Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Pentecost series – “Open Our Eyes.” 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: Trinity Sunday – Go, Therefore
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 question, “What do you hope to get out of this series?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Matthew 28:16-20
- How many disciples went to Galilee? [Verse 16 notes that there were eleven.] Why might that be significant? [This Gospel, and the others, repeatedly and deliberately references twelve disciples (as a symbol of reconstituting the twelve tribes of Israel). Following Judas’s death, only eleven remain. At this point in the story, the fact that they are eleven and not twelve is a reminder and symbol that they are not whole.]
- Where do the eleven disciples meet the risen Christ? [Verse 16 notes it was on a mountain.] Why might that be important that Jesus meets them on a mountain top? [This is the fifth time in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus is on a mountain and teaches or gives instructions. It is to remind the readers of Moses, who was the traditional author of the first five books of the Old Testament and who also met God on the mountain top. Jesus is presented as the new Moses, the instructor and deliverer of the people.]
- Why might it be significant that some of the disciples “worshiped” and some doubted (v. 17)? [It is a reminder that doubt is part of faith and that the disciples, like us, continue to wrestle with God as they worship and serve God.]
- The risen Christ notes his authority and then gives a fourfold instruction: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. As a group, take time to deliberate about the meanings of each word and how your church accomplishes each of these. [Go – perhaps more literally, the idea is “as you are going…” The point is not to go somewhere else or that we have to be somewhere other than where we are to be about the work of making disciples. Rather, it is as we are going about the life we already have that we are about the task of making disciples. Making disciples – technically, only God makes disciples. The work of the church is to help form or shape disciples of Jesus Christ. Baptize – more than an individual’s response to God, the congregation makes promises to the baptized. The congregation promises to pray for the baptized, to model the Christian life, to surround them with love, and to lead them in the way everlasting. (See “The Baptismal Covenants” in The United Methodist Hymnal for the exact language.) Teach disciples to obey (also translated as “keep”) Christ’s commandments. Teaching implies more than just head knowledge, but Christian living. Teaching happens in everything the church does – from worship to missions.]
- How well does your church do at focusing on this “Great Commission” of Jesus to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach? What might be done differently?
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 all authority and who is ever-present, continue to empower us to be your disciples. Help us to trust that you are present with us in all circumstances. Empower us, as individuals and as a church, to be about your work of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Amen.