- 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 what the Incarnation of Jesus means in their lives.
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:
Jesus, image of the invisible God, by your words and example, and by your divine life abiding in us, teach us to see and know the God of Love, whose Light and Life you came to reveal. 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.
- Did you meet God embodied anywhere this week? Where did you brush up against Jesus 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:
This activity will help the participants understand that Jesus was fully human.
Distribute pieces of paper to the group. Ask them to list the top ten most emblematic things about being a human. Explain that these things can be weird, or painful, or amazing. Draw a large outline of a human on piece of newsprint. Ask participants to call out or write “what it is to be human” in the general area of the experience/around or in the outline. For example, “Humans have hearts that can break” would go over the left breast of the figure. Go through the all the items together and talk about whether or not Jesus would have experienced that as a the unique person that Jesus was. Invite the group to reflect on how God is able to relate to humanity.
For more options for small group activities, be sure to check out the Teen, Young Adult and Older Adult curricula.
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.
Briefly share about a time that your body had a surprise for you. Given that surprise, what does it mean to you that God also chose to become incarnate, to have a body?
How does knowing that God experientially understands human limitations, physical pain, sickness and death change the way you pray?
In the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, we say that we believe in the “resurrection of the body.” Does this influence the way you think about your body or your faith?
In the resurrection stories of John 20, Thomas says that he needs to put his finger in the wounds of Jesus before he believes that the man before him is Jesus, resurrected. What are the ways you have been able to “touch” Jesus?
Do you participate in the Maundy Thursday foot washing? Why or why not? Why do you think Jesus commands us to wash one another’s feet?
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.
- Remind group members to continue journaling.
- Remind participants that videos are available online and that they can participate in the social media conversation at #MeetingJesus or on Facebook.
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 The Word Became Flesh, we recommend:
- Scripture: John 1:1-5, 14, 16-18
- Hymn: My song is love unknown (Hymnal 1982 #458) What wondrous love is this (Hymnal 1982 #439)
- Collect: Jesus, image of the invisible God, by your words and example, and by your divine life abiding in us, teach us to see and know the God of Love, whose Light and Life you came to reveal. Amen.
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.