5

July 2020

Jul

For Freedom

For Freedom

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

How do we observe Independence Day in worship? With thanksgiving. It is always appropriate to give God thanks for the blessings we too often take for granted.

Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship

This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for July 5, 2020. 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.

Independence Sunday

Galatians 5:1; 13-26

Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal). For one of the exercises below, you might need blank slips of paper and writing utensils.

Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs, tell a story of when you felt most free.

Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)

Read Galatians 5:1; 13-26

  • In groups of two or three, explore the possible ways in which we might use the word “freedom.” Then discuss as a large group. (Freedom of the press; freedom of speech; freedom to vote; freedom from tyranny; freedom to love or serve; freedom from rules or regulations; freedom for leisure, etc.)
  • When Paul states that the Galatians were “called to freedom” (5:1) what might that mean? [freedom from the tyranny of sin and selfishness; freedom to love and serve (5:1)] How does that differ from political freedom? [Political freedom or liberty has to do with freedom from the oppression and tyranny of the government. Liberty also contains the sense of responsibility to uphold the virtues of justice and the pursuit of happiness.]
  • As a group, work to create two lists. One list is a description, based on this passage, of what it looks like to be “guided by the flesh” or selfishness and another list for being “guided by the Spirit.” As you look at the contrast between these lists, what do you notice? [The first list contains acts that spring from independence (in the negative sense) and selfish pleasure; they promote division. The second list are virtues that promote interdependence, shared or communal pleasures, and can be done only by the Spirit’s power.]
  • It is easy to look at these lists and think about how others are “guided by the flesh” or are selfish, while we consider ways we fit descriptions of those who are guided by the Spirit. For groups that are able, have participants discuss ways they might work on being more guided by the Spirit and/or offer a spoken word of confession about how they struggle in being guided by the flesh or are selfish [We all do!]. Especially for groups that are new, you might have individuals write in a journal or on a piece of paper either a word of confession and/or an idea for being more guided by the Spirit.
  • Read verses 22-23. Why do you think that “Fruit” is singular in verse 22? [All are summed up in the word ‘love.’]
  • How does freedom from sin enable us to more freely love God and others?

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 freedom and love, you have called us to live in freedom – freedom from the tyranny of sin and for lives of love to God and neighbor. May our lives radiate the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control —in all we do and say. Amen.

Additional Resources

Books:

Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide by Michael Slaughter and Chuck Gutenson (Abingdon Press, 2012)

Websites:

Discipleship Ministries, www.umcdiscipleship.org

In This Series...


Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes