By Scott Hughes
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for Epiphany. The underlying question for Epiphany is, “How might our lives reflect the glory of the King of kings?” This resource will help participants explore the themes of Epiphany in conjunction with the worship theme. 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.
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.
Epiphany - Fit for a King
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have participants discuss the following: “When was the last time you were disturbed? When was the last time you were disturbed in a good way?”
Read: Matthew 2:1-12
- Fun questions without answers: How old was Jesus when the wise men (magi) arrived in Bethlehem? (Matthew 2:1 gives no time indication other than “after Jesus was born.”) How many wise men were there? (The passage never states how many magi there were, only that there were three gifts.)
- What did the gifts represent? (Gold – kingly worth; frankincense – divinity; myrrh – burial)
- Why do you think King Herod (and all Jerusalem) was disturbed by the purpose of the magi trip? (For King Herod, the king of Jews would be either a rival king or usurpation of his throne and the end of his reign. Jerusalem might have looked forward to being “disturbed” in a good way as they were oppressed by the Roman occupation.)
- Write out (on large paper or white board) how the magi (kings) are compared to King Herod and the religious leaders. (Examples: The magi are seeking, but do not have knowledge. The religious leaders are not seeking, but do have the knowledge. Their response to the birth of Jesus: The magi gave gifts; Herod ordered the killing of all male children under two years of age.)
- How is the Christian life exemplified in the magi? (Seeking Jesus, worshiping Jesus, offering our gifts to Jesus.)
- How might you better live as a Christian this coming year? How can this group help?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following or similar prayer:
God, we stand in awe that you would come in the vulnerability of an infant among us. Give us the desire to seek you in unexpected places and give us the eyes to be amazed at the awesomeness of your presence. May we learn to worship you and faithfully follow you in all we do. Amen.
An Epiphany Blessing of Homes and Chalking the Door, umcdiscipleship.org/resources/an-epiphany-blessing-of-homes-and-chalking-the-door
Discipleship Ministries, umcdiscipleship.org
See All the People, seeallthepeople.org