Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Ordinary Time series, “Because God.” 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.
The subtitle, “From Worship to Discipleship,” is intentional. 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, possible answers, and background information 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: You Give Them Something
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, discuss the following: “Name a time when someone gave you an extraordinary gift.”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Matthew 14:13-21
- What was Jesus’ motivation to be with the crowd and cure the sick (v. 14)? [Compassion]
- Notice the contrast between the disciples and Jesus. Where the disciples’ answer was to send the crowds away (v. 15) and then point to scarcity (v. 17), Jesus’ response was to minister to the crowd’s needs and envision abundance. What do we learn about the disciples? What do we learn about Jesus from this story? [The disciples are focusing on their own resources or lack thereof. Jesus is the giver of life. Much as God, through Moses, fed the people in the wilderness, so here Jesus miraculously feds the people.]
- How are we too often like the disciples in their desire to send “needy” people away and also focus on their own lack of resources?
- Notice the deliberate actions of Jesus in verse 19. Jesus “takes” the food, looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks the bread, and gives to his disciples. Notice, too, in verse 20 that there were twelve full baskets remaining (a likely reference to the twelve tribes of Israel). Can you recall another time that these same actions take place in Jesus’ ministry? Read Matthew 26:26-30. Why do you think there is such similarity? What might that mean for our interpretation of this miracle story? What might that mean for how we understand the Communion ritual? [Just as the disciples were invited to see abundance instead of scarcity and were called to extend their blessings, so too does the Communion meal invite us to see abundance instead of scarcity and to extend this blessing to others.]
- This is the only miracle story told by all the Gospels. Why do you think this was such an important story to tell? [It reveals Jesus in line with Moses and as the giver of life.]
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:
Giver of life, give us contentment for the bread of life you provide. Give us the eyes of faith to see your presence and your abundance all around us. Give us willing hands to serve those around us, so that they too might experience the abundant life that comes only from you. Amen.