Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season after Pentecost - Season of Creation. The underlying question for this series is: “How is ecological stewardship connected with discipleship?” 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 – Caring for Creation
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, have each participant finish the following statement: “My hope for our time together in this study is . . .”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read Luke14:1, 7-14
- While sitting nearest the host of a dinner party was a way to flaunt status in Jesus’ day, how do people display their status today? [Neighborhood they live in, car[s] they drive, certain job titles, etc.]
- How can environmental abuse be an issue of idolatry? [God is giver of abundance not profit or things; trusting in our own ability to provide rather than trust God’s provisions for all.]
- According this passage, what makes a person blessed (v.14)? [Giving to others who cannot repay.]
- Working as a group, name as many selfless acts as you can. (Use a fair amount of skepticism. For example, when we give towards a charity, are we doing so from pure motives or because it makes us feel better or relieves us of guilt?)
- How is creation care linked with our mandate to care for the poor and vulnerable? [The poor are more affected by natural disasters and environmental abuse than the rich. For one example, wealthy people can afford insurance to cover loses and provides a safety net in the event of a natural disaster that poor are unable to afford.]
- What is the difference between creation care and environmentalism? [Environmentalism can become idolatry when creation is the supreme ideal or ultimate end. Creation care or ecological stewardship honors the Triune God as creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world and we are stewards of the good gifts God has entrusted us.]
- How can we take creation care seriously in our community?
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:
Creator God, we confess that we have not noticed when environment exploitation has happened and have not advocated for proper stewardship of the resources you have entrusted to us. Create within us a desire to see all people made in your image have access to clean water, adequate food supplies, and reliable shelter that we might all experience your provisions. Help us to be the stewards of abundance you have called us to. Amen.