Jul30FriJuly 30, 2021
I continue with reflections on our shared ministry: Over the years, it’s been a privilege to be together in various small group settings for sharing, prayer, learning and spiritual growth.
Many of the following illustrations can be characterized as small groups or discipleship groups. In the past we have tried some men’s discipleship groups which some of you might remember, studying spiritual habits through Renovare’s THE SPIRITUAL FORMATION WORKBOOK (early mornings!), Rick Warren’s THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE and DISCIPLESHIP ESSENTIALS by Greg Ogden. The Men’s breakfast for a time experimented with guest speakers followed by table discussion. As for women’s groups, COFFEE BREAK has always functioned as a strong small group study gathering as did the Adult Fellowship Group for some members. Other specific Bible study groups have been held. Some young adults have gathered for book and Bible studies. Our Seniors group engaged in several mid-week afternoon studies with tea, the more memorable ones being “Who Stole My Church?” and “Body and Soul” by Craig Barnes.
For a time, we were led by a ‘Small Groups Ministry Team’ that encouraged many different kinds of groups, intentionally not all of which were organized strictly as study groups. The small groups team did mainly, however, provide opportunities for study materials. It placed special emphasis on a denominational initiative called “Follow Me” around which several discipleship groups were put in place; you might remember those bright orange booklets! Interestingly the small group team itself was a small group studying working through an entire book about small group ministry. We’ve had some post-Sunday-morning-worship small groups, often a limited series of sessions, sometimes combined with video. I remember one such group focused on building church community and welcoming new people based on a book and video entitled, “No Perfect People Allowed.”
For one sermon series on the Five Practices of Fruitful Living (see the display in the fellowship hall), we created small groups that met for coffee and discussion in people’s homes to discuss the scripture/sermon highlighting one of those five practices. Also, at church and in our home, we hosted small groups with pastoral themes (“Changes That Heal”, specifically on emotional woundedness and encouraging healthy boundaries), groups on the spiritual disciplines (“The Life You’ve Always Wanted”) and simply big picture Christian perspectives on life in our culture (“Where Faith and Culture Meet”, Andy Crouch, video course).
Along with our regular monthly Wednesday prayer group that was generated through our work with Resonate (Home Missions. renewal), we had a number of mini-courses on prayer using material like Philip Yancey’s video and book on prayer or John Devries’ book ‘Why Pray?’
Small groups were experimented with through our education and youth ministry in which we studied catechism materials, church education teaching materials originating with the denomination and sometimes material from other miscellaneous sources in regular classroom settings. But also, like many churches, we also worked with 3-week cycles of one small-group evening devoted to ‘service’, another to ‘fellowship’ and yet a third to ‘teaching.’ The small group of a pre-confession class will always be one I count as being a great privilege to be a part of with several members. The more recent profession by young members I had baptized as infants was particularly special. Before social media really exploded, I once held an online pre-confession course via email! THE STORY gave us opportunities for small group study while the pandemic gave us opportunities for ZOOM church education and sermon discussion.
At Bethel, we’ve tried some adult education on Sundays with the occasional “Learn and Lunch” session in which we would watch a short video after Sunday coffee time and then join around tables for soup, bread and discussion. Alpha was offered in at least two different seasons of the church’s life, the more recent occasion with an updated curriculum. It was neat to hear of some Alpha small groups continuing long after the formal course had ended.
For these entries, I will likely end the same way each week: There is no way I can include or even recall everything about our ‘small group’ ministry together. No doubt many wonderful studies and groups will go unmentioned but all together we can still remember, celebrate and treasure our ministry together. —EGN