Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Monthly Feature: Small Groups

Did you know that small groups in Lutheran church's go back many years.....infact many, many, many years.....
A Lutheran character called Philip Spener encouraged small groups to meet, to encourage growth spiritually in the church. In 1675 he wrote something called Pia Desideria (meaning 'Heart felt desire for God pleasing reform'). The following were the main points:
  1. there should be "a more extensive use of the Word of God among us." The Bible, Spener said, "must be the chief means for reforming something." This was achieved through small groups who met for prayer and bible study.
  2. a call also for a renewal of "the spiritual priesthood," the priesthood of all believers. Here he cited Luther's example in urging all Christians to be active in the general work of Christian ministry.
  3. He appealed for the reality of Christian practice and argued that Christianity is more than a matter of simple knowledge.
  4. He then urged restraint and charity in religious controversies. He asked his readers to love and pray for unbelievers and the erring, and to adopt a moderate tone in disputes.
  5. Next he called for a reform in the education of ministers. Here he stressed the need for training in piety and devotion as well as in academic subjects.
  6. Last he implored ministers to preach edifying sermons, understandable by the people, rather than technical discourses which few were interested in or could understand.
Buy a copy of the book.

Small Groups can take any format, and are often influenced by the mix of people, the time available and the interests.
But here are two very simple formats...
Meal/Drink and nibble: Have a meal or at least something to nibble and eat together, encourage discussion around the meal about how your week had been, what people think of news events, how is family life, etc.
A bible reading or presentation on a issue from a Christian perspective (eg. dvd, or somethign someone found and shares) There is no strict rule on what you choose, You may wish to further explore one of the readings from Sunday worship...some reasources relating to lectionary worship are available from http://www.changingchurch.com/ as part of their cctoolkit or from http://www.formingfaith.com/ as part of their faith at home handout or even try http://www.textweek.com/ . Alternatively obtain a video series or if you are looking for other ideas email me richardschwedes@gmail.com . Alternatively you may have particular issues that are relevant to your group that you are keen to delve into.
Talk about it..(usually someone needs to faciliate this in a safe way...ask questions like, what do you think?, what did you get out of it? What didn't seem to make sense?, How do you think this affects our lives? even give examples)
Pray..have a prayer leader who prays aloud, give others the opportunity to do so also but creating a time of silence where they can pray either aloud or quietly (some people are comfortable praying aloud whilst others appreciate the opportunity to pray quietly)
The idea of this format is to encourage families to come together, but for family meet and eat together for part of the night, and relate to other families for part of the night.
Gathering: Ice breaker games.
Meal: Families from the same family sit at the same table...Propose a question to talk about over the meal. Encourage families to talk about this question and other relevant issues as they eat.
Bible story: Have families listen to a bible story and even read it. Then ask them to discuss it with questions like. What is important for you in that story? Which character do you relate to the most and why? What are something relating to that story you are going to ask God about?
Activity: Do an activity together relating to the Bible Story!!....
Prayer: Pray for each other as a family
GAME TIME: Mix families up (dads in one group, mums in another, sons in another and daughters in another; or 2 or 3 families combine for a group). Play some games that encourage interaction.
PARTING WORDS: Finish the night off with some parting words...Summary of what we covered, and gaining feedback on what people liked and what people would like...and a blessing.

Alleluia Lutheran Church http://www.azalleluia.com is a church organised around small groups/cell groups...Check out their web site to see how this works.
Another congregation with a significant focus on small groups is http://www.trinityomaha.org/lifegroups.htm who emphasis them as life groups.

http://smallgroups.com/ has a huge range of resources and ideas for small groups and small group leaders. SmallGroups.com is an Internet-based ministry providing training and resources for Christian small groups. Our members are a network of individuals, churches, publishers, and other Christian organizations brought together in one place to provide ongoing training and support for small group leaders and administrators of groups.
http://www.johnmallison.com/cell.htm John Mallison an Australian Church leader has been very helpful to many church leaders in the area of small groups. Check out his book at http://www.johnmallison.com/jmcellbook.htm
BuildingSmallGroups.com located at http://www.christianitytoday.com/smallgroups has a huge arrange of resources relating to small groups...well worth a look at.
Lutheran Church Missouri synod's home page relating to small groups is at http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=956
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America relating to small groups is at http://www.elca.org/christianeducation/educators/trans_formation.html
Augsburg Fortress books relating to small groups include One Anothering: Biblical building blocks for small groups, Building Spiritual Community in Small Groups, Starting Small Groups and keeping them going, plus a range of their teaching materials including No experience necessary...visit their web site at http://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/searchresults.jsp?clsid=113031&searchType=all&searchstring=small+groups&classificationID=-1&x=18&y=9
CPH...Concordia Publising House has a selection of resources that are very suitable for small groups in searching the scriptures. Just visit their web site and explore studies www.cph.org
Zondervan has a wide range of publciations relating to small groups, why not visit their site at http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Search/Search.htm?ViewImages=true&SearchValue=small+groups&SearchContent=Products&SearchMode=Simple&QueryStringSite=Zondervan if this link doen't work go to www.zondervan.com and type in small groups
Willow Creek Association has a strong ministry in the areas of small group ministry, with regular conferences and plenty of material. Infact the Willow Creek church began as a small group. Visit their web site for an overview of their resources http://www.willowcreek.com/googlemini/index.asp?site=willownet5&client=wca_frontend&proxystylesheet=wca_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=p&proxyreload=1&getfileds=googlecat&fromSection=Resources&q=small+group
if this link doesn't work go to www.willlowcreek.com and type in small groups
Serendipty House offers a range of bible studies, issue studies ideal for small groups, plus a range of small group leader materials http://www.serendipityhouse.com
Group Publishing offers a variety of materials that help small groups in the areas of bible studies, leadership, outreach, marriage ministry, volunteer ministires. check out their site at http://store.grouppublishing.com/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10706
Upper Room Publishing has a specialist area for smal group ministries with free advice, a magazine for small groups and books available at http://www.upperroom.org/fivecircles/walking.asp
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Believe it or not I have turned up to a small group where the person leading the group has not had the time to prepare for the group and has simply picked up a book. This can cause problems because not all material is suitable for all groups (Some groups even in the same congregation require different material and can cope with different situations). Before using any small group material, please review it and think about whether the material will be helpful. Also not all of the above are from Lutheran resources, but have in fact been recommended from a variety of Lutheran resources so checking is important, not so much to exclude but to put a Lutheran slant on things.
ONE LAST THING: If you have any other recommendations please send them to me at richardschwedes@gmail.com I am sure there is more stuff worth sharing.

1 comment:

International house of prayer said...

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