As we journey through the Bible every six years, how do the writers of the quarterly Adult Bible Studies (ABS) decide on their points of emphasis and the chapters and verses of scripture used in each lesson? How far in advance of each seasonal ABS are the lessons and teachers’ guides written? These questions have come up several times in our UMC Sunday School class in Winston-Salem, NC.
Hello, Phil. Good questions. The United Methodist Publishing House is a participating member of the Committee on the Uniform Series, which develops the outlines for the International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching and which we follow in Adult Bible Studies. This series began in 1872 and continues to be the most widely used form of Bible study. Its popularity is due in part to the careful way in which the cycle and the individual courses are outlined. It is estimated that 44 million persons on any given Sunday use Sunday school lessons based on the Uniform Lesson Outlines.
Representatives of the Committee on the Uniform Series, including editors from the United Methodist Publishing House like me, meet annually to review the Cycle Outlines and to develop one set of lesson outlines and Home Daily Bible Readings. The Uniform Series is developed in three-year cycles that define the scope and sequence to be studied each quarter and identify the central unifying principles of the studies. Each three-year block of lessons is developed in the context of the preceding three-year block of lessons. Each three-year and six-year block of lessons is evaluated to ensure balance in terms of Old Testament and New Testament studies, comprehensiveness in terms of biblical content and themes, and appropriate sequence in terms of historical, educational, and developmental concerns.
A specific plan of study is developed for each year in the Cycle. The annual Guide for Lesson Development is published to guide member communions and writers in preparing International Sunday School Lessons. Each lesson has a general Lesson Title; a Unifying Principle a Background Scripture, Print Scripture, a Topic; and statements of cognitive, affective, and behavioral objectives of the lesson. Once the annual plan of study is approved, editors of the various communions work individually with their writers to develop the lessons for a given quarter and within a given year. As a participating member of the CUS, we agree to follow the curriculum plan the committee develops, including the specific Background and Print Passages and the order in which they are presented. This insures uniformity in the Scriptures for Bible lessons used by denominations and member communions across the United States and around the world. I work with our writers to insure that the lessons reflect United Methodist theology and doctrine and meet the particular guidelines for Adult Bible Studies. Our writers develop lesson purpose statements unique to Adult Bible Studies and begin writing about a year before their lessons are due to me. Once I get them, we edit, style, verify, and prepare them for publishing. To give you a general idea about time frame, the Winter 2017-2018 books are currently at the printer (Daily Bible Study was just delivered to me today). I am currently editing and/or have in another stage of production the Spring 2018 books.
I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for contacting us and for your faithfulness to Bible study.
Jan Turrentine, editor, Adult Bible Studies
Thank you for shedding much light on the ABS development process. As often happens, new answers bring about more questions: (1) Who, besides the United Methodist Publishing House, participates in the Committee on the Uniform Series? (2) What brought about starting the Uniform series in 1872? (3) Why did the Methodist Church start participating later in the 20th century? And (4) What part of the 44 million ABS students use the Methodist version for study around the world?
I'll try to answer best I can. For a list of current participants in the committee on the Uniform Series, go to this link: http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/cus/?page_id=64. At other pages on this site, you can read more information about the history of the committee and its work.
A Methodist minister was actually one of the persons responsible for starting what became the Committee on the Uniform Series. The Methodist Publishing House has always been a participant in terms of using it to inform our Bible lesson development. Adult Bible Studies is the name of the official resource for the United Methodist Church. I'm aware of at least one other denominational publisher that also uses that name for its adult Bible study books (MennoMedia, the Mennonite Publishing House). This name did not come from CUS or the NCC but came from within our House. I'm afraid I don't have an answer to your last question.
Hope this helps.
Jan Turrentine, editor
Thank you for providing the forum and providing answers to our many questions. Also, thank you for alerting us to the availability of the free pdf Daily Bible Study shown on the front cover of the fall ABS.
Glad I can help. Enjoy!