This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the season after Epiphany. The underlying question for this series is, “How do disciples embrace belonging to the body of Christ even when it causes us to look foolish?” This series will help participants explore the themes of the season after Epiphany in conjunction with the worship themes. Participants will be challenged to observe the stories and traditions while anticipating what is to come and celebrating the wonder of God’s work among 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.
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.
Somos del Señor – You Are Not Lacking
Fellowship – Snacks (10 minutes)
Gathering and Opening (10 minutes). In pairs or groups of three, discuss the following: “When you introduce yourself, what identification markers do you most commonly use? (mother of…; father of…; work at…Church; member at…)
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Read: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. Read the passage a second time. This time, read the word “you” as either “y’all” or “you all.”
- How does Paul identify himself to the hearers of this letter in Corinth? (Most would have been illiterate and would have had this letter read to them.) [In verse one, we read that Paul notes that he is “called,” specifically “to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”]
- Why do you think Paul begins the formal portion of this letter with gratitude (v. 4 “I give thanks to my God always for you…”)? [It was customary; it reminded them of their relationship; and it displayed Paul’s gratitude even as he critiqued them.] What is Paul thankful for? [Grace of God; the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among them; the evidence of their spiritual gifts.]
- Paul writes that they (all of them as a body) do not lack in spiritual gifts. (An individual might be lacking; but as a community, they are not lacking.) How did the second reading of the passage (using the phrase “you all” or “y’all”) change or modify your understanding of the passage?
- What does it mean to you to belong to the body of Christ?
- How can this group help each person experience the grace and empowerment of God?
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). Before ending in prayer, spend at least one minute in silence:
God of our ancestors, we give thanks for being part of the body of Christ. We give thanks for how we have been encouraged and empowered by those in the past and those present among us now. Empower us, that others might be strengthened and encouraged by our life and faithfulness to the body of Christ. Amen.