Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season after Pentecost - Living Faith in the Everyday. The underlying question for this series is: “What kind of faithful discipleship serves as a positive witness to God and for the community?” 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, 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.
Week 1 – World Communion Sunday
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have each participant finish the following statement: “What I hope to get out of this series on Living Faith in the Everyday is . . .”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Luke 17:1-10
- How does Jesus’ teachings in verses 1-4 give context to the disciple’s request to “increase our faith!”? [It shows Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness will be so difficult that they know they need help—more faith—to live it out.] How does Jesus’ reply about the mustard seed answer their request? [They don’t need more; even a small amount can do wonders (uprooting a mulberry tree would qualify as a wonder of sorts); they should use what they have.]
- In verses 7-10, Jesus’ story illustrates that slaves of the time were to offer faithful service to their masters without receiving any award or praise. Such praise offered by the master would have strained the way those relationships operated in Jesus’ day. What do we learn from this rather strange example? [Rather than being faithful to receive a reward, living as a faithful disciple who works wonders in the everyday is expected.]
- Have participants finish the following sentence. “Faithfulness looks like . . .”
- Read over the The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/the-great-thanksgiving-for-world-communion-sunday. What phrases remind us that faith is to be expressed in the everyday? [always and everywhere; every face and tree; in ministry to all the world, etc.] What phrases offer comfort and hope? [company of heaven, heaven and earth are full of your glory, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, Christ is risen, etc.]
- What is the vision that the World Communion Sunday liturgy holds up? [“that we might be one . . . that we might be known by the love we have for one another . . . a new creation and a new community around the globe . . . one in ministry to all the world . . . diversity of the body . . . feast at his heavenly banquet, etc.]
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (1 minute). Ask for a volunteer to lead the group or read the following prayer in unison:
God of faithfulness, you have been faithful when we have been faithless. Your steadfast love has endured for generations. May your Holy Spirit convict us, prompt us to action, and empower us to be your faithful disciples in every encounter we have this week. Amen.