Every small group has its own to-do list.
When I was a university student I would work up questions for inductive Bible study. We would try to guide our groups from details of the day’s text, to its meaning, and onward to ways to live it.
Since then some of the richest small groups I’ve been a part of start each meaning with just checking in. We would go around and share what had been going on in our lives since the last meeting. Openness about blessings and challenges deepened relationships and partnership in following Christ.
A third option comes from John Wesley. Last time I was blogging on Wesley I noted the searching questions that had to be asked of anyone wanting to join the group as found in the “Rules for the Band Societies (1738).” Here he is just after that (with my emphasis added) on his plan for leading small groups:
Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion offers ; the four following at every meeting : —
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
Well, at least that would cut down on the time spent planning the next meeting.
These days I suspect this agenda might also shorten up the lifespan of most groups.
Ponder, though, what might happen in a group that chose this agenda. At a glance it sounds like this would be a downer, putting all our attention on sin and guilt.
I think a closer look makes some other results very likely — at least if one follows Wesley’s guidance with care.
1. Every member would take Christian living very seriously. Knowing that this was what the Christian community did together would put some pressure on to be a Christian in every dimension of life, all the time.
2. Every member is going to be humble, and admit to doing the wrong thing some of the time. Wesley’s #1 and #2 assume that there has been both temptation and sin in our lives. The group helps with humility and honesty.
3. Every member is going to find grace: #3 assumes it — all members will have something to say about how God delivered them. This group does more than confess. They help each other with forgiveness and love.
4. Every member is going to think with some subtlety. Members of Wesley’s group are not encouraged to think in simplistic, black and white terms about any of this. His question #4 assumes that people experience ambiguity. The group helps with discernment.
Accountability, humility, grace, and discernment. Hmm… Doesn’t sound too bad when you look at it that way.
What have you experienced as a really helpful agenda for a long-term small group process? (I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.)
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