We use the term “agenda” loosely, although it might be better for Episcopalians to think of the session as a form of liturgy. Providing structure for your sessions creates a sense of continuity and trust in the process. Like weekly church services, the session need not be the exact same every time, but there should be a familiar rhythm to your time together.
While the curriculum will reflect this structure, here’s the general outline we recommend for a 90 minute period. If there is a meal, add 30 minutes of meal and casual conversation before the opening prayer (this does not include the time for meal preparation). We do not recommend eating a meal during the session itself.
Gathering Prayer (5 minutes):
This prayer is the opportunity for your group to set aside this time as sacred. It should act as a Collect, gathering the concerns and cares of your group and encouraging community and sharing.
Check-In (20 minutes):
Check-In gives participants a moment or two per person to tell the group what is going on in their lives. These short responses allow the group to reconnect through discussion around a specific check-in question.
Small Group Activity & Conversation (50 minutes):
Each week’s curriculum has one activity and one discussion question. The aim of both is to help participants engage more deeply in the work they are already doing in their time of prayer. Depending on your group and context, you may decide to use the activity or not.
Check-Out (5 minutes):
Check-out time gives the group a chance to process how they are doing as a group, and the group leaders a chance to get feedback. Check-out is also the time to remind group members of what’s coming up in the next week.
Worship (10 minutes):
This is the opportunity for your group to lift up their shared experience to God. Worship should be guided by the facilitator and host, but worship leadership should be shared among all small group participants. We recommend using the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer.
DO NOT CUT OUT WORSHIP TIME. Although it may be tempting to truncate worship in order to make time for more conversation, worship is an integral part of creating a cohesive Episcopal small group. Modeling faithfulness in worship is also part of teaching participants the practices of being a disciple of Jesus.
You might also find it beneficial to add a small ritual to the beginning or end of your time together, which could be as simple as lighting a candle together. You can find ideas for small group rituals in the curriculum.