Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Lent series, “Rend Your Hearts: Claiming the Promise.” 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: This Is the Sign
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 might it look like during this Lent to ‘rend your hearts?’” (Notice this is plural. It is for individuals and for the community.)
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read Genesis 9:8-17.
- What might be the difference between a contract and a covenant? [Biblically, a covenant is an arrangement between unequals; whereas, a contract is an agreement between equals.]
- What words and themes are repeated? [covenant, remembering, bow (literally a weapon of war)] How are these themes expressed in this passage?
- Read Genesis 6:1-8. How might this seemingly strange story be a fitting introduction to the story of Noah and the flood? [It revealed the depth of wickedness into which God’s good creation had descended.] How might this story of the flood be a story of re-creation? [Just as God brought forth life through waters of chaos in Genesis 1, so God is bringing forth new life through the waters of a flood. This time, God adds the promise of being the protector.]
- How was the rainbow a sign of God’s promise? How might the church function as that promise today? What might that say about us? [Through the grace of God, we become the sign of God at work in the world.]
- How is Jesus the ultimate covenant maker? How is Jesus the ultimate “bow” or “rainbow” as a sign of God’s presence in the world?
- How might the work of rending our hearts contribute to being a sign of God’s presence in the world? [God works mightily through the weak, broken, and humble to demonstrate God’s power and goodness.]
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:
Covenant God, we give you thanks for your faithfulness even when we are faithless. We especially give you thanks for Jesus, an eternal sign of your love among us. By your Holy Spirit, empower us, through our words and deeds, to be a sign of your grace at work in the world. Amen.