Get the Notes Ahead of Time!

I know I’m going to receive a bunch of contrary emails/comments on this one and accusations of “ruining BSF” as I have gotten before, but I have prayed and am prepared.

BSF (at least where I’m at) is no longer requiring you to sign out for notes/lessons ahead of time. I discovered this quite by accident when I got a lesson ahead of time as I will be gone next week.

So I got the notes for next week and read them and to be honest it makes me sad I’m going to miss next week because it has only fueled my desire for more.  There were some things in the notes I had questions on and was curious what the teaching leader was going to say.  I did more investigating on my own.  I learned some things.  It has convicted me in many areas of my life–things I’ve been working on for a while but was ho-humming around about.

This isn’t the first time I have gotten the notes ahead of time.  Three years ago, I actually posted on this same topic. If you’re curious, the original post is HERE I went back and re-read this and it seems this was echoed to me again. I feel everything has a purpose.

I feel like when I go to class after having read the notes ahead of time, I am more enlightened, more curious, more open, more engaged, more ready to receive God’s word because my mind is more open to the passage.  When I read the notes afterwards, I don’t get this feeling.  I get a feeling of finality and “we’re moving on” so who cares?

Maybe I’m wrong and you all can disagree with me for it and chastise me, but from now on I plan to get the notes ahead of time so I can read them before class discussion and lecture.  It awakens something in me I cannot describe and I feel more ready to absorb God’s word and lessons.

My confession:  for the longest time I feel like I’m just “doing homework” here and not incorporating the Word into my life.  I’ve been praying, but it seems hokey for I never can put my emotions into words and I feel God must think me a complete nincompoop.

For me, it’s all about understanding God and His Word better and whatever helps, helps.  Many of you have commented how you wish the notes were online and I do hope that will be forthcoming as well.  I think more would read the notes if we had them ahead of time instead of putting it off until you no longer remember what the passage was about.  I personally wish the lectures were available for a week for everyone as well because who can make every class, right?  Flu, holidays, family matters, sick kids, vacations, emergencies come up.  It would be great to get more of God in any medium.

Bible Study Fellowship changed the lessons and the lecture so they correspond, why not the notes?  Why wait on this change as well?  I know some of you will say because then people will read the notes before answering the questions.  This is a valid point.  BSF would like you to do the questions and then hear the lecture and then read the notes.  That’s how it originated.  But what’s wrong with switching the lecture and the notes?  That’s how a lot of school is taught, especially college.  You’re given a reading assignment.  You read it.  You return to hear a lecture on it and an opportunity to ask questions.  I learn better this way.

One solution:  maybe make the notes available online 24 hours before the day of your class.  That gives everyone plenty of time to do their lesson but still read the notes before lecture and discussion.

[Suggestion:  I realize this is a stretch, but I will throw it out there.  Our BSF leader recently mentioned it costs BSF something like $84/person/year just in materials and staff.  Sometime in the future, I imagine BSF as going paperless.  Could you imagine?  We can get the notes and the questions all online and imagine the cost savings!  That would be more money to put toward other ministry areas BSF engages in or expand BSF further to reach more people.  At least in the developed world:  US, Australia, UK, Canada, etc. where most of us own printers and computers and have internet access.  I see this as a ways away but offering this as an option would be cost effective, save trees, and more environmentally friendly!  Just a thought for the future 🙂 ].

After all, the group leaders and the teaching leaders all get the notes ahead of time at leaders’ meeting.  I can’t tell you the number of times over the years I’ve had a discussion leader say, “Read the notes because they clarify this further.”  Wouldn’t it be only fair that the rest of us be allowed access to the notes before lecture/discussion?

At some point you just have to trust people to do the right thing.  To do what is best for them.  To follow BSF how it was designed to be.  For personal responsibility is lacking in today’s world and learning about God is an individual choice just like doing your BSF questions is a choice.  God and Free Will at His/its best!  Thus, I see no harm in accessing the notes before discussion/lecture.  For those of us who learn better by reading, it’s an eye-opener for sure.  Bible study is all about growing with Jesus and each does this in his or her own way.

I would believe one qualm BSF is concerned about is this:  Well, if the notes are online, why would anyone come to class at all?  Answer:  For everything else that makes BSF work:  community, fellowship, lecture, discussion groups, prayer, worship, and a profound love of our Lord and Savior.

Please feel free to agree or disagree below for I am no expert nor am I a seasoned BSF’er, but merely one who sees an area for improvement and suggests it.  And I would ask before you post your nasty email to not personally attack me as many have done in the past, but to take my idea as it’s meant to be taken:  a suggestion to improve BSF, not dismantle the system.  Change is good as BSF is demonstrating, and I hope you die-harders out there can see that.  Change is a part of life whether we like it or not and if we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we don’t become more and more like Jesus.

In conclusion, I’d love to hear your thoughts especially if you’ve gotten the notes ahead of time for some reason or another and either liked it or didn’t like it.


33 comments on “Get the Notes Ahead of Time!

  1. cathy says:

    I also think we should get notes ahead of time. I feel BSF does it backwards

  2. Gene says:

    I don’t disagree with your thinking, but I can think of two reasons BSF might not want to go with your suggestion. Getting the notes first could weaken the lecture’s impact and make it seem less inciteful. Secondly, if we had the notes prior to the discussion, would we have “group think”? or would we have a deeper discussion on the writers’ interpretation of the Holy Scripture?

    I really like this Blog , but I read it only after I have done my own homework for the same reasons that the BSF people are sending the notes out last. If I read the blog and then wrote my answers, would I really be sharing my thoughts???

  3. lu says:

    I agree completely with gene. I am a children’s leader and have been for many years. Leaders are human. The notes are given ahead of time to clear up any questions we may have before we meet with our classes (whether adult or children). Then we’re better able to serve our group. We get them after we complete our lesson. But getting them ahead of time would greatly influence the answers of many BSFers. And those who see it as a chore would probably use the notes to answer their questions. I think BSF has it right on this. I don’t go to your blog until I’m done for that same reason.

    • Rayn says:

      I read your blog also, but we’re one lesson ahead so it doesn’t influence my answers. I like your thoughts. But for clarification, leaders read the notes only after their own discussion. I think the purpose of getting the notes later so we may seek God for revelation/answers. Letting the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Same reasons why it is not encouraged to read commentaries to answer the questions. I like how BSF does it. It doesn’t give me the feeling of finality or “we’re moving on”, but the feeling of “time for application” God bless you! 😀

  4. Quinn says:

    I totally agree with you. I struggle with the “rules” of BSF & feel like I’m treated as a child. Nothing aggravates me more than for my group leader to say “oh, you’re going to love the notes. It will answer your question.” I didn’t get in to this class of BSF until now, so I haven’t had access to the notes. I have been reading your blog to sort of keep up with the study. And we do have to practically sign in blood to get notes ahead of time where I live, so you’re lucky you are able to get them ahead of time. Love your blog. Love your honesty. God bless you!

  5. lee stokes says:

    In my humble opinion, I think that you have a very good point. As far as people who write you ugly messages, maybe you can find an app or program to eliminate negative stuff, and negative people………And thats my 2 cents worth.

    Thank you again for the wonderful things you do and the precious time you spend on BSF of all of us that appreciate you so very much. For the objective, positive, nice people that support you. And like we say down South, for the others, “Bless their little hearts”, if they don’t like it. Thanks again, lee

  6. Ms Pam says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! I always get the notes ahead of time because, as you mentioned, we never know what God has planned for us the following week . . .unexpected things come up all the time and we can’t make it to class. I too wish we could hear the lectures for the days that we miss.

  7. Candice Cohlmia Unger says:

    There is a purpose for what BSF and many other Bible studies do. The notes are commentary, they are NOT GOD’S SACRED WORD. Let me repeat the notes are NOT the Bible, they are human created and at times just interpretations of what, in this case, BSF believes. Please know that as a leader this structure has been set up since BSF started and the purpose is for YOU and GOD to converse and allow the Holy Spirit to awaken knowledge and wisdom within you. After you and God have done the work together, then commentary is just an extra benefit to what God has already placed inside you.

  8. Pat F says:

    well spoken Candice

  9. Tom Haley says:

    We the leaders of my mens class just started getting the notes one week ahead this season. In the past it was jus three days prior to class meeting day. I must say you are SPOT ON… It seems they don’t want a person to have more tools to use to learn more about God. Thanks for all you do… Blessings and travel mercies for you next week…

  10. I agree. I would love the notes before the discussion. Also bringing into the technical age would be awesome.

  11. Allie says:

    Getting the notes ahead of time prepares you to dig deeper into the Bible and prepare for the coming lesson. That is my opinion. I always thought it backwards to get lecture and notes from a lesson already studied!! Hope I am making sense. God bless you for all you do for us! What an asset to the Kingdom you are!

  12. larry stirtz says:

    If you are not a member you get nothing only your comments which I like but leave many holes. I am disabled so this is my only exposure.

  13. says:

    Hi,   I like what you are doing. Jesus also faced just a tad bit of criticism, as I recall. I am a treasurer for our BSF group and have access to the notes, which I get two (2) weeks in advance. I hardly ever read them. I also do not always answer a question exactly as it might have been intended. I do that to interject other points to possibly ponder. I get some push back from time to time, however I then have people stopping me to say that my comments were thought provoking.   Some of the questions are very elementary, while others exact a greater insight. All and all, BSF does a wonderful job. The weak spot for me are the lectures. I want to hear things that might have taken too long to develop in the notes, or another perspective which the lesson might not have broached. All that said, thank you for your contributions. They are not in vain.   God Bless you and your family,   Clint  

  14. Mary Green says:

    I would love to get the notes ahead of time. I download the questions so it would be great to download the notes. I feel out of synch when I am absent and do the questions without the notes. Great suggestion.

  15. Loretta says:

    I always get the notes ahead of class and I sign out for those leaving early even though I tell them I am not leaving early. Was told that the reason for this is that many take extra notes and they end up short for those who are there and expect them. Agree that the notes give me more reason to add to the group not to so that I can use them in my homework as it has already been done. I also download the questions from the BSF sight which is helpful as I can then type out my answers to the questions….easier to read.

  16. James Brown says:

    I am very new to THE BIBLE and BSF. I am as you might say “Born Again” and am studying The Life of Moses. I struggle sometimes with the questions but I answer all to the best of my abilities and reading your answers after doing my study makes all the reading worthwhile. You’re like a study partner along side me and I finding our answers somewhat similar makes it a really satisfying. Thank you very much, James Brown

  17. J says:

    I could not agree more. I attended BSF for 8 years and was a DL. I am going through it again, at home, on my own because BSF is by far the best bible study I have ever encountered. I would like to have the current notes but they are not available. Your blog is helpful, interesting and appreciated. Often we do not agree on answers, but doesn’t that happen in the group discussions? Would having the notes available on line be a good thing? I do not know, that would largely exist in the eye of the beholder. It would be good for me! And surely it would make BSF available to more people. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

  18. Ruby Shannon says:

    Praise the Lord! I think you have a valid idea, one that’s God ordained. I love studying the lesson and listening to what God has given me for an answer to all questions and comments, however I certainly would like to compare my answers to the notes ahead of time, not that I would change my answer , but it is amazing to see how God relates to us in various ways. This is what group discussion is all about. I applaud your idea and say go for it. The Lord is on your side.

  19. S says:

    I have always felt we should have the notes in advance, so I am glad to see others feel the same way. I would be more motivated to study (rather than just read) the notes if I received them in advance. I download the questions and type my answers, and it would be great if the notes could also be downloaded. As others have said, it would be more economical for BSF if they did not have to print so many copies of the notes. Thank you for all you to do help those of us who need help with BSF lessons.

  20. Pat says:

    I totally agree with you and (also) the post from Cathy…..I think BSF does it backwards….and have considered dropping out simply because they do it backwards. The questions that we have already struggled to answer as our homework are lectured on AFTER the study questions. If we are going to complete study questions….the lecture should be on what we are suppose to go home and complete as homework

  21. Dean says:

    I agree with putting the notes online. One issue is copyright but that is easily solved with requiring a signon ID and password. Of course there would still be some who would illegally allow others access to the materials intended only for BSF members. I am in the 4th year of storing scanned copies of the notes along with the completed PDF questions. I also use a personal recorder for the teaching session so I can hear the lecture multiple times. I also save the AtoZMom email summaries during the year to allow for review during the summer.

  22. admin leader says:

    Sign out sheets are obsolete–the purpose for them was for group leaders to check if they needed to pick up and mail notes for their absent group member. (Another obsolete practice now that questions are online) The only signature sheet currently used is for late arrivals so their attendance can be counted by the admin leader who manages the database. Several absences in a row is indicative of a situation requiring prayer for resolution of a personal or family problem or encouragement for greater commitment. For members who want to consult commentary–or the BSF commentary notes–before lecture, there are no BSF police waiting to arrest them. Stop by the materials table to pick up to three weeks notes in advance. In good conscience, one should refrain from discussing a question that was studied using extra materials including advance notes. When group leaders inject comments about notes, it is to promote individual learning and not rely on an expectation that the group leader will teach during discussion.

  23. Sharon says:

    I still like the hard copy of the notes and am happy to support BSF. Every man made rule needs to be reevaluated in light of new technology or new scientific or archeological discoveries. We know Gods Word always prevails even though we don’t fully understand it. Hope all of BSF is praying for you Atozmom whether authorized or not. I pray God will give you above and beyond spiritually anything you ever dreamed because your desire is to honestly live for Him. In Jesus glorious name.

  24. Amen, last weeks lesson was about being prepared to meet the Lord on the Sabbath by being acquainted with readings and getting excited about going to church. I have always thought if only I was able to get the notes ahead of time my answers would have come more clearer from knowing the facts that we get a week later…..Thank you again for always getting it right.

  25. Shelly says:

    I could be wrong as I’m certainly not privy to all the decisions made at HQ but I don’t think they will ever make the notes available online. The notes are copyrighted and they wouldn’t want digital distribution of them out of their control, at least I don’t think so. They have the 4 fold approach set up the way it is so that people can hear from God one-on-one first before they read any commentary, it’s the foundation of the fourfold approach. Because of that I seriously doubt they will ever put the notes after the lesson before the lecture. Just my opinion. I think it would be great, but I’m not sure they’ll change it. As a leader I get to read the notes before I hear the lecture but only after we’ve gone over the lesson in class. Never before.

    The same is true for the lecture, all CDs of the lecture are usually destroyed within a week or two after they are recorded. They don’t want the recorded lecture getting out onto the Internet, I believe. As to the recorded lecture being available online, they only make that available for the children’s program volunteers and children’s leaders because their server is only big enough to hold a certain amount of listens. I’m in administration and I usually miss at least half of the lecture each week due to the responsibilities of my position. I upload the lecture to the BSF server and even I’m not allowed to listen to it. They can only handle so many hits per week. Remember this is a free bible study. Much of your ideas cost money to institute and BSF is nothing if not an excellent steward of the donated resources they are given. These are just my thoughts on it after years of experience. There’s nothing official about my comments.

  26. Gladys Solar says:

    I do appreciate the notes and the work you do. Don’t pay attention to what people are saying. You are doing a good job.

  27. Jill says:

    I agree 100% with you. I have gotten my notes ahead of time and I did learn more, understand more, was better prepared and had less questions because I understood it better.
    and the teacher would comment how much she enjoyed the more participation I did in class. All around it was a win-win.
    Thank you for all your time and energy you give to BSF. I want you to know it is VERY much appreciated. YOU are doing what God intented you to do.

  28. Vernetta says:

    I agree with you 100%. Great idea to read the notes now and not next week. I want to thank you for posting your answers, you help me so much. I read a question, I go to the Bible and try to figure it out. If I still don’t understand I turn to atozmom. Thank you so much and please don’t stop posting.
    God Bless You and Your Family.

  29. Lou says:

    For the first time I pick up my lesson ahead of time & read my notes on the lesson we would be doing this week. What a blessing it was to read the note first then do my questions. It makes me understand it so much more . I hope we can always get our lesson ahead of time from now on. Thank you for all the time & hard work you put into this blog. May God bless you as you have bless me.

  30. JoAnn Genova says:

    yes notes ahead of time please

  31. Gwen says:

    I totally agree with your suggestion. I have had the lessons before hand it really helps because it allows me time to read them when I’m pushed and don’t have the time. After all, a lot of us have other obligations i.e., work, family. Thanks a lot for your postings. You have helped me a lot when I couldn’t understand or find the right answer to the questions. God Bless You as You Continue to Post.

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