This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Advent Season. The underlying question for this series is, “How can we as disciples anticipate the coming kingdom as we celebrate God’s presence among us now?” This series will help participants explore the themes of the Advent season in conjunction with the worship themes. Participants will be challenged to observe the stories and traditions while anticipating what is to come and celebrating the wonder of God’s current work among us.
There are three “comings” as it relates to the season of Advent. The first is the celebration of Jesus’ birth or advent or coming in the first century. The second is anticipating the second coming of Jesus in the future. The third is coming of Jesus into our lives.
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 - Peace
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have participants discuss the following: “Name a vacation or journey you were excited to go on. Did the vacation or journey meet your expectations?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Matthew 24:36-44
- What are the points of comparison between the days of Noah and the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 37-39)? [Those in the days of Noah were unwatchful and unready for God’s actions.]
- What might Jesus’ observation that the hour of his return is unknown even to the Son be highlighting? [This highlights the need for readiness and watchfulness over against trying to figure out the exact moment of his return.]
- Contrary to some more recent interpretations, Jesus’ audience would have understood that those taken away (vv. 40-41), would be taken away to judgment. How does that aid in understanding the admonition in verse 42 to “keep awake”? [Do not want to be caught unaware.] What does it look like to “keep awake” for the second coming of Jesus? [Hope-filled anticipation]
- What, during this Advent journey, can help you “be ready” (v. 44)? [Advent calendars, Advent wreath candle lightings with friends or family, etc.]
Read Isaiah 2:1-5
- How does Isaiah present us with a vision of what keeping awake and being ready look like? [Working for peace, common good, and abundance for others]
- What steps can you take that anticipate what is to come? How can you choose the way of peace in your home, communities, and online presence? [Watching our words, being mindful of our motivations, taking time to journal, contacting an elected official in regard to policy matters, speaking words of encouragement, etc.]
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:
God of Peace, help us to be alert! By the power of your Holy Spirit, may we experience the peace that comes only from you. May this abiding peace guide us on this Advent journey. Amen.