Suppose you have a group of people who want to get together, remain informal, and yet do some Bible study and prayer. The basic idea is to get to know one another better and to support one another. You don’t want curriculum materials that require you to spend time studying during the week. You don’t plan to spend the whole time studying. You do want to do something that will get your thinking going.
Such a group might meet informally in someone’s home, on Wednesday night at church, or even during the traditional Sunday School hour. One problem with the Sunday School hour in church is that we don’t think creatively about what to do with it. If we don’t have an academic program that takes up 45-50 minutes, we figure it’s not really Sunday School.
I’ve encountered this problem before with a number of groups. One of the solutions they have found is to use either my wife’s devotionals (jody.energion.com), to which I am now a frequent contributor. Either of these provides a short devotional, which should take no more than five minutes to read, yet which includes scripture and will challenge you to think a bit more about it. You can receive the devotionals by e-mail, and Running Toward the Goal provides the additional option of a podcast. If you want to get very 21st century, you can download the devotional to your iPod or other MP3 player and play it for your group.
But there are some people who prefer a printed page in front of them to reading their devotional off of the internet. That’s where the Energion Publications book 52 Weeks of Ordinary People – Extraordinary God comes in. I presented this idea to my wife right after I was asked about just such a group as I’ve described. She then extracted 52 devotionals from her larger book Daily Devotions of Ordinary People – Extraordinary God, added some thought questions and extra reading scriptures, and made a little booklet out of it.
Since the larger book is $19.99 suggested retail, and the smaller is $7.99, that made it much easier for a group to choose to use the devotionals for their small group. Note that quantity discounts can bring this down. Quantities of 2-5 come at $6.79, 6-10 at $6.39, 11-20 at $5.99, 21-50 at $5.59, and 51 or more at $5.19 each. Order them through your church to get an additional 5% non-profit discount.
Here’s an idea for creating a very informal group. Note that small group experts, who try to make groups that are viable long-term, that grow and multiply, and that progress quickly toward a goal may find some of these suggestions questionable. I stick by them nonetheless. For the type of group I’m talking about, this tiny bit more formality gives them the option of becoming just a little bit more directed without getting tense. Such groups may last only a few weeks, or they could be a near-lifetime experience for the group involved. The key is to make sure that everyone wants to work together as a group for a period of time.
Here’s how a meeting might go:
- Gather – expect 10-15 minutes
- Devotion – expect about 5 minutes to read
- Discuss – this will vary based on just how close to home the devotional hit.
- Pray together – this can take several forms, including one person praying for another, the whole group praying for one member in particular need, and so forth
- Separate – Make sure anyone who has time pressure feels free to leave. Sometimes an informal group can put pressure, ever so informal, on new members to stay a particular amount of time. There should be an end, even to an informal group, after which many members may hang around and talk, but everyone knows it’s OK to leave.
Notice I said might. For this type of group you should not use an outline shuch as I have provided as a set of rules. That’s not the kind of group I’m talking about. The problem is that some people want to do something with a group of people who get together, but they don’t know how to start. That list provides you with ideas.
As a general rule, however, you need material that can be read quickly, and discussed effectively right away without study as preparation.
Let us know how your group goes!