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Here is a small-group study based on Luke 17-11:19 that you can use if you find yourself between studies, waiting on books to deliver, or … whatever. This is a sample of the transformation model and discovery Bible study that you’ll encounter in many Serendipity House or LifeWay Small Group Bible studies. I’ve both been in a group that used this text with these questions as well as led a group conversation rooted in this same material. It’s a great entree into the heart of spiritual transformation and formation:

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed. 15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19 HCSB

1. What is our modern day leprosy? Point out the ways these groups and individuals are isolated, ostracized, and walled off by mainstream culture. Or maybe you’ll decide that some are actually embraced by the mainstream thus making the need for healing and salvation more difficult for them to acknowledge.
2. How does Luke describe the level of communication with Jesus (v.13)? There is both the acknowledgment of a need only Jesus can meet as well as the sense of desperation. Although it may appear to be more obvious with certain demographics, we’re all desperate for the sort of transformation only Jesus can offer.
3. Why do you think only one returned to thank Jesus? What’s up with the other nine? A great discussion question. Don’t let the group settle into simple “black and white” or “right and wrong” positions. This scenario is more about “good” and “greater good.”
4. What was the added benefit of the one that did return? What do you think is the difference between “well” and “healed”?
5. Read vv. 15-16. What steps to wellness and fullness emerge through an examination of this passage? I allowed a great deal of latitude here, but for the most part we landed at (1) acknowledgment (2) repentance (3) Giving glory (demonstration) (4) Worship (inner transformation)

Consider wrapping up with an application question that asks members you consider the “So what?” aspect of your conclusions. It’s not a difficult assignment to identify those most the desperate of our culture. But for others that have learned how to manage their greatest needs else medicate these needs through various methods—not as easy. For more on leading a small-group Bible study or small-group principles and practices download the free Small Group Life Ministry Manual by clicking here.

Here’s a great idea for a 4-5 week small-group experience…and it’s free! (well, mostly)

While the Sparks idea is designed for beginning groups, this idea could easily be used by existing groups to shake things up a bit.  If your group is looking for a different kind of experience that is missional and activity-based, you might want to give SPARKS a try this summer.  Our friends at Mosaic in Los Angeles can help you get started: http://www.sparkgood.com.  Spark good!

Small Group Life Episode 4 — Barbarians: A Call to Uncharted Faith is headed to the printer this week! Check out this short intro of what the study is all about from the pen of Brian Daniel, our editorial project leader.

Episode 4 of Small Group Life is a bit of a departure for us. This issue will take you down a path that leads to the deepest places of who you are. We believe that there’s at least a small bit of a barbarian—though probably more—in all of us. But through various degrees of adversity and circumstance we’ve allowed this part of us to become tame and atrophied. This study will challenge you to wake thebarbarian inside and come alive.”

We finished taping the video segments for this episode on Thursday and managed to grab a little behind-the-scenes footage I’m sharing with you here. Maybe next time we’ll let you in on our hair, wardrobe, and makeup secrets!

For more information about all the Small Group Life studies, check out lifeway.com/sgl.

Until next time,
Signe

I spilled a cup of coffee this morning. Not just a few drops mind you, but the entire cup…in my car. This now infamous cup of coffee that I had just filled to the brim landed upside down in the passenger seat. On top of my Bible Study, the book I was reading, Manhood for Amateurs, the CD packet for Behold the Lamb of God I was listening to, a copy of the Small Group Life Ministry Manual, not to mention all over the seat. It was at the worst possible time. Kids were all packed in the car ready for school….we were even on time. And then disaster struck. I spent the next 10 minutes cleaning as best as I could, wiping down the books, CDs, and soaking up the liquid that my car seat had drank up so quickly. Can you guess what my car smells like now? Dusty, cold coffee! Yuck! So in that moment, like it or not, I was modeling for my children what to do when things go wrong. Fortunately no expletives spilled out of my mouth at the moment of impact. We even got to talk about it on the way to school.  Like any good small group leader I ask them questions. “So what do you guys do when something like that happens?” And we got to talk about how we are wired, what responses are good, what are bad, and how does God prepare us and speak into these moments.

It got me thinking about small group leaders and some of the small groups I’ve led. I’m dashing around like crazy trying to get everything ready for group. Vacuuming the living room, getting the coffee going, cookies in the oven, wiping down the counter, and it seems like a million other things at one time….and hoping that nobody shows up early! Without fail it seems something goes wrong, sometimes terribly wrong. I’m trying to empty the vacuum canister and it spills all over where I just vacuumed. I forgot to pick up some cream for the coffee and EVERYONE uses cream. There aren’t enough clean cups for everyone. Someone in the group knocks over their drink. Am I the ONLY one who has experienced this stuff??? So what do I do when this happens? What do you do when things don’t go right in getting ready for group, or even during group? If you find yourself in that position, here’s a few ideas on how to respond:

  • Take a deep breath – This may sound overly simple, but this exercise will help regulate your heartbeat, settle your anxiety and center your emotions.
  • Expect groups to be messy – Just as in life, preparing for group time or even during group time, things can get messy. Recognize that this is a natural part of group life and you are not the only person this happens to. You can also have a relatively high likelihood something like this will happen again, so don’t be surprised when it does.
  • Trust in the Holy Spirit – Make sure you don’t resign to the fear that your group meeting will not be transformational just because things aren’t going seamlessly. Trust that the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than the situation at hand and doesn’t depend on you or me to create the perfect environment to transform lives. In fact, if you look at your own life, it’s often in the messiest of situations where God worked most powerfully to transform you. Do you think group life is so different?
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect – If you dropped the ball in some way and are less than prepared for your group, it’s important to forgive yourself. Things won’t improve by you constantly admonishing yourself, and it will be a barrier for the group settling into study God’s Word. The same goes for any group member who may have caused a disruption. You would do well to make sure that person (and the entire group) knows that mistakes are OK, this is a safe place to be human. Remember, it’s not up to you to change people’s lives (see bullet point above).
  • Take necessary action and move on – Do what you can in a matter of 5 minutes or less to improve the situation and then move on with the group experience.  If you have a spill or a mess, spot clean and save the deep cleaning for after the meeting. If you’ve forgotten something for the group meeting, call a neighbor to see if you can borrow what you need or call a group member and ask if they could stop by to pick up what you need on their way to the group meeting, if time allows.  The biggest thing is don’t sweat the small things. The reason people are in your group is because they want to do life together with you and allow God to transform their lives through the group experience.  And as good as they may be, people don’t come for your chocolate chip cookies, or your Pumpkin Spice creamer.

These are all simple ideas, but sometime it’s important to remember what’s important. If you needed it, I hope this gives you permission to forgive yourself on those rare meetings when things just seem to go wrong. For more ideas on getting ready for a small group meeting, Randall Neighbor has some great tips for hosting a small group in your home, click here to read.

Because we can learn from others, I’m offering a FREE Canvas DVD Kit by Pete Wilson and 9 Experience Guides ($113 value) for the person who comments with the best story of a small group meeting that went wrong and what you did. Leave your comment by December 13, 2009, and I’ll announce the winner the week of the 14th.

Your small group members are about to get back in the tempo of normal life. School is about to begin again. They may need to be reminded that times of rest are important. Below you’ll find a Bible study from the Serendipity Bible for Groups you may want to use soon.

 

 

 

Ice-Breaker: What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

 Read Hebrews 4: 1 – 12

 Bible Discussion: 1. What do you remember about the origin of the Sabbath? 2. What is the “rest” promised by God: Sunday off? The Pomised Land? How do verses 3 – 10 support your answer? 3. Did God withdraw his offer to the original people who were given the promise? What happened? 4. What is the warning to those who are reading this letter? What does it mean that God’s word is “living”? Active? That it penetrates?

 Going Deeper: 1. How would you describe your spiritual diet right now: Healthy?  Balanced? Pretty good? Sporadic? Could be better? Terrible?  2. What have you found helpful in keeping a regular devotional life?

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

Whoever titled the book Sticky Church deserves a bonus. Make it big too. If there’s one question church leaders are asking it’s, “How can I get guests to stick?” 

And if I were a wealthy person (which I’m not so don’t call) I’d give Larry Osborne a million bucks myself. Why? Because Sticky Church points out that small groups are what guests stick to. The insinuation… Slam a guest up against a healthy small group and they just might stick. Thanks, Larry. I’m glad another influential senior pastor has given small groups the value they deserve. 

While I don’t agree with everything that is espoused in Sticky Church I can state that I am psyched about the info found in the chapter I was asked to blog about,  “Still More Ways that Small Groups Change Everything.” 

 A few amazing facts Larry points out in this chapter:

  • Small groups foster deeper honesty and transparency than any mainstream ministry utilized in the average local church.
  • About transparency in small groups and how it affects the entire church… “…the honesty that naturally takes place in small groups begins to leak out into the entire church.”
  • Spiritual disciplines are exercised more often when people gather in small groups because, “a small group takes our good intentions and puts them on the calendar.”
  • One of the best gifts a church can give her kids is parents who are growing and that growth takes place when parents are in a healthy small group.

 Okay, Larry… I can’t pay you for your comments but I can sure thank you for them. So… thanks. Thanks for reminding the world small groups are the glue that holds a church together.

To connect to the rest of the tour go to http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2009/stickychurchblogtour.html

Covenanting has gotten a bad rep in small group circles as of late. Some believe if you covenant you’re revealing a lack of trust between group members. Others seem to be concerned that someone in the group may be hesitant to join the group if they have to agree to ANYTHING. And some just don’t want to have to discuss it with their group because it may cause friction early in group life.

Covenanting in small groups is essential as it gets everyone to commit to equal levels of responsibility and activity. Some of the benefits of covenanting as described by Serendipity House are:

A. It will give the group an agreed upon purpose/vision

B. It is a road map to get to destination

C. It is a framework for managing potential conflict

D. It creates healthy boundaries to function in

E. It eliminates unspoken expectations

You can relieve some tension if the group in involved agreeing to it. This should be a process that follows a step by step procedure that goes something like this:

Step 1: Share a completed covenant like the one above with the group. Toward the end of a group meeting give each member of the group a copy. Tell them why a covenant is necessary. Some of the important reasons for covenanting are, the group has an agreed upon purpose/vision, it is a road map to get to the destination, Christian community, it is a framework for managing potential conflict, it outlines healthy boundaries to function in, and it eliminates unspoken expectations. Ask them to look over the covenant in the upcoming week and that the entire group will agree to the covenant before it is finalized.

Step 2: Discuss each aspect of the covenant. When the group members come back the next week, spend this session discussing each aspect of the covenant. Reach each point of the covenant. When someone is hesitant about a point noted in the covenant ask them what concerns them about that. Ask the group what they believe will be lost if that aspect of the group covenant is dismissed.

Step 3: Work toward consensus. You may need to discuss the covenant agreement for three or four weeks before finalizing it. It may be necessary to rewrite some aspects of the covenant. That’s okay. But you don’t want to lose the parts of the covenant that will keep the group from accomplishing authentic redemptive community. These would include, Participation, Confidentiality, Support, and the Mission of the group.

Step 4: All group members agree to live out the expectations of the group covenant.

One of the thrilling things about being a small group consultant is the opportunity to be involved in conversations with open-minded leaders and consultants whose passion is an evangelism and/or discipleship group model other than small groups.  In many of these conversations a courageous and curious friend asks the question, “Are small groups really effective or is the press I’m hearing just hype?” The answer is a resounding, YES!!!

 Each year Outreach Magazine does a study and announces the 100 Fastest Growing Churches in the U.S. In 2008, 80% of the fastest growing churches in the country were doing small groups (a few do Sunday School as well as small groups). You got it. 80 of 100 churches on the top 100 list are small group churches. And just in case you’re thinking “it’s a southern thing,” the location of these thriving churches range from  California to Arkansas to Hawaii to Virginia to Colorado to Illinois to Texas… and of this short list, all of these churches can be found at the top of the list, one of the top fifteen fastest growing churches in the U.S.

 Sounds to me like small groups are as effective as any model out there.

I check in with as many small group blogs as time will allow. Sometimes an idea shows up that is so simple and so amazing I have to share it. Check out this blog from The Community Channel hosted by the Director of Group Life at Oakbrook Community Church.

“If a group doesn’t help each other connect it will end quickly.

If a group doesn’t help each other change, it will end within a year.

If a group fails to become mission minded it might last a long time but eventually it will become very dissatisfying.”

Bill Search from his book ‘Simple Small Groups’

I can relate to the above quote by Bill Search.  Been there and done that.  In recent months, I have been thinking a lot about the missional component of small groups because in most cases it seems to be the part of group life that gets most easily neglected.  Problem is, to not prioritize ‘mission’ in group life is to disregard who and what we believe in.  The body of believers has been called to serve each other and to serve others.  There is no getting around it.

So here is an idea for you.  Not sure who came up with the idea but I think it has tons of potential.  We are looking at potentially inviting all the men of our church to be a part of what we are calling a ‘Power of 10′ group.  Here is a brief summary of the idea:  10 people giving $10 to meet a need.  Simple as that.  The rest is up to you to figure out.  Actually, the rest is up to the Holy Spirit to figure out and lead you to do.

My group is just getting started but let me share some initial takeaways.  Our group gives $10/week so between the 10 of us that is $100/week.  We pray for opportunities to serve with the resources that are available.  You see where this is going?  We grow spiritually as we lean into God and rely on Him to lead us.  We grow relationally as we marry our resources together and serve needs that arise.  We are used by God to serve those in need and draw them closer to Him.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

It’s been so life giving to see how God is stirring in each of my group members.  They are excited about the adventure that lies ahead.  Over the next 2 years, our group will contribute over $10000 to this little journey.  We have talked about saving $3000 of it to send with our Haiti teams and using the rest in our community however God sees fit.  The opportunities are endless, that is what makes it so exciting.

Groups that last are groups that figure out a way to inspire every member of the group to begin doing exactly what it is that they feel they have been put on this planet to do.  The ‘Power of 10′ is just one way to harness the potential of 10 surrendered bodies and to let God do the rest.

Thanks for this one!!!

Jesus’ resurrection is the most historic event in all of human history. Every great small group leader wants be certain his/her group members realize how they have responded to this amazing moment in time.  But… If you’re like me you do not want to purchase an entire study for just one small group experience. Below you’ll find questions for a small group experience taken from the Serendipity Bible for Groups

This experience will allow your group members to consider their response to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 Ice-Breaker: Describe a time in your life when you mistook someone for the wrong person.

 Read John 20:10 – 18

 Bible Discussion: 1. Would you have responded more like Mary or like the disciples? Why?  2. Does Mary appear to be quietly grieving, or more hysterical? What finally breaks through her grief and confusion (v. 16)?  3. What term (v. 17) does Jesus use for his disciples here? What is new in their relationship from now on (see 15:15)?

 Going Deeper: 1. How has Jesus spoken your name in a time of grief? 2. What does it mean to you that Jesus is your brother?

 

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.

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