Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season after Pentecost. The underlying question for this series is “How do disciples live in light of the coming reign of God?” Like the preaching notes, this study will use kingdom and reign as interchangeable words. This series will help participants explore the opportunity we have to choose to abide within the reign of God. Participants will also be challenged to reflect on how being shaped by and giving allegiance to the reign of God invites us to be witnesses for God’s kingdom.
Each session uses the same Scriptures and themes as the previous Sunday’s worship service. The preferred pattern is for participants to experience the worship service first, followed by group study during the week that follows.
By deliberately connecting the themes and Scripture from corporate worship to the small-group experience, participants will be more fully formed into disciples of Jesus Christ. People learn best when they are in conversations with others.
The role of the group leader is not to be the “answer” person or the person with the most biblical knowledge. Instead of providing the “right answer,” a good facilitator helps the group members ask the right questions. Facilitators should familiarize themselves with the format, questions, and possible answers ahead of time.
Other group dynamics to consider:
- Group size should consist of six to eight people. If there are more than eight participants, consider adding more time for the group to meet and/or more groups. Each person added to the group will create more relationship dynamics to be managed; each person might not have enough time to share.
- If the group is larger than eight participants, it is advised to split into even smaller groups within the group as needed so that all participants get a chance to talk. This will also keep one or two voices from dominating the discussion.
- It is highly advisable to use a group covenant to provide expectations of participants’ roles and manner of speech. Specific items to include should be confidentiality and speaking only for oneself. Another idea to foster dialogue is the “three-before-me” rule. That rule states that participants must wait until at least three other participants have spoken before they can speak again. For examples, see Sample Guidelines.
- A proper learning environment can often be judged by whether all participants are willing to risk sharing their perspectives, no matter how popular or unpopular.
- If your group meets in a church building, be sure the chairs are soft and the group is set up in a circle. Use tables for food only. If participants meet in a home, make sure there are plenty of seating areas and be sure to limit distractions, such as pets. If your group is meeting in a coffee shop or restaurant, be sure the space will be comfortable and quiet enough for conversation.
Introduction to the Format
There is a pattern for each week. The times are suggestions and are loosely based on an hour timeframe. The times should be modified, as needed. Each session will consist of the following elements:
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). Each session will begin with an opening question to foster dialogue and help the participants settle in to the theme for the week. These questions are meant to be done in micro groups of two or three people.
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). This guide does not include a lot of questions. The intent is for group dialogue and not merely giving the correct answer. During the dialogue sections, you will see guidance and possible answers to the given questions with brackets [ ]. These are only possible answers and are not meant to be exhaustive of other answers. It is a helpful practice to allow participants plenty of time to process these questions internally. Don’t be afraid of silence.
Prayer (10 minutes). Allow each participant who would like to do so to lift up a person or situation he or she would like the group to be in prayer over. Following each request, the leader will pray, “Lord, in your mercy…,” and the participants will respond, “Hear our prayers.” If the situation is warranted and if the participant is willing, surround the participant and lay hands on him/her and allow those who are willing to do so to pray for this person and/or situation.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). Ask for a volunteer to send the group out with the printed blessing; or read the prayer in unison.
Week 1 – Choosing to Abide
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have each participant answer the following: “Name one or two items that you have kept or held on to (or that abide with you) and explain why those items bring you security.” [This could be something from your childhood such as a trophy or blanket, or it could be something more recent and utilitarian, such as a cell phone.]
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Luke 19:1-10
- When you envision a kingdom, what images come to mind? [Throne; royalty – kings, queens, prince and princess; nobility, servants, taxes or sacrifices or payments to the royal court; banners; armies; and so on.]
- How do you understand the kingdom or reign of God?
- What do you already know about tax collectors? [Tax collectors were far different from a modern-day IRS agent. Tax collectors collected taxes; in this case, they collected taxes from Jews to pay the oppressive Roman Empire. They were seen as traitors of the Jewish people. Tax collectors would give a set amount to Rome and then keep whatever they collected above that amount as their own profit.]
- Why is what we see from Zacchaeus shocking? [First, he climbs a tree. We caught a glimpse of how the powerful acted in Luke 7:3. They sent others to the people to represent them. Second, he doesn’t do what we expect tax collectors to do (7:8). Third, it appears from Jesus’ comments that he is like a camel fitting through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:24-25).]
- Why might it be more shocking that Jesus agrees to visit Zacchaeus’ house and affirms Zacchaeus as a “son of Abraham”? [“Good” religious Jews would not associate with “sinners” and certainly wouldn’t affirm their status as a righteous Jew; that is, “son of Abraham.”]
- How does the story of Zacchaeus provide a model for what it looks like to abide with Christ? [requires justice and obedience] What does Jesus’ choice to abide with Zacchaeus say about God’s kingdom/reign? How did Jesus help Zacchaeus live into his calling?
- What are we choosing when we choose to abide in God’s kingdom/reign? [We are choosing to live according to the values of God’s kingdom/reign and not according to the values of any earthly power.]
- Where do you see the “already” and “not yet” aspects of the kingdom in this passage? [already – faith is growing; loving one another, steadfastness and faith; not yet – enduring persecution and affliction]
- What does it mean to you that God is still working to make us “worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith”? (1:11)
- Who are the “saints” in your life in whom you saw God? How do they inspire you to abide in God’s kingdom/realm?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). Ask for a volunteer to lead the group or read the following prayer in unison:
Gracious God, you continue to amaze us that you desire to dwell and abide with us. We acknowledge that we fall short of the glory and calling you have given us. Give us a new vision of the majesty and beauty of your kingdom and our role within it. Amen.