Marriage Defined Leaders Guide

Preparing for Your Small Group

Remember God Is at Work

God is at work among your small group members, strengthening and upholding them in the midst of their daily lives. 1 Corinthians 3:6 makes it clear that God causes spiritual growth; our role is like a gardener’s—we cultivate and facilitate God’s work.  At the same time, Mark 4:26-29 spells out that there is mystery at the heart of spiritual growth—we don’t always see or understand how it happens! Eugene Peterson says it well:

The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it.  So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

Let this free you up as you prepare for your group.  You job is not create or force the discussion and participation; rather, your task is to cultivate and facilitate an environment that allows the group to discover and express what God is up to in their lives, and keeps them focused on connecting with God and each other.

As You Prepare

The Convergence curriculum was designed to help you and your group members interact with Scripture as you listen to some of the best contemporary Christian thinkers of our day.  The facilitator, Donald Miller, helps “keep it real” as he asks practical questions.  As you and your group seek to follow Christ’s leading in your work and families, and as you give witness to the reality of the Gospel in your everyday lives, our hope is that the Holy Spirit will give you wisdom and insight as you interact with the conversations on the DVD. 

The Purpose of Your Group

Generally speaking, the primary goal for small groups is that they would be a Christian community where Jesus Christ is experienced in the midst of the group as they participate and share in one another’s lives. Put another way, God works in the group through each other so that people are cared for and encouraged in their spiritual life in the midst of the realities of everyday life.

The structure of the group’s time should be arranged in such a way that allows for this to happen.  Healthy small groups, since they are small communities of the church, contain elements of worship, Bible study, fellowship, and prayer.  If your church has an established small group ministry, you should consult with the staff and/or pastor about the purpose and structure of your group.  If that is not available to you, the following is a suggested agenda for your group.

A Sample Agenda for Your Small Group

Healthy small groups create an environment of grace and acceptance for its members.  At the same time, healthy groups also have an element of structure and discipline.  These elements insure that the purpose of the group is accomplished.  Groups without a sense of discipline and structure can lose their sense of purpose for meeting.

Opening Prayer and Worship

Often people arrive for the group meeting with a lot on their mind.  Their days have been full.  For this reason, it is helpful to help them transition to your group time by beginning your time with a welcome and then an opening time prayer and worship.  This helps the group to shift the focus from their busy day to the purpose for the group.  Here are some suggestions for beginning your group:

* Begin the group by reading a Scripture that focuses on the welcoming character of God, such as Matthew 18:20, or an invitation to worship, such as Psalm 100. 
* After this, open with prayer. 

* If the group is comfortable with singing, or if someone plays an instrument, some songs can be sung.

* A psalm can be read and used for worship. (An ancient practice of reading a psalm together is to read it “antiphonally,” literally back and forth. Divide the group in half. Each half then alternates in reading the Psalm verse by verse.)
* At this point, introduce any new people to the group and make any announcements.  This opening section should take 15-20 minutes.


Discussion of the DVD Conversation

Spiritual transformation takes place when the discovery of the truths of Scripture and the power of the Spirit are at work in the midst of the community.  Each Convergence episode has been designed to bring Biblical principles to bear on the realities of everyday life in such a way that your group can discuss them with honesty and transparency.

The discussion time should last for 30-45 minutes.  We suggest that you read the Scripture given for that episode, then watch the episode.  After it is over, keep the discussion focused on the main theme of the episode, and explore it in more detail with your group using the discussion questions provided.

During the course of your conversation, make use of the quotes provided for each episode.  They are provided as “mini-commentaries” on the episode.  Use them to clarify and stimulate the conversation.


Fellowship/Sharing

The New Testament concepts of fellowship means “mutual participation,” both in sharing your relationship with God and sharing your everyday life with each other.  Your group time of sharing should flow naturally from your discussion of the theme of the DVD episode.  Have the members of the group share what is going on their lives this week, and what God, in His power and grace, has been doing in their lives.


Prayer

Give opportunity for people to mention their personal prayer requests.  Depending on the size of your group, you may need to break down into smaller groups so that people are effectively prayed for.  A helpful closing prayer to help the group to end by focusing outside of itself is to use the following prayer, praying it together (the prayer comes from Compline service of the Book of Common Prayer):

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake.  Amen.


Special Considerations for the Marriage Episodes

        
Couples are generally reticent to disclose or share personal details about the joys and struggles of their relationship unless they are in a community group that has some history and trust with each other.  If your group is a newer group, use examples from your own marriage and ask them questions about other marriages that they know and admire.  As a leader, be prepared to share your own responses to at least one of the questions in each episode.  That will give the other members of the group a clearer understanding of how they might share their own experience.

* If you have singles in your group, be sensitive to their perspective and broaden the questions to include relationships in general.

* The quotes provided in this discussion guide can also be a good starting point for discussion if the members of the group are reluctant to share personal details.  Refer to them throughout the discussion and use them to provide perspective on the conversation within your group. 

* Choosing to be vulnerable requires honesty, courage and reflection.  Be sensitive to the reality that different members of the group will share and be vulnerable at different levels.

* Being vulnerable in a community can be a powerful and moving experience, especially about marriage.  The questions and discussion may trigger powerful memories, some they may have been forgotten for some time.  Be sensitive to know when to stop and pray, when to allow the other members of the group to affirm and encourage someone after they have shared.
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