This is going to be a fairly long post as I am going to describe how to facilitate the group process. It’s worth the read. I have tried to be thorough yet brief. If something isn’t clear or you have any doubts leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
One of the goals of this small group process is to reproduce. It’s aimed at being simple but not simplistic. While you could run your small group with this format and process indefinitely I would hope that you would develop and grow beyond this simple process. The simplicity of this process is so that it can easily be reproduced. It’s a starting point so that even a new believer could start a group with their friends with little or no Bible knowledge.
The process is broken up into 3 parts. Each part is to receive one third of your time. If you have 60 minutes then each part gets 20 minutes. If you have 90 minutes then each part gets 30 minutes. These parts are called: Gather, Grow, Go.
The focus of the Gather part is to bring the group together with Jesus, to share what has happened throughout the week, and to care for one another. The second part, Grow, is a study in the Scriptures. The final part, Go, focuses on how the group members will apply what they are learning in the group. It is in this part that members will practice what they are learning including how to run their own group. This final part is crucial to reproduction and should not be skipped. Let’s break each part down further.
There are five key elements to this part. The first is to worship God. This can be done through music, through reflection of a psalm, to answering the question, “What are you thankful to God for this week?” The goal is to centre the group on God. The second element is to move from the vertical to the horizontal and show care for one another. Take time to listen to the high’s and low’s of the member’s week and pray for one another. The third element is to ask each other about what they said they would do the previous week. This is to be a time of loving accountability. Later in the group each person will share how they intended to apply the Word to their life – it’s important to ask them how they went with implementing. There are many reasons why people fail to apply Scripture such as time, fear, incompetence. If you don’t ask them what happened you will not be able to stand with them and find a way to overcome their barriers to obedience. The fourth element is a time of casting vision for the discipleship of other believers and sharing their faith with those far from God. In this time take out your maps and pray over them, pray for each other’s maps, pray that everyone on the map would have a chance to grow in God’s grace. The final element is reviewing what you have been doing and studying together as you move into the second part, Grow.
So, the gather part may look like this:
1. What’s something you are thankful to God for this week?”
2. What are some of the high’s and low’s you have experienced since the last group?
How can we pray for you tonight?
3. Last week you were going to try and do [insert their action], how did that go?
(If it went well, praise God. If it didn’t go well, ask, “How can we help you do it this week?”)
4. Let’s take out maps and pray for them. (Obviously the first week only you have your map but they will develop theirs in the coming weeks).
5. Let’s review what we have looked at so far in our group…
One of the biggest fears people have of running a small group is that they don’t know the Bible well enough to teach it. In this format you won’t be “teaching” the Bible. Instead, you will be facilitating a discussion about it. While people will learn and be taught the emphasis is not on you as a teacher but as a facilitator. Instead of being the Bible expert you will ask questions and help them to see what the Scriptures say. This method has some problems. People could miss the point of the passage and come up with some weird thoughts and ideas. The passage could be very difficult and beyond what the group is able to grasp. Despite the potential problems most Christians don’t struggle to grasp the basic meaning of the Bible but rather they struggle with how to make it work in their life.
There will be six questions that you will ask each week. For a few weeks you will want to restrict yourself to just these questions. The reason for this is to help in reproduction. If the Bible study component is based on your Bible knowledge then you need to teach them what you know in order for them to reproduce. If you ask deep, creative questions each week then you will need to teach them how to generate deep, creative questions. If you ask the same six questions each week then you need to teach them the six questions. This restriction makes reproduction easier. I’m not saying you must remain with just these questions. These questions are for the starting of groups in helping them to get to reproduction – that’s all.
These are the six questions:
1. What does the passage say? (If they say something that isn’t in the passage ask, “Where does it say that?”) It’s helpful to have the group read the passage out loud, in different translations if they are present, and then to retell the passage in their own words. The purpose of this question is not to discuss what the passage means only what it says.
2. What do you like about this passage? (Everybody can answer this question because they can’t be wrong.)
3. What do you dislike about this passage? (Again, there can be no wrong answer. Question 2 and 3 get people talking.)
4. What do we learn about God (Father, Son and Spirit) from this passage?
5. What do we learn about people and ourselves from this passage? (If there are multiple groups of people in the passage you can ask, for example from Mark 5, “What do we learn about people from the demoniac? From the Apostles? From the town folk?”)
6. What can you apply from this passage? (We don’t just want to be hearers of the Word we want to be doers.)
In the final question help them to be as specific as possible. eg from Mark 5 they might say, “I will share my faith with my friends.” You could ask, “Which friends?” The more specific someone can be in their application the more likely they are to do it.
If you have ever been involved in a small group you are probably familiar with the first two parts. This part is crucial to helping people actually apply the Scriptures to their life and get to starting their own group. This part is all about practising. Discipleship is about training. You may know every detail about how to run a marathon but unless you have trained for it you are unlikely to be able to do it. So to with the Christian life. Studying how to love our enemies is easy. Stating what I seek to do during the week is easy. Living it out – now that’s the hard part. Notice that in the Great Commission that Jesus doesn’t ask us to teach everything he taught but rather, he asks us to teach them to obey everything he taught. People need to learn obedience. Sometimes obedience comes easily but often it doesn’t. We need to train for obedience through discipleship. This time doesn’t have to be serious. Try to make it playful in the sense that it is training. It’s ok to fail in training. In fact, that’s what training is for. It’s in training that you want to try new things and fail. Keep this section focused on having a go and not on getting it right. With consistent training positive results will come – trust the process.
There are three elements to learning obedience in this final part. The first element is to practice what they have just said they will do during the week. Using Mark 5 as our example, if they said they will share the gospel with a friend have them practice with another group member. It is here that people discover the cliche, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.” Many people will discover that they don’t know how they are actually going to do what they said they would. This is the time to show them how. If you don’t know then as a group you will seek the answer and grow together. The second element is to practice the first two parts. While you may not have time every week to practice all the elements of the first two parts you can choose one element and have the group practice it. For example, if in the worship time you begin with a song then have the group members practice introducing the song to the group and how to start singing it. This may sound simple but if you have never introduced a song before and led off as the first singer it’s a very difficult task. Asking the six questions needs to be taught and practised. At the end of this practice time look for someone who could lead that element the following week. Each week involve more the group members and you will slowly train them how to facilitate the group. It’s this practice time where they get to train that will lead them to being able to do during the group time. Lastly, you will want to pray for each other that you would have God’s grace to live in obedience to his will.
That’s it. Here is a simple small group process that isn’t based on how much you know and more on facilitating a process of discovery. It’s a process that helps people to practice in a safe environment where they can build their confidence through developing their competence. Give it a go. You will be amazed at the insights people will have as you study Scripture. Their applications will astound you – I promise. Often in the groups where we study Mark 5 people will identify with the demoniac and come up with the application of sharing of their faith. In one group a lady identified with Jesus and “We should go looking for those who are harassed by demons and pray for them to be set free.”
Oh, one last point – which passages do you study? There are no limitations on what you can look at but here is a list of passages I like to use for a starter group whether they are hard-core Christians or far from God.
- The Weeping Woman Luke 7:36-50
- Tax Collector Luke 18:9-17
- A hole in the roof Luke 15:17-26
- God loves the world John 3:16-21
- A Hard Road Mat 16:21-17:9
- Trial and Crucifixion Mark 15-16:8
- Two Sons Luke 15:11-32
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