Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for All Saints Day, “These Are They.” 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.
All Saints: These Are They
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: “Who was the greatest person you’ve met?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes). Read Revelation 7:9-17
- The author of Revelation draws on a lot of images from the Old Testament that would have been familiar to his audience. Read Isaiah 4:2-6 and Isaiah 40:10-11 before reading the passage from Revelation one more time. How do the Isaiah passages help illuminate the Revelation passage? [They connect Isaiah’s vision with John’s vision. This is the work that God has continued to do.] What is similar? What is different? [Similarities include the image of God as a shepherd providing refuge for those going through difficulty. Differences include that Isaiah was writing to give hope to the Jewish people. John includes a vision that encompasses the whole world (7:9).]
- How would you define a “saint”? How might this passage contribute to your definition? [From verse 9: “standing before the throne and the lamb” = focus on what is important; robed in white = having been cleansed by the forgiveness offered through Jesus; palm branches = also a symbol of cleansing, victory, and celebration; from verse 10: tell about God’s salvation; from 12: they sing about all that God has done; from verse 15 and following: they look forward to experiencing God’s abundance.]
- It is common to think about “saints” as holier-than-thou and as the rare few. By virtue of our baptism, we are all called toward being saints. Do you think of yourself as called to be a saint? Why or why not? What difference would it make if you thought of yourself as a saint?
- How would washing robes “in the blood of the Lamb” (v. 14) make their robes white? [It wouldn’t! It is just another hint that throughout the book John is using symbolism to convey his message.] Blood, as indicated in Leviticus, represents life. These “saints,” as represented by their clothing, are those who have “put on” Jesus to use the apostle Paul’s words. What might it mean to put on Christ? What might it look like to live as those who “wear white robes” in our everyday lives today?
- On this All Saint Day, who do you remember who put on Christ for you or displayed the life of Christ?
- How might you continue to live into your call to be a saint? How can this group help?
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 our fathers and mothers in the faith, you have been a refuge to those in distress. Through your Holy Spirit, many have been empowered and strengthened to praise you when all else seemed dark and chaotic. May that same Holy Spirit breathe new life into us, that we might be your witnesses to those we come in contact with this coming week. Amen.
Discipleship Ministries, www.umcdiscipleship.org
Engaging Your Community: A Guide to Seeing All the People, https://store.umcdiscipleship.org/product/engaging-your-community-a-guide-to-seeing-all-the-people-2/
Forming Disciples Through Worship, https://store.umcdiscipleship.org/product/forming-disciples-through-worship/
“Making the Most of Online Small Groups,” https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/making-the-most-of-online-small-groups
Online Teaching Series – “How to Start Small Groups,” https://discipleship-ministries.teachable.com/courses/