What an honor, and a pure joy it is to introduce you to my new friend, Pam Gillaspie.
Pam is the author of "Sweeter Than Chocolate" - Sweet Words and Real Solutions from God's Book.
She was gracious enough to grant me an interview with her about "Sweeter Than Chocolate," and I'm excited to share with you what I learned about this exciting new study, published by Precept Ministries International!
Plus, this is the first interview I've ever written for my blog...it's a big day here! :)
As you read, keep in mind that God is tendering my heart more and more to be an encouragement to Precept leaders, so much of what I ask Pam in this interview is from the perspective of how "Sweeter Than Chocolate" can be used by Precept leaders, to grow new students and new leaders.
Jes: Pam, tell me how it came about that you wrote this study...what was your motivation?
Pam: I realized that I was plateauing in teaching somene else's material, having led for 10 years and having studied inductively for 20. I wanted to be digging the truth of God's Word out for myself even more. My mentor, Jan Silvious , encouraged me to follow God's leading for me. She helped me to see that God might have different plans for me than I had for myself.
Jes: How is "Sweeter Than Chocolate" different from other inductive studies, namely a Precept Upon Precept (PUP) study? I know from reviewing the first chapter, that the similarities are many, but how is Chocolate different?
Pam: Chocolate is designed to flex. Using Chocolate is a great way for teachers to meet with different levels of students in the same class. New believers and old believers can rub up against one another.
Jes: That's pretty exciting, really. As leaders, we often find ourselves with people who fall into one of two categories...those who are brand new to studying for themselves and are intimidated by it, and those who have been studying inductively for years. Having older believers in a class can either encourage the younger ones, or can scare them off. How does Chocolate bridge that gap?
Pam: Because the study is designed to flex, it allows each student to determine how deep they want to go. They have three choices...one is to do just the main section of the week's study; two is to choose the "One Step Further" boxes and do exactly that...go one step further; and three is to work through the "Digging Deeper" part of the study, incorporating word studies and cross references, which seasoned PUP students are accustomed to, but new students may want to wait to do until they are more comfortable with inductive study.
Chocolate is really a wonderful way to put these different groups of people together, and let them be the body of Christ, as we are called to be...encouraging one another in love as we grow up into Christ.
Jes: And as you said, it's designed for flexibility. As a leader, I love that! I can just see the women I lead being so excited that they have a choice as to how deep they will go...not only from student to student, but also from week to week.
Pam: Yes. We all know that kids get sick, dogs run away, in a word, life happens. Chocolate is a JOY based study - Jesus wouldn't have you doing homework, when your kids are in the other room throwing up!
Jes: You know, Pam, you were such an encouragement to me the day that I called you, crying my head off, because I didn't have my homework finished, and I was the LEADER!
I felt so much guilt, as though I was letting my class down. Yet, you helped me to see it from a different point of view.
I'll never forget you telling me, "This will be an opportunity for your ladies to learn grace."
I was so tempted to cancel class that night, yet because of your words of encouragement, I pressed on. We had a wonderful study that night, and I could hear the sigh of relief from some of the women when I said, "I didn't finish. So, we're going to add one more week onto our study, and we'll complete it next week instead."
We had a great laugh, and a precious time in the the Word..both that night, and the following week! And you know, the church didn't come crumbling down because I'd only made it through day 3.!
Thank you for helping me see that life really does "happen" to all of us.
Pam: It does. It so does, and the Lord knows that. And "Sweeter Than Chocolate" allows for weeks exactly like the one you had.
Jes: Now Pam, you've actually led this study with a group of women from your home church in Illinois, correct?
Pam: Yes, I have. And what I found is that newer students are quick to say, "I can do that!"...there's a sense of success in learning that they really can study for themselves. They see that they can get in and grow with the study as they go along. At the same time, advanced students have the freedom to push themselves further, all the while being an example to the newer students.
Jes: I suppose I should have asked you this question to begin with. Why the name "Sweeter Than Chocolate?"
Pam: The Psalmist of Psalm 119 wrote that God's Words were sweeter than honey to his lips. (Psalm 119:103) As I dug into Psalm 119, I realized that honey doesn't necessarily translate in our minds, especially not in America. So I asked myself, what the sweetest thing that we think of is? Of course, it's chocolate!
Jes: Imagine how life would be different for us if we really did think of God's Word as being sweeter than chocolate! What if we had Word cravings, as we do chocolate cravings?! Now, that would be a neat thing to start asking God to give us...Word cravings!
Pam: Yes! So often, we think about God's Word as veggies and not as sweet. How do we get across to people that God's Word really IS sweet? If the Psalmist were writing today, I think he'd use the metaphor chocolate.
Jes: So, let's get the word out to people that God's Word is as sweet...no "SWEETER THAN CHOCOLATE!"
Pam: That's the thing that kept coming back to me as I wrote this study...just how sweet God's Word really is!
You know what's interesting too, is that chocolate is appealing even to people who might not be knocking down the door for Bible study. They might come for the chocolate, and stay for the sweet Word of God that they find.
We need to be telling people that God's Word isn't bitter. It really IS sweet!
I couldn't agree with you more, Pam!
With that, my blog reading friends, I'm going to wrap. Please visit again in the next few days, as I'll be digging deeper with Pam, and she'll answer the question,
"Why Psalm 119 for our summer study? Why spend 6 weeks in one Psalm?"
I think her answer will greatly inspire you to choose, "Sweeter Than Chocolate" for your group's next Bible study. Check back in the next few days to read part two of our interview.
Until then, I'll be praying that God puts a huge Word craving into your heart!