This paper focuses on information processing in Christian Bible study groups through surveys of three Midwestern churches. By considering the significance of the small group as integral to the vitality of religious organizations, this paper will consider how these groups process information from sermons, books, and peers. This processing is considered in three parts: pre-discussion, local discussion, and post-discussion. Pre-discussion information processing includes all of the topic-specific information that members of these groups obtain prior to meeting as a group. This information is either unique to an individual or shared among many individuals in a group, and the nature of this information affects how it is used in actual discussion. Because of the religious nature of these groups, the paper will explore the authoritative nature of information used, and whether or not this nature affects processing of information. Results show that Bible study groups report a significantly larger than expected quantity of unique information, but also that this information is continuously corrected by what is considered biblically correct. It is concluded that members join Bible study groups primarily for spiritual and relational purposes, but that this purpose does not restrain members from debate and discussion.
Keywords: Small groups, information processing, churches