Create a welcoming environment for your small group. Ideally, chairs are arranged around a table, or there are chairs in a circle. However, this depends on where you meet. You may decide to have some kind of devotional help (a reminder that your time together is set apart, such as a candle, cross or icon) or you may not. You may wish to have a written agenda for the evening, and the group expectations visible, although that is also optional.
- An extra copy of Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journal in case a participant forgets his or hers.
- Books of Common Prayer for each participant, or access to bcponline.org. Hymnals optional.
- A bible (or smartphone; you can access a free New Revised Standard Version at bible.oremus.org) for use during worship.
- Participants will be able to articulate what it means to be a friend of Jesus.
Invite participants to be seated comfortably either around a table or in a circle of chairs. If there is a candle, light the candle. Invite participants into a period of silence. You may wish to keep silence for 1-4 minutes. You may wish to start with one minute and progressively lengthen the silence by 30 seconds each week. However long you decide, let the group know how long it will be, and that you are keeping time. At the end of the silence, pray this or another suitable prayer:
Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. Amen.
Using the process of mutual invitation as outlined in “Getting Started: Meeting Jesus” begin the check-in process with your group.
- How has someone been a friend to you this week? How have you been a friend to someone else 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:
In this small group activity, participants will think about friendships that are important to them.
Encourage participants to reach out to friend they haven’t heard from for a while. Take some time to send a message via your preferred platform. Invite participants to articulate that they are thinking about their friend, and why the are grateful that their friend is in their life.
Have a discussion about the exercise. Why did they choose that particular friend? Why are they grateful for that friend? What else about that friend is special? How is this relationship like or unlike the relationship they have with Jesus?
Small Group Conversation:
Directed conversation is the heart of a small group. Sharing our personal stories and accounts of faith is only possible in an atmosphere of trust and mutuality. Tips for a fruitful conversation can be found here.
Here are some questions to get your conversation started. It may be that you move through all of them, or have a 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. These questions are based on the experience of the Living God and responses will be 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.
Describe an ideal friendship. How do friends treat each other? What are some traits that all friendships seem to have in common?
Talk about a meaningful friendship in your life. How did that friendship come into being? How did it help you grow as a person?
How do you imagine Jesus interacting with the disciples? It may help to imagine them walking down the road together. What are they talking about? What are the expressions like on their faces?
Jesus came to regard his disciples as his friends (John 15:14). Does this change how you see your role as a follower of Jesus? How would you act differently toward Jesus if you really believed that Jesus was first and foremost your friend?
Remaining in friendship requires the giving and receiving of forgiveness. After betraying Jesus, Peter had to receive Jesus’ forgiveness for his action (John 21). What is it like to receive forgiveness from a friend? Is it easier to grant forgiveness, or accept forgiveness?
How have your friendships changed over the course of your life?
How have your friends helped you identify and live into your vocation?
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 that they will start with Week Five Day One in their journal tomorrow. The theme of the upcoming week is Abide in Me.
- Remind participants that videos are available online, and that the social media campaign will be starting if they would like to participate online.
- Ask for a volunteer to lead worship next week, if this hasn’t already been decided.
- If there is a meal or refreshments, remind the group of their decisions regarding food and clean-up, or ask for volunteers.
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 I Have Called You Friends, we recommend:
- Scripture: John 15:12-17
- Hymn: What a friend we have in Jesus! or My Shepherd will supply my need (Hymnal 1982 #664)
- Collect: Jesus, loving Shepherd of my soul, grant that, as we observe and reflect on the friendships that your disciples enjoyed with you, we may, like them, be drawn closer to you in love. 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.