Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Advent series, “Company’s Coming.” The underlying question for this series is, “How can we as disciples prepare for the coming kingdom as we celebrate God’s presence among us now?” 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 – This Place Is a Mess!
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, share an experience of being in a messy room or house.
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
- Share a story of preparation. (It might be preparing to go on a long trip, preparing to welcome a new family member, preparing for reconstruction work, or something else.)
- How is Advent a time of spiritual preparation? What (and Who) are we preparing for? [Advent is about preparing to encounter God in a fresh way. It’s about paying attention to what is and to new possibilities. One aspect of Advent is looking back to the coming of God in Jesus Christ to remind us of God’s faithfulness so that we might live differently today.]
- How has all that has happened in 2020 shaken off a sense of complacency and normalcy? (Job loss or financial loss due to quarantine? Illness and fear due to the global pandemic? The anti-racism movement?) How is the season of Advent a reminder that God is with us in the chaos?
- Where do we see the writers of Isaiah and Mark affirm that even when things seem to be falling apart around us, God is faithful? [Isaiah builds on the faithful, steadfast character of God that despite our faithlessness (Isaiah 64:6-7), God remains committed against injustice, and—when called upon—will forgive sin. Mark notes that even when all the cosmic forces are in chaos, we can keep awake because we trust God will come and be our deliverer.]
- Advent points us to three “advents” or comings of God. The first advent of God is in Jesus Christ. The second advent of God is when God returns in power and glory. The third advent of God is God coming into our lives. How might this season of Advent be a time when you can prepare yourself to experience God’s presence more fully?
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, who is closer to us than our breath, remind us during this season of your faithful presence. Wake us up to the messiness that exists in our lives and in our world. Help us to cling tightly to your promised presence with us and empower us to be aware of where you are at work in our world that we might join you in the mission of reconciling the world to yourself. Amen.