Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Ordinary Time series, “Pressing On.” 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: That I May Gain Christ (World Communion Sunday)
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: “What are the top three things you routinely grumble about?” (Pet peeves, annoyances, etc.)
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Philippians 3:4b-14
- What are you most prideful about? (A job, a project, your kids or grandkids, an achievement, etc.) Why do you think Paul, who had so much to be prideful in verses 5-6, describes it all as “rubbish” or “sewer trash” compared with gaining Christ?
- What did Paul hope to gain (v. 11)? [Resurrection from the dead] What is Paul’s motivation to strive or press on toward this goal (v. 12)? [Because Paul has been claimed by Christ.]
- When was the last time you were able to take Communion? When was the most memorable experience you’ve had with Communion?
- Assuming you can’t partake in Communion, take this opportunity to reflect on the liturgy of the Communion. (If you do not have access to The United Methodist Hymnal or Book of Worship, click here to access A Service of Word and Table I.) For example, you might notice the movement of Gathering or Entering, Proclamation and Response, Thanksgiving and Communion, and the Sending Forth. Or another example might be the pattern of the bread being broken, the receiving of the elements, and the sending forth as similar to the pattern of discipleship – being broken before God, receiving God’s grace, and being sent as God’s witness. As you read through the various parts and litanies, what do you notice? What aspects can contribute to empowering us to press on? The next time you are able to receive Communion, you can be more intentional about experiencing the presence of Christ.
- How does partaking in Communion help us to hold fast to our faith and press on? [In Communion, we experience the mysterious presence of Christ. That experience alone should bring assurance and should propel us in mission and ministry. Thus, we should be expecting to encounter Christ’s presence in Communion. We should approach Communion with reverence, confession, and expectation.]
- Imagine your Christian faith as running along a racetrack (v. 14), pressing on toward the prize of full salvation. Where would you situate yourself currently? At the starting blocks, still hoping to get into the race? just starting? near the end? somewhere else?
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 Resurrection, you continue to woo us, draw us, invite us deeper into the mysteries of your love and grace. May practices like Communion, scripture reading, prayer, and communal conversation train us to see the riches of a relationship with Christ. Empower us to press on in being witnesses of your glorious kingdom. Amen.