seeing multiplication, then something has gone wrong.


Over time, we have seen how people will take the DBS — or how CDM trains people to do it — and tweak some things slightly, while still flying under the flag of a Discovery Bible Study, only to be surprised that it doesn't bear the fruit it normally would.


We want you to know the essential DNA that makes up a DBS so you can see your time and efforts not be wasted, but produce much fruit that lasts and see God’s Kingdom come to the people in your life who do not yet know Christ.


With that focus in mind, let’s talk about some of these differences between Discovery Groups and traditional Bible Studies.


Facilitating, Not Teaching


The first difference is that the Discovery Group is student focused, not teacher focused.

“We want to make sure that people are obeying God and His word, not us.”

What this means is that a Discovery Group isn't about having a teacher tell the students what they need to know, the insights they need to learn and how to be able to obey them. Rather, we act as facilitators who point people’s attention to specific Bible stories, give them opportunities to read those stories for themselves and ask questions to help them discover what God is speaking to them from His Word.


Instead of answering people’s questions, we equip them to know where to look. Instead of teaching, we facilitate their personal discovery.


Nonbelievers and Groups


While traditional Bible studies are usually conducted among a group of believers, the Discovery Group is specifically designed to be done with nonbelievers.


Of course the Discovery Bible process can be used by groups of believers too. Sometimes in my Disciple Making Community group, we’ll practice doing a DBS to hone the skill of facilitating as well as the discipline of obedience.


Here at Contagious Disciple Making though, when we say we’re doing a Discovery Bible Study, the assumption is that we’re doing it with people who don’t know Jesus who are wanting to discover who He is.


We also prioritize getting groups of nonbelievers together to discover God for themselves instead of just trying to disciple them one on one.


In some contexts it may feel more comfortable or natural to have deep, meaningful and spiritual conversations with people one on one, and sometimes that’s where we have to start, but we know from personal experience that one on one conversations won’t multiply the way that groups multiply.


Therefore, we try to gently nudge the people we’re discipling towards a group setting with their friends and family if possible because that familiarity will lead to a lot more discussion, accountability, multiplication and richer changes that last.


This is different from some other Bible studies because it’s not an attractional method in which we’re trying to graft spiritually seeking nonbelievers into a pre-existing church group filled with people they don’t know. That can present a major barrier for someone, so we don’t expect people who are just beginning their journey of discovering God to join a bunch of strangers.


Instead, we bring the study to people where they’re at alongside the people they know and feel comfortable with.