First Sunday in Lent 2019, Year C — Faith Formation
With All Your Heart Worship Series: God's Generous Heart
March 10, 2019
Small Groups: From Worship to Discipleship
This resource is meant to be used in connection with the worship resources for the Season of Lent. 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.
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. 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.
Another group dynamic to consider is space. 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 (all elements will be shortened for Easter Sunday, as most groups will likely not meet):
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 greater time to be spent on certain questions. Opening questions transition the gathering time into the dialogues, as the total group centers on the themes and Scripture for the week. 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. Questions that begin with (R) are meant to be more reflective. This will mean more time should be spent on these questions relative to others and will often result in participants needing more time to process. It is a helpful practice to allow participants plenty of time to process these questions internally. Don’t be afraid of silence.
John Wesley on Salvation Exercise – Lent is an appropriate time to focus on the basics of our faith. For John Wesley, the emphasis of his preaching and writing almost always tied back to salvation. Each week will contain a paragraph or two from John Wesley’s sermons or writings followed by a follow-up question. These are prime opportunities to bring us back to the basics of our experience of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
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 (1 minute) – Ask for a volunteer to send the group out with the printed blessing; or read the prayer in unison.
Week 1 - God’s Generous Heart
Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal. (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) – In pairs, discuss: “What are you hoping for this Lenten season?”
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
- Which theme of Lent do you resonate with the most?
- Who is being alluded to in Deuteronomy 26:5 as a “wandering Aramean”? [Jacob in Genesis 29-32]
- What is the significance of a central biblical story line beginning, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor . . .”? [Wandering is part of our journey.] How does that relate to the Lenten journey? [The season of Lent reminds us that, through times of scarcity and wandering, God meets us where we are.] How does wandering relate to “God’s Generous Heart”? [God’s nature is love. God seeks us out, to be in abundant relationship with us, and desires that we reflect God’s generous love to the world.]
- Being reminded that their lineage is from a “wandering Aramean” is a stark reminder of all that God had done for them as the people of God who were about to enter the Promised Land. How does your faith journey begin? Who was there? Who guided you? Where was it? How does that shape your faith today?
- Where do we find generosity in these passages? [Deuteronomy 26:11—the inclusion of aliens; God’s deliverance of the Israelites; in Romans, the elimination of the Jew/Gentile distinction and inviting all into the family of God; Romans 10:12-13, God’s grace is open to all.]
- (R) How does God’s generosity to all people provide a pattern for us? What does this suggest about your giving and spending patterns? About how you use your time?
- (R) How does knowing there is an empty tomb at the end of the journey shape the journey?
John Wesley on Salvation – Discussion
Prevenient Grace – “Prevenient” is not a word we use often, if it all. It is, however, an important concept theologically for those in the Wesleyan tradition. “Prevenient” simply means, “that which comes before.” The idea of prevenient grace is that God is active, wooing us or drawing us into deeper relationship before we even think about or conceive of God. Our salvation journey begins not with us, but with God.
Read the following quote from John Wesley’s Sermon, “The Scripture Way of Salvation,” and discuss the question that follows.
Prevenient grace includes all the ‘drawings’ of God the Father to bring us to Christ. Prevenient grace creates within us the desire for God, and if we respond to God’s bring us to himself, our desire increases more and more.
Prevenient grace includes the ‘true light, which enlightens everyone’ that comes in to the world . . . Prevenient grace imparts all the convictions that, from time to time, the Holy Spirit works in every human being.
(“The Scripture Way of Salvation,” Sermon 43 in John Wesley on Christian Practice: The Standard Sermons in Modern English by Kenneth Cain Kinghorn, Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2003, 193).
How does God’s acting “preveniently” help us to understand our faith journey?
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:
“God who sends rain on the just and unjust, who opens wide the door of salvation, whose generosity displays how your thoughts are greater and higher than ours. Give us the eyes to see just how generous you have been to us. By the power of the Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave, instill in us a generosity that points others to you. Amen.”