Explore: Engage Your Group

By Valerie Matyas

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

The ball is not just moving, it’s rolling! There are a group of people who have said yes, their books have arrived (or are scheduled to arrive–share this link for those who are still waiting on their book https://bit.ly/PonderAPreview), your first meeting is on the calendar (whether it is virtual or in person), and now you realize that what you thought was the hard part (invite, equip) feels like a breeze compared to this next part: What do I do with these wonderful people when the day arrives?

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), begin in prayer, open in prayer, start with prayer. You can pray, someone in your group can pray, or you could all recite the same prayer. Use something simple: “Dear Lord, Thank you for today. Thank you for this group. Bless our time in Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Take a deep breath, smile, the Holy Spirit loves opportunities to move, grow, stretch, pour in, and squeeze out.  When I am in front of a group, I try to be very aware that although my title might be “Leader,”  the Spirit is actually leading. Whew! What a relief!

Now, let’s jump to the closing–you began in prayer; make a mental note to end in prayer. You could use the Hymn Journal as a resource. Perhaps you pray one of the hymn stanzas out loud together as a group. Maybe you implement bits of the discussion into your prayer. Add the concern one member had about her son’s health into the prayer. Perhaps you use a simple prayer to close as you did to start: “Dear Lord, Thank you for today. Thank you for this group. Keep us safely in your Word until we meet again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

To be honest, the middle of the meeting is completely up to you and your group. You can explore creative art techniques, swap ideas, tips, and tricks. You can share a variety of hymn versions/arrangements from your favorite music platform.

But if you are unsure how to move through the content of the printed page, I humbly offer the following list of ideas. Don’t view it as a checklist to complete. You are not meant to do every one of them every time. You might find that your group falls into an enjoyable routine. You might discover that each week changes a bit due to attendance, the chapter, or the mood of the group. There is no right or wrong way to go about this.

Some ideas for engaging the group:

The Hymn

  • Listen to the Hymn
  • Sing the Hymn
  • Hum the Hymn
  • Add color to the Hymn Cover Art (while listening, humming, singing)

The Scripture

  • Read the scripture passage out loud
  • Listen to the scripture passage in the Podcast
  • Circle, underline, highlight striking or memorable phrases/words in the passage
  • Doodle, sketch, illustrate, or handletter parts of the passage

The Devotion

  • Read the devotion
  • Listen to the devotion in the Podcast
  • Circle, underline, highlight striking or memorable phrases/words in the devotion
  • Add color to the Devotional Art

The Lyrics

  • Read the Hymn Lyrics
  • Circle, underline, highlight repeated lyric phrases/words
  • Circle, underline, highlight striking or memorable lyric phrases/words
  • Doodle, sketch, illustrate, handletter parts of the hymn

The Faith Experiment

  • Read and explore the Faith Experiment
  • Share within the group something you gained/learned/realized from the Faith Experiment

Perhaps you have a group of talkers, perhaps you have a roomful of quiet thinkers. Whether your group prefers to externally process or internally process, a couple key reflection questions might get the conversation flowing (these questions can be used for either the Hymn, the Devotion, or the Scripture reading):

  • What word or phrase jumps out at you?
  • What does this reading remind you of in your life today or this week?
  • How does this reading change/transform your thinking?
  • How might that changed/transformed thinking personally impact your day or week?

A nice reflection question to end the study might sound something like:

  • What was your biggest take-away from this chapter?

You could encourage your group members to write that take-away (a word, a phrase) somewhere within the chapter.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong way to tackle the content. You don’t have to read every word, sing every note, or color every space. Find a spot to dig in, and enjoy the process.

Blessings on your first group meeting. I imagine the Holy Spirit is excited and eager for the opportunity. Don’t be surprised when the Spirit shows up and blesses your experience.

Next time, “Express: Appreciate Your Group”

Featured image: photo by Athena from Pexels. Other art from Ponder Anew: A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence from Next Step Press.

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