Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season of Lent - "Gathered Up in Jesus." 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. Opening questions transition the gathering time into the dialogues, as the total group centers on the themes and Scripture for the week. 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. Questions that begin with (R) are meant to be more reflective. This will mean more time should be spent on these questions relative to others and will often result in participants needing more time to process. 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: An Opportune Time
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In groups of two or three, respond to the following, “What are your hopes for this coming Lenten season?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read Luke 4:1-13.
Read together (either in unison or participants reading aloud specific lines) the Invitation to the Observance of Lenten Discipline:
INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF LENTEN DISCIPLINE
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.
In this way the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self–examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self–denial;
and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word.
- After reading the invitation, discuss the following question as a group: “What practices will you observe this Lent to ‘renew your faith’?”
- Why might it be important that the devil adds the conditional “If you are the Son of God…” to begin his temptations? [The devil tempts Jesus at the heart of his identity.]
- We believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Thus, these were actual temptations for Jesus (otherwise, Jesus would not fully understand temptation and be able to empathize with us). How are these three scenarios actual temptations for Jesus? [Most are shortcuts – receive the kingdom without dependence on God or without the pain of the cross.]
- What might it mean that the devil tempts Jesus using Scripture passages?
- When might be the “opportune time” that is referred to in verse 13? [Perhaps the Garden of Gethsemane, perhaps on the cross, perhaps all along?]
- Read Luke 4:1 and Luke 4:14. How did what happened in verses 1-13 enable Jesus to return “filled with the power of the Spirit”?
- (R) How might our Lenten practices help us to fully surrender to God’s will and be more fully engaged in where God is guiding us?
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:
Father, Son, and Spirit, we give thanks that because of Jesus, you can empathize with our weakness and temptations. We give you thanks that in moments of trial and temptation, you will not leave us or forsake us. When we have failed to obey, and have fallen short of your glory; when we have not lived up to the calling of our identity as baptized believers, help us to know we can run to you for forgiveness and mercy. Empower us to live a life of repentance and mercy. Amen.