Equip: They Said Yes! (Now What?)

By Valerie Matyas

Note: this blog is the second of a four-part series for Small Group Leaders: Invite, Equip, Explore, Express. Sign up here to receive more small group resources.

Congratulations! Someone or a group of someones plan to join you for the Ponder Anew Hymn Journal. What fun! Moving through a resource as a group provides accountability, opportunities for spiritual growth, and a chance for deepening relationships you already have or beginning new.

As a small group leader, you have four Next Step Press resources at your finger tips as you help people take a next step following Jesus during Ponder Anew: A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence.

Resource #1–The Hymn Journal itself

The Hymn Journal contains 12 well-known beloved hymns. Each of the 12 “Chapters” include:

  • Hymn Music
  • Hymn Cover Art
  • Scripture 
  • Devotional writing
  • Hymn Lyrics
  • Faith Experiment

How and when your group chooses to move through each “chapter” is completely at your discretion. You can create together, read the devotion, listen to the hymn, tackle the faith experiments, or offer insights on the Scripture. You could use the time together as an opportunity to open the book and dig in, or a time to reflect on the digging you did prior to meeting. Whether you are showing and sharing or digging and tackling, make sure everyone in your group has access to the book.

As a group leader you can either make one bulk order and collect the money from participants or you can send them the link to Amazon and each participant can order his or her own copy.  Perhaps your church has an Educational line item in the budget, ask your pastor if the church would be willing to cover the cost or part of the cost for your group’s study. For more ordering information from Amazon please use this helpful link:  https://bit.ly/PonderAnew.

New for this resource: As a group leader, make sure you read the opening pages of the Hymn Journal to gain understanding in the Theology of the Hymn Journal and gain additional ideas from the section “How to Use the Book.”

Resource #2–The Pop-Up Group

As a group leader it is would be a beneficial to become a member of the Next Step Press Ponder Anew Pop Up Group for 2020. We hope to have several hundred people journey through the book in this way. As a small group leader, the Pop Up Group is a great way to catch additional insights from fellow Hymn Journal practitioners, have easy access to further resources from Next Step Press, and keep motivated with your small group. If you haven’t already joined, please find the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/PonderAnew/

We are trying a new type of Facebook group this time around–it is called a “Social Learning” group. This arrangement allows us to use “Units” to help organize the information. It is an experiment: give it a few weeks and then, as a group leader, let us know what you and your people think of this new format. 

If you think it might work, consider creating a personal Facebook private group for your group members. You may find that some people in your small group are nervous to post photos of their hymn journal for hundreds to view, but might be excited and eager to share with a small group of 4-12 people. Sharing the images creates a visual devotion. A private Facebook group is a great way to share prayer requests, faith insights, encouragement, and keep your group moving forward. If Facebook isn’t readily used by your group, no problem; find what works and use that.

Parts of the world are meeting in small groups physically, others are still distancing. Whether your group meets in person or virtually, as the group leader you will want to facilitate the date, time, and location/platform. 

Resource #3–The proposed Pop-Up schedule

The large Ponder Anew Facebook Pop Up Group will be following a 12 week schedule. The chapters will begin Wednesday, June 10, 2020, and conclude Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The schedule can always be found under the “Files” section of the Pop Up Group, or you can download a printable copy.

Your group might want to follow a similar schedule, or you may choose to do something different. Perhaps 12 weeks feels like a long time for a summer Bible study, or it might be just the pace your group desires.  Talk with your members, be creative, be flexible, skip a week or two, give some options, but have a plan. 

If you would like to receive some more encouragement and support as a small group leader, you can sign up for the Ponder Anew Small Group Leaders email. We’re exploring ways we can help you help others delight in taking a next step.

Resource #4–The Podcasts

The Next Step Podcast is fantastic! Season 2 will focus primarily on Ponder Anew, allowing you to use the resource in multiple ways for your group. Each new podcast will be made available the day that the chapter begins on our Pop Up schedule. Here are two ways to use the Podcast with your group:

  • Listen to the podcast as a group. One of our groups from the last hymn journal experience chose to listen to the podcast during their meeting time. (The leader discovered that playing the episode on a separate device provided clearer audio than playing it directly on the Zoom meeting platform.) While the podcast played, members added color to the hymn cover art or devotional illustration. At the conclusion of the podcast, group members offered insight and thoughts pertaining to the podcast, the Scripture reference, the hymn lyrics, or the devotion. It was a great conversation starter!
  • Listen to the podcast as a group leader to enhance group discussion. Another group focused heavily on the faith experiment at the end of the chapter and used that for the bulk of their time together. The leader would play multiple versions of the hymn while the participants added color to the chapter. The leader listened to the podcast before the meeting so that she could gain further insight into the devotion, the hymn, and the lyrics before meeting with her group. She found it more helpful to put the insight in her own words, to supplement discussion, than to play the podcast for the group. 

You can access the podcast in several different ways: I like to go The Next Step Community podcast tag on the web page, because you tend to get a little more background information. But you can also subscribe to the Next Step podcast on Spotify, iTunes, or Anchor.fm.

There is no right or wrong way to do any of this. Time spent in the Word is always beneficial. Come to the group with relaxed hands, an easy spirit, and an open mind.

You don’t have to have all the answers or the perfect formula; use the resources how they make sense for you and your group. Happy digging in the Word!

Next time, “Explore: Engage Your Group.

The featured image is a section of an illustration by Valerie Matyas in Ponder Anew: A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence. Jesus is more than just our “friend,” but knowing friends helps us know Jesus!

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