Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Ordinary Time series – “Nothing Shall Separate 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.
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.
Week 1: Set Your Mind
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, discuss the following: “Name a time when you felt out of control or with very little control” [Could be during an illness, after a job loss; in a job situation; or as a kid.]
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Romans 8:1-11
- The word “therefore” is important, especially in Paul’s letters. Many preachers have used the line, “If you see a ‘therefore’ in Scripture, you should ask the question ‘What’s the therefore, there for?’” Chapter 8 begins with an emphatic “Therefore.” In chapter 7, Paul, and by extension, Jews (and Jewish Christians) and Gentiles, observes that all people are helpless by their own power to resist sin. All need a Savior and, thankfully, as 7:25 declares, Jesus is our deliverer. In a culture that prizes the “self-made man” or the “autonomous individual,” how is the problem that Paul describes countercultural? [It is not through individual effort that we succeed as Christians. In fact, it begins only through surrender and acknowledging our helplessness and God’s grace that we can begin to experience new life.]
- Break into two groups. Have one group create a list of descriptions of what life looks like for those “in Christ Jesus” — those controlled by the Spirit (Spirit-directed). Have another group create a list of descriptions of what life looks for those controlled by the flesh (not synonymous with bodies), selfishness (or self-directed), or sin. Have the two groups compare their descriptions. Which group of descriptions is more appealing? Why is that the case?
- What might Paul mean in verse 1? What does condemnation mean? [strong disapproval, even being pronounced guilty] What has been condemned? [sin, v. 3.] How is it good news that there is now no longer condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? [By faith, Christians are freed from the wages of sin and selfishness; and because they are united in Christ and share the Holy Spirit, they are freed to love God and others more fully.]
- The invitation this week is to set your mind on Christ or on the Spirit. Do you find this scary in any way (like you might lose your individuality or be called to places that are uncomfortable)? Do you find this freeing? [From having to live up to others’ standards of success?] How is this way of life countercultural? [We are not merely concerned with our own advantage; instead, we look to the needs of others.]
- How does the concept of being in union with Christ or living by the Spirit bring assurance, peace, and hope? [We are wrapped up in the love of Christ. It is not merely that we “have” Christ in us, but that we are enveloped by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true on our best days and on our worst. We are continuing to live into this new reality of being Spirit-directed. This new reality will become even more defining following our death.]
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 grace and forgiveness, we give you thanks for the gift of Christ and the gift of new life that you are constantly working in us and through us. Empower us to be Spirit-directed in all we do and all we say. Amen.