During COVID-19, there was a good deal of experimentation with small groups. There were groups meeting through Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, Facebook, Zoom, and other forms of media. What was extremely interesting was not the medium through which they gathered, but rather the content that drove their meetings.
There was a great deal of traction gained by churches choosing to create small group/Sunday school material based upon the message that was delivered by the pastor. This encouraged active listening to the preached word in preparation for the discussion that would follow. The discussion allows for participants to take ownership of the message and apply it to their lives. The goal is transformation. Transformation only occurs when a person applies the truth of Scripture in their lives.
Here are 5 steps:
If you have never sought to do this, don’t try to completely change your small group strategy to begin doing this every Sunday. You may bite off more than you can chew. Instead, choose a four-week series and build out discussion guides around each message. This allows you to plan and ensures that you aren’t taking on too much.
A good rule of thumb is to work on the entire project three months prior. For example, if you were going to do a series on the family in August, your goal would be to start in May getting things prepared. Here is a quick check list example to help you think through a plan.
- Message series title: May 1
- 4 week message series written: May 15
- Meet with discussion guide team: June 1
- 4 week small group discussion: June 15
- Revise and print: July 1
- Meet with leadership of small groups: July 10
- Launch series: August
Schedule time for you to get alone and write out your message series in manuscript form. This may be a challenge for some who do not do this already. However, it will be necessary to help your discussion guide team to know what needs to be discussed.
Get others involved
Select strong leaders who are already part of your small group network. Share with them your desire to create a discussion guide. Give them the message series and ask them to create 10 to 12 questions to spark discussion. Be sure that you encourage them to keep the text central and leave everything with a call to application. In other words, the goal isn’t to win a Bible trivia game, the goal is application.
Have a time to get all small group leaders together and share with them your plan. Invite one of the leaders who created the discussion guide to share how to use it in their small groups.
Check for progress
This concept of using a message series to drive small group was something utilized during COVID-19. This brought clarity to small group gatherings and unity to the church. I am convinced that this tactic can also be employed to bring about the same results beyond regathering.
Spend some time with key leaders to get feedback after trying this concept out. Talk with the group about the strengths of doing it, weaknesses that may have been found, how it could be done better moving forward, and whether you should try it again.
These are five simple steps to help you think how to get more out of your message series. This is not a new method but was one that churches adopted during the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the value added during that time could be something you seek to do moving forward.
For more articles about churches regathering during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: https://gabaptist.org/beyondregathering/.