The study and leader’s guide for the book Side by Side is free, but before you download them, let me give you some background.
The book started life about twenty-five years ago as a 650-page introduction to biblical counseling. Within one day of completing the first draft, I noticed that it was very bad and threw it away. A few years later I tried it again. That one came in at 550 pages and was less bad than the first but certainly not useful, so it sits on a filing cabinet fulfilling my grandchildren’s scrap paper needs. Side-by-Side, then, has taken a long time to hatch. It is hard to simplify the terrain that we call biblical counseling.
The final result is nothing like its predecessors. Side by Side is a 163-page primer on how to help one another. Though it is established on theology that is often discussed in seminaries, it assumes that good theology is accessible to children—simple, but not simplistic. The book can be summarized this way: equipped with humility and love, we want to move toward others and know them well enough to pray for them. Very basic. But, when acted upon, it changes the culture of our churches.
Imagine. You need help so you ask a friend to pray for you. That friend is honored that you asked and agrees to help. And then, inspired by your request, the friend becomes a little more open and asks you to pray for him or her in return. Meanwhile, you add love to humility and move toward one other person. “How are you?” is all it takes. And you listen for what is on the person’s heart—things good, things hard, things bad. You listen until the person leaves an imprint, which means that you will pray for that person. Not only that, you follow up. Who would want to miss what the Spirit does? When you do, that other person will be surprised by your care and love, and will probably share even more deeply with you. Now multiply those small ordinary moments.
The Study Guide and Leader’s Guide
Some books are suited for private reading. This one is not. It is best done when part of a larger pastoral strategy to equip the church, and it is best done with a few friends or in a small group. If you read the book on your own try to envision how it could be part of a community project.
This study guide is meant to be used with your reading of Side by Side. It has been designed for use by both groups and individuals. For each book chapter, the study guide provides a brief overview; questions for discussion (groups) or reflection (individuals); and a recap of the questions posed at the conclusion of each book chapter.
The leader’s guide gives suggestions on how to organize the group time, it provides short summaries of each chapter, and includes two discussion questions (with the expectation that two will be more than enough). My goal with the leader’s guide is to make the leader’s job as easy as possible, even to the point that the leader could rotate each meeting.