Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season of Lent, "Learning to Live Inside Out." 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 small-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.
First Sunday in Lent, Year A
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, have participants respond to the question, “What might it look like this Lent to walk closer with Jesus?”
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
- What do we learn about the nature of people in the passages from Genesis?
- Notice when their eyes were opened (v. 7). It was when both had eaten the fruit. Notice the passage is general about which fruit they ate. How does this story suggest how we attempt to “cover” ourselves from our misgivings and sins in inadequate ways?
- As a group, brainstorm other passages in Scripture where “forty days” or “forty years” are mentioned. What might that suggest about the importance of Jesus’ time in the wilderness?
- How does the devil tempt Jesus? [Notice the target is Jesus’ identity. “If you are the Son of God…”]
- How do the Genesis and Matthew passages relate?
- How do you think the last temptation of the devil was truly tempting for Jesus?
- What might we learn about ourselves from each of these passages?
- How might these passages help us to know the direction we are traveling during the season of Lent?
- What might you be called to be or do differently this Lenten season?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following or a similar prayer:
Covenant-keeping God. You are faithful even when we are faithless. Help us to run to you and not from you with our fears, questions, and doubts. And when we do, give us the grace to hear your words of affirmation and promise, so that we might respond in gratitude, obedience, and praise. Amen.