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Practicing the Means of Grace in Congregational Life

Use the following suggestions to develop a plan in your congregation to help people develop the holy habits of prayer, Bible study, worship, fasting, Christian conferencing, and acts of mercy. Encourage the practices in your classes and groups, and urge teachers and group leaders to model various practices.

Get Serious in Your Small Groups!

  • Youth and adult groups identify one major discipleship area in which they need to grow. Determine curriculum for the next months or year that addresses the area for growth. Repeat as desired.
  • Classes study the means of grace and help members begin to practice these disciplines.
  • Existing groups that are organized around Bible study, mission, or prayer choose an additional spiritual discipline to add in their group life.
  • In small groups, explore theological issues that affect contemporary life — a form of Christian conferencing.
  • Covenant Discipleship groups (adults) meet weekly to support one another in practicing their Christian discipleship. (Include Branch groups for youth and Sprouts groups for children.)
  • After every mission experience (feeding the hungry, tutoring in after-school programs, etc.), participants reflect on their experience in light of Scripture and tradition. Their reflection has an impace on the next mission experience.

Teach Through Worship.

  • The pastor preaches a series of sermons based on the means of grace, suggesting specific, practical ways for people to start claiming these means.
  • The altar guild, choirs, ushers, and other groups that support worship include in their meetings a focus on their spiritual life.
  • Bulletin announcements and events of the coming week describe which means of grace they particularly enrich.
  • People prepare for participation in worship through classes on the meaning of prayer, Holy Communion, and other acts of worship. (Consider including different age groups learning together).

Optimize Your Weekly Gatherings.

  • Offer classes that help people know more about the means of grace and give practical advice in how to incorporate them in daily living.
  • Prepare for worship by studying the Scripture for the upcoming worship service in small groups.
  • Meet for prayer each week at a regularly scheduled time — reclaim a weekly prayer meeting. Remember it doesn't have to be at night; it might be during breakfast!

This timeline suggests how to implement and emphasize different spiritual practices throughout the Christian year.


This article first appeared in Christian Education Week, 1998; edited 2011.