- You will need as many different spaces for meeting as there are small groups.
- For each space, create circles with chairs, or have the group meet around a table.
- For the first session, have a list prepared for who is which small group, and where that small group will be meeting. It is very important that these groups be consistent each week; if there will be people dropping in and out, create a catch-all small group for those folks.
- Optional: set up devotional helps. This may be a candle, a cross, an icon, or something else that will remind the group that their time together is blessed by God. They may be placed in the center of the table or in some other visible place.
- A written agenda that gives time allotments, i.e. Gathering Prayer 5 minutes, Check-In 20 minutes.
- Space to worship together after the small groups meet.
Agenda for Wednesday Evenings:
- Meal together (at least 30 minutes before start of program; do not try to eat and do small groups at the same time)
- Gathering Prayer in Large Group (5 minutes)
- Check-in in Small Groups (20 minutes)
- Small Group Activities/Conversations (50 minutes)
- Check-out in Small Groups (5 minutes)
- Worship in Large Group (10 minutes)
- Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journals for each participant.
- Books of Common Prayer for each participant. Hymnals optional.
- A bible for use during worship.
- Newsprint and markers.
- Writing utensils for participants.
- Participants will be able to articulate the importance of sharing the story of God’s love with others.
Gathering Prayer (Large Group):
A parish leader invite participants to be seated comfortably. Invite participants into a period of silence. You may wish to keep silence for 1-4 minutes. If your participants are unused to long periods of silence, you may wish to start with one minute this week and progressively lengthen the silence by 30 seconds each week. However long is decided, the leader should let the group know how long it will be, and that she is keeping time. At the end of the silence, pray this or another suitable prayer:
Blessed Savior, send us into the world, so that, like you, we may bear witness to God’s light and life. Turn us loose, Lord, to be a channel of your love, an instrument of your compassion, a minister of your grace. Amen.
Check-in in Small Groups:
Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.
- Where did you see God at work in the world around you this week?
- How was the process of journaling? What surprised you? (N.B. this is a question about process “How did journaling/praying go for you?” not content “What did you journal about?”)
Small Group Activity:
As your time together concludes, the brothers are asking how you might take what you’ve seen, heard or learned out into the world. For this small group activity, participants will prepare a presentation for your parish (or wider!) community.
How you go about creating this presentation will depend on your group’s gifts. Here are some options for declaring to the world how you have met Jesus:
- Make a short video to post online or to show to your congregation! It could be as simple as different members sitting down in front of the camera and saying where they met Jesus. Or, members could write, “I met Jesus [fill in where/how they met Jesus]” on signs and simply walk on and off of camera on after the other. If you do post online, please use the hashtag, #MeetingJesus.
- Prepare a short presentation for your parish, perhaps for the week after Easter. To make this really effective, consider asking a member or two of your group to tell a personal story about how they met Jesus, or about how their life has been changed by God.
- Talk to your parish leadership and see if the group could offer a story/stories in lieu of a sermon at a point in the near future. Take the time to plan a sermon together. What are your most important takeaways from your time together?
- Make a word cloud, collage, or other art on a posterboard, present it at the announcements or another adult education venue, and display it on the bulletin board.
- Plan a day where the group will go outside the church walls and reach people together. You might consider an act of service, like working together at a food bank or a homeless grate patrol, or a reaching out in love to your neighborhood by offering prayers or other goodwill to passersby. Get creative about your specific context! How can you remind people of God’s immense love?
- Take sidewalk chalk and chalk up the sidewalks around the church and in your neighborhood with encouraging words about God’s love.
Small Group Conversation:
Small group conversation time is the heart of your work together as a small group. Sharing our personal stories and accounts of faith is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and mutuality.
Here are some questions to get your conversation started. You may move through all of them, or get stuck in deep conversation with the first question you ask. You may choose to ask your own question that speaks to the needs of your group. What matters is that participants are engaged with each other. Because these questions are based on the experience of the Living God, they are unique to each person. There is no right or wrong answers, there is only further discussion and exploration of our relationship with God and one another.
We bear witness to God’s love because first someone witnessed to us. Who are the people in your life who have witnessed God’s love to you?
In the introduction to Week Six, the brothers write, “We are witnesses, both by our words and our deeds, to the Light and Life and Love of God, which have been made known to us in Jesus, our Savior and our Joy.” What are the tangible ways which you can make the Light and Life and Love of God known to those around you?
What are the things that get in the way of us sharing our story of how God loves us with others?
God sends us into to the world to declare what we have seen and heard. What is my testimony about God and God’s love for the world? What is my gospel (i.e. “good news”)?
In the opening prayer, we prayed that we might be made a channel of God’s love. What do you think that means? What images are brought to mind?
For other discussion questions, be sure to check out the Teen, Young Adult, and Older Adult curricula.
Check-out in Small Group:
Invite group members to share feedback with each other by using one of these prompts:
- Where did the group have a lot of energy? Where was the energy lacking?
- Where did you feel close to God? Where did you feel far away from God?
- Where did you meet Jesus in your session today?
- Where did you see light from the Holy Spirit?
- What did you notice about our time together?
- [If short on time!] Please describe our time together in one word.
This can also be a time to solicit feedback about the entirety of your time together.
- Are small groups something the group believes the church should continue doing? Are they interested in moving forward together with another topic or bible study?
- What are you most grateful for over the whole of our time together?
- What moments stand out to you as particularly spirit-filled?
About ten minutes before the end of your time together, the groups should come back together. Whoever is responsible for running worship should prepare before worship before the session. Here are some tips and pointers:
Worship is the time we give thanks to God for all the gifts of our life and for our time together. Because Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John is a gift of the Society for Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Episcopal church, we recommend using the Daily Office, which is a cornerstone of monastic life.
Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, found on pages 136-140 of the Book of Common Prayer, offers a wonderful and simple framework for your prayer time together. You may choose to use the recommended psalms and readings found in the BCP; supplement with our recommended readings; prayers and songs; or choose your own. Hymns may be sung a capella, or read as poetry. Be sure to make time for prayer intercessions, and encourage the group to pray for one another and loved ones.
For the week of We Declare to You, we recommend:
- Scripture: 1 John 1:1-5
- Hymn: Come labor on (Hymnal 1982 #541) Lord, you give the great commission (Hymnal 1982 #528; use alternative tunes Hyfrodol or Abbot’s Leigh. You can find this set to Abbot’s Leigh in Wonder Love and Praise #780) We all are one in mission (Wonder Love and Praise #778)
- Collect: A Prayer attributed to St. Francis (BCP 833)
- It would be appropriate to end your time together by sharing thanksgivings for the particular blessings you have received during your time together.
If your group is meeting in the evening, you may also wish to use the service of Compline, found on page 127. This is a brief, beautiful, and very popular service.
Your worship leader may wish to do something more creative or context-specific, like use another liturgy, lead a meditation, invite participants into silence, lead participants in song, or use prayer beads together. There are many other ways to worship God. Taking into consideration the theme for the week, we invite you to explore what that might look like together.