This series, Going Deeper: A Journey with Jesus, is intended to be a readily accessible resource for small group use. It does not require a leader’s guide, nor extra preparation for small group leaders. For small groups that already have designated leaders, the leaders can facilitate the discussion. Other small groups will be able to use this resource with a shared or a rotational leadership. If you are using this discipleship resource in a small group, please review this chapter as a group at the beginning of your time together.
- A good way to begin is to form a small group that agrees to meet together for about 10-12 weeks. This approach assumes that the group will complete almost one chapter a week. The group will then have the option of deciding to continue with another study for another 10-12 more weeks.
- If you are meeting with your small group each week, consider the group meeting day as the seventh day of the week (that is, begin Day 1 on the day after your small group meeting day).
- At the end of each chapter is a section entitled: “Taking It Further: Small Group and Chapter Summary Questions.” I suggest that small groups begin their discussions with these summary questions. The group can use any or all of these questions, and any questions in the chapter which the participants want to discuss. Of course, the group members will also have some of their own questions and issues. I advise that groups not feel the need to begin with Day 1 and move methodically through the seven days of the chapter, attempting to address each question. Be flexible with the curriculum and how it is approached and discussed.
- Focus on relationships rather than on the completion of the intended agenda. Allow discussion to go where it needs to go, according to the needs of the group.
- We have found that smaller groups (with 3-6 participants) provide the best environment for spiritual growth. Small groups are how Christians experience koinonia (intimate, supportive fellowship), and walk together and support each other in their faith journeys. The Christian Church needs both expressions of church as described in the Acts 2 community: gathering for worship in the temple (large group) as well as gathering in homes for the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:46). For congregations that want to grow in faith, spirit, and mission, small groups will need to become an essential part of the congregational structure, not just an additional activity for those who like to participate in small groups.
- Small groups will typically have these components: time for prayer, time to share how life is going (and support of each other), time for Bible study, and time for discussion of the weekly chapter.
- Small groups have been the environment in which many people of Peace Lutheran have learned to pray aloud with each other. We learn to pray with others by practicing praying with and for others. Consider a variety of prayer methods to encourage growth in prayer (read prayers, written prayers, circle prayers, sentence prayers, spontaneous prayer, prayer journals, among many other methods.*
- A small group covenant helps a group agree to expectations and accountability. (See below for suggestions.)
- Everyone in the group should be encouraged to share, but should not be pressured to do so. There is no need for each person to provide his or her answers to each question that is discussed. The group should learn not to rush to fill in the silences.
- People will have different perspectives, experiences, and interpretations of the Bible.
- Group members should agree not to attempt to give advice or fix one another’s problems, unless asked for help. This is not a therapy group.
- The use of “I statements” (rather than “you,” “we,” or “they”) helps participants to avoid speaking for or about others.
- Groups need to decide when and if new members are to be welcomed into the group.
- Confidentiality is essential for a group to have a foundation of honesty and to build trust.
- The group should agree to a shared leadership unless one person is appointed as the convener. In this case, the convener can lead and model leadership of the weekly meeting for a few weeks until the group is ready to share and rotate the leadership.
A Small Group Covenant
A small group covenant can be a helpful way of clarifying the group’s expectations as well as building the group’s accountability. A covenant should include agreement to these kinds of commitments:
- completion of the weekly assignment;
- participation in the weekly group gathering;
- maintaining an environment of honesty, trust, and confidentiality;
- daily time with God;
- prayer for each other during the week.
A sample small group covenant is found below. The small group should agree to the meeting schedule and any logistics.
A Sample Small Group Covenant**
Purpose of the group: In order to grow in Christ, walk together, and support each other, we give ourselves to this small group opportunity, praying that the Holy Spirit will use it and grow us for God’s purpose.
We agree to these commitments:
- to read and complete the weekly assignment;
- to regularly participate in the weekly group gathering;
- to maintain an environment of honesty, trust, and confidentiality;
- to spend daily time with God;
- to pray for each other during the week.
Our small group will meet weekly according to this schedule:
Our small group will exist together for this intended length of time:
ten to twelve weeks.
ten weeks, and then perhaps another ten weeks…
Names and phone numbers/email addresses of group members
*For guidance in developing prayer, see “Prayer in small groups” in Augsburg Fortress (Publisher), Starting Small Groups—and Keeping Them Going. (Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 1995), 120.
**Sample small group covenants can be found in Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 2007), 14, and in Starting Small Groups—and Keeping Them Going, 121.