The Shout at Midnight

There Is Now

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

This worship experience is both an inspiration to live each day aware of that presence and to acknowledge that all of us are closer to the one we follow than we realize.

Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship

This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the final series after Pentecost, “‘There’ Is Now!” 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: The Shout at Midnight

Matthew 25:1-13

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: “How prepared are you for the next emergency? What preparedness kits do you have ready, if needed?” (For lack of electricity, winter storms, quarantine kit, car kit, first-aid kit, etc.)

Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read Matthew 25:1-13

  • In this parable, Jesus is using a common scene from a wedding ceremony. Bridesmaids would leave the bride at night, to meet the groom. They would then accompany the groom, whenever he decided (perhaps shouting his intentions at midnight), back to the bride’s house. They would then travel back to the groom’s father’s house for a ceremony, and festivities that could last up to a week with many in the village in attendance. With those considerations, do you understand the response of the bridesmaids in verse 9? [Besides just missing the wedding ceremonies, these bridesmaids are also risking public shaming. It would be very risky not to have the oil needed for the lamps.]
  • Have you ever had friends or family members do something so embarrassing that you didn’t want to identify with them? How do you think that same dynamic is in the words of the reply in verse 12? [It is not that the speaker didn’t actually know them by name; their actions were so foolish that he did not recognize why they had acted so foolishly. This added to their shame. In addition, they missed out on all the festivities.]
  • As Christians, we are taught to be generous. In Acts 2:44-45, we see a model of the church where believers share with one another. Why don’t you think the bridesmaids were chided for not being more generous? Why do you think the bridesmaids were wise for not sharing? [If they had, there wouldn’t have been enough for any of them.]
  • How does the last verse help us interpret the parable? [It makes Jesus’ point for telling the parable clear: Disciples are called to be ready at a moment’s notice and are to make proper preparations.]
  • A “shout at midnight” is a surprise announcement. What does it look like to be prepared spiritually?
  • What habits might help you be more prepared spiritually? How can this group help you be more prepared?

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:

Gracious God, we trust that you are at work reconciling the world to yourself even now and even when we may not see it. Give us the eyes of faith to see and continue empowering us to be prepared to be your witnesses to all we may encounter this coming week. Amen.

In This Series...

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Reign of Christ/Thanksgiving Sunday, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes