It’s important to 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, although that is also optional.
The most important thing is that your teens feel welcome and safe, and that you’ve made time to be together.
- An extra copy of Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John prayer journal in case a participant forgets his or hers. (You can also reference the prayer journal online if necessary.)
- 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 each participant.
- Please see small group activity for possible materials needed.
- Participants will be able to articulate the importance of sharing the story of God’s love with others.
Have the teen facilitator open in prayer, or invite one of the other teens to do so. You can invite them to spontaneously pray, or you can use this 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.
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. In that spirit, your group should prepare something to take out into the world (or at least out to the others in your parish) or post online.
Here are some options for your group of teens:
- Make a short video to post online or 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. Of course, your teens probably have better ideas than these and could come up with something entirely original. If you do post online, please use the hashtag, #MeetingJesus.
- Find another way to engage a social media platform that reflects the group’s experience.
- Plan a day where the group will 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 in your neighborhood with encouraging words about God’s love.
- Prepare a short presentation for your parish, either during announcements, coffee hour, or in lieu of a sermon. 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.
- 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.
Small Group Conversation:
Directed conversation is the heart of a small group, and can be especially helpful for teens as they figure out who they are and process their new life experiences. Some groups will be very good at these conversations, others will not initially be good at these conversations and will get better, and other groups will need a lot of help, or different approaches, like starting your conversations around group activities. It depends on your teens.
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 God in individual lives, 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.
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.
We can tell others about God’s love because first someone told 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 your own testimony about God and God’s love for the world? What is your gospel (i.e. “good news”)?
Although sometimes talking about God can be uncomfortable, it doesn’t need to be. How can you talk in a meaningful way about God without making it awkward?
Digging Deeper into Scripture with John:
Sometimes it helps to have a text to work with as the group talks about a topic. This scripture is found in John 4:5-30, 39-42. (Vv. 31-38 is an aside and not included here.) Invite teens to get out their bibles and invite someone to read the passage. You may want to ask for volunteers to read by paragraph, as this is a longer story.
So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.
[Excised text, vv. 31-38, Jesus teaches the disciples.]
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
- What prompted the woman to share her story with the people in her village?
- What happened when she witnessed to them?
- The woman’s testimony led many Samaritans to speak to Jesus. What role does telling others about God have in leading them toward God?
- How do you imagine this encounter changed the woman’s life in the village? How do you imagine life in the village changed after meeting Jesus?
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 your teens want to continue doing? Are they interested in another small group topic or bible study? Perhaps over the summer?
- What are you most grateful for over the whole of our time together?
- What moments stand out to you as particularly spirit-filled?
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.
We recommend that group leaders (teen and adult) take time to plan the worship before the session but that teen participants do the reading, supplication, music leading, etc. Worship with teens can be low-maintenance as you like, the instructions are straightforward and in the BCP, or it can be quite elaborate. This will depend on your group and your available resources. However, making time for worship is actually crucial for creating a group that bonds together. Always be sure to end your sessions with enough time to pray together at the end.
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.