small groups

Resource of the Month: Transformed Living Church Programme

An invitation to explore how to live out the Christian life through Ephesians 4–6

We’re excited to bring you a brand new resource that small groups and your whole church can do together.

Transformed Living is a seven-week church programme that helps you and your church explore what it looks like in practice to live life ‘in Christ’. Ideal as a stand-alone programme, it can also be used as the second part of a series with Transformed Life, which focuses on questions of identity, purpose and belonging using Ephesians 1–3.

Transformedlifeimageforblog

What does a transformed life look like in practice?

Unite your church as you learn and grow together. Strengthen your relationships at home and in the workplace, and discover how to stand firm under pressure. Find your unique place in the Church, and explore why the unity of God’s people is a key element for living a transformed life.

The church programme is underpinned by the 50-day devotional book, Transformed Living (currently on offer with £2 off until 31 March 2017) by Senior Pastor Dave Smith (Kingsgate Community Church). The book includes daily readings, reflections and questions to help you apply the teaching to your life.

Individuals, small groups and churches can all find extra resources online for free, such as sermon outlines, small group studies and more. Using all of the available resources will unite a small group or the whole congregation, enabling everyone involved to grow together. Visit www.transformed-living.info/home to find out more.

What to do next

You can sign up for Transformed Living here. If you have recently signed up on the Transformed Living website, you’ll have access to all the free online resources and we’ll keep you up-to-date with news and information via email. If you have already taken part in Transformed Life, we would love to hear your feedback, so please let us know how you got along at hello@transformed-life.info

Watch Dave Smith explain more about Transformed Living.

Find out more about our other church-wide initiatives here.

‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’ (Ephesians 4:1–6)

Resource of the Month: At the Cross Cover to Cover Lent Bible Study


Cover to Cover Lent: At the Cross

NEW for Lent 2017

Reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus in a new way – by considering the perspectives of those who witnessed it themselves.

Each of these six Bible study sessions includes a devised monologue of someone whom the Gospels tell us was present at the cross – from the criminal crucified beside Christ, to Mary and the Roman centurion.

You and your small group can discover a creative approach to exploring these momentous passages of the Bible and be encouraged by looking afresh at the world-changing impact of what was achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Author Abby Guinness writes in her introduction to this Bible study:

‘Together, in these sessions, we’ll spend some time thinking about six people who witnessed the crucifixion. They were real people with thoughts, experiences and responses like ours. My background is in theatre and I have a love of thinking about things dramatically. I naturally consider human nature and personal stories to help me understand and explore the Scriptures. I would love it if you would enter into that with me… and I pray they will help you find fresh perspective on your own interpretation of the biblical text.’

Meet the Author

Abby Guinness is an actor, writer and Event Director for Spring Harvest. She particularly enjoys finding creative ways to explore and communicate the Bible. She is the author of The Word of the Wives, the editor of Immeasurably Deeper, and has written several Bible study resources.

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters and personal application make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

You may also be interested in other resources ideal for Lent.

Resources of the Month: Joshua 1-10 and The Armour of God Bible studies


Cover to Cover Joshua 1-10

Discover more of the wonders of being in a relationship with our faithful, holy and awesome God.

Joshua’s life powerfully illustrates God’s call to each and every one of us to walk by His side and bear witness to His work. We may live in a very different culture from the one in which Joshua found himself, but God never changes and nor do the priorities He has set for us. Today, just as during Joshua’s time, no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. Like Joshua, we will learn that God’s ways are best, even when they don’t make sense to us at the time.

Over seven sessions, be encouraged in your small group to live out your life for God, better understand God’s faithfulness, and discover more about what it means to be in a relationship with a faithful God.

 

 


Cover to Cover The Armour of God

An invitation to put on God’s strength, protection and power.

Ephesians 6 is a well-known passage about the armour of God, but how do we go further than just knowing about the armour – how do we fully apply it to our lives? The armour is of little value if it is not put on and worn intentionally. Let these words of Scripture become a reality to you and your daily life as you explore the different pieces of armour and consider how each part protects, strengthens and empowers us as we take hold of them.

This is an opportunity over seven sessions for your small group to be reminded that we are loved, valued and forgiven by God, and that salvation makes a huge difference to our lives. We can also wear the armour both personally and together as the Church.

 

 

More in the series

Cover to Cover Bible study guides are ideal for group or individual study. Experience the reality of Bible events in a fresh way, and gain a new depth to your Bible knowledge and relationship with God. Icebreakers, Bible readings, eye openers, discussion starters, personal application and ‘seeing Jesus’ sections make these Bible study guides a great small group resource.

Fresh ideas for… small groups over the summer

Church can be a funny place during the summer. It can feel a bit disorienting as people take holidays, students come and go from university, and holiday activity camps bring a sudden influx of families. And small groups don’t know what they are doing either! Should they carry on meeting to try and accommodate those who aren’t away over the summer, or take a break as numbers dwindle?

It’s pretty impossible to keep things going at the same momentum as the rest of the year, so don’t try to force it. Here are four ideas your small group could try this summer to keep things rolling, but without exhausting yourself by trying too hard:

  1. Book club! Choose a book to read, maybe something light-hearted such as Cactus Stabbers by Jeff Lucas. It can be both a summer holiday read for the members of your group sunning themselves on beaches abroad and a great discussion point when you do get a chance to meet up.
  2. Socialise. Other small groups will also be wondering what to do with their summers, so why not meet together, support each other and get to know some more people in your church. You could make the most of an opportunity to do something different: worship evening, trip to the pub for a meal or a picnic and a prayer walk.
  3. Set up a group email, WhatsApp group or Facebook thread for your group to stay in touch over the summer. It doesn’t have to be anything more than just sharing prayer requests and encouraging things that you hear about whilst you are away. It’s a good way for your group to still support and care for one another, even if they aren’t in the same place.
  4. Choose Bible study material that works for both individuals and small groups so that people can study the same material in their own time that the people who don’t go away are looking at when they meet together. Something from the Small Group Toolbox range would be great, with books covering topics such as: discovering spiritual gifts, guidance, hearing God and identity.

My conclusion is that if Jesus says He’s there with us even when there are only a few of us, then we should keep meeting when we can over the summer.  ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’ (Matt. 18:20).

Use the smaller numbers attending your small group as an opportunity to do something a bit different over the summer!

 

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true, she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

 

The not-so small group

A couple of years ago, my husband and I found ourselves co-leading a small group with a couple of other guys. The group had started because we’d ‘multiplied’ out of another group, which had reached over 30 names on the books. Very quickly, the head-count of our new offshoot had reached 22.

Our church had been (and still is) experiencing exponential growth – something our leaders refer to as a ‘good problem’. It had been planted as a 24-7 Prayer ‘Boiler-Room’ community, built upon a foundation of a) prayer and b) community found in small groups (or ‘collectives’). Church happens in small groups. It’s where you build your community, deepen friendships, cultivate vulnerability, accountability and honesty – and this can’t always be done brilliantly when there’s 22 people crammed into someone’s living room.

We branched off with a new group in the April, with a comfortable figure of 8 people in total – which had grown to 13 within 3 weeks. Already, we could no longer fit into my flat, and had to look to others to host us.

This taught us some very valuable lessons in hospitality. Can you host in someone else’s home? Can you lead on someone else’s turf? I now prefer to view hospitality as making someone feel welcome; accepted; involved; at home; in whatever space you are in – and now, if you invite me round your house, I’ll probably put the kettle on for you. (If you lead a small group and find yourself hosting every single week, I would strongly recommend you inviting others to open up their homes. In my experience, most people love to be asked.)
A couple in our group (now great friends) have a barn attached to their house that, having stood near-derelict for some years, they have recently converted into a beautiful meeting space – and we moved right in! Conversation went on for hours. We laughed a lot. We prayed a lot. We ate an unholy amount of chocolate hobnobs.

By September, we had 28 names to our group, and carried on in denial for as long as possible. Boy, did we love that group. People grew in friendship and in faith (and all those other clichés), and the dynamic was great… But was everyone being heard? Was everyone being looked after? Were the less extroverted people being drowned out by other voices? I felt challenged that being comfortable in my friendships with these people was taking priority over taking things in the direction that God wanted.

We’d had our next leaders lined up for months, but honestly, I moaned at God. It’s funny – you pray for church growth, but don’t actually think about what that will look like for your compact, convenient friendship groups. We expect blessing to come without any personal cost (and amazingly, it often does). My husband and I felt really invested in our collective, and didn’t want to do what felt like ripping it apart. God had to very gently tell us to get out of the way. We abandoned our nostalgia and got over ourselves. This is what we had prayed for.

Throughout the whole process I panicked a bit; I suddenly couldn’t remember how to build and grow a small group, and was worried that someone would eventually notice that we wing it (by the grace of God), week after week. But then I realised I’d never built and grown a small group. We’d only ever met up with some friends every week, got the hobnobs in, prayed, and God had done the rest. So we’re doing some more of that – and already, we’re becoming a not-so-small group.

 

About Rebecca Berry

‘Bex’ is part of the editorial team at CWR. She goes to Emmaus Rd church in Guildford and has led a small group with her husband, Chris, for three years. She loves pecan pie and would love to write her own book one day.

 

Coming alongside others in small groups

I saw an advert for a church recently that mentioned warm fellowship – it was definitely intended to be an incentive to draw people in. I don’t think the offer of ‘fellowship’ is really that enticing for many people … what is fellowship other than a hurried cup of coffee after a church service, before everyone rushes home to tend to roasting potatoes?

In Acts, Luke writes about how the Early Church made fellowship a priority.

‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ (Acts 2:42)

Why is fellowship important?

Without getting too deep into a lesson in ancient Greek, there’s a word used in the New Testament that means fellowship, which is koinonia. Two main ideas stem from it: ‘to share together, take part together’, and ‘to share with’, the act of giving to others. But how do we effectively share with one another?

I think that small groups are essential for developing fellowship in a church. To share with and care for one another. Yet it’s often easier said than done, which is why teaching found in series such as Paraclesis: Journeying Together is so important. To learn how to journey with someone, to have real, effective and honest fellowship with one another, just as God calls us to do:

‘He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.’ (2 Corinthians 1:4, The Message)

The main premise of Paraclesis: Journeying Together is for people to share what they have learnt through their life experiences with other people, in order to help them through the challenges they are facing.

Paraclesis: Journeying Together sets up churches and small groups to experience and practice true fellowship with teaching, resources and creative ideas. It teaches us to come alongside one another instead of just standing side-by-side each other at the coffee morning.

For more information, visit www.paraclesis.org.uk

About Emily Owen

Emily Bio Pic smEmily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

What do you bring to your small group?

‘Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”

One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild gourd plant and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no-one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe corn, along with some ears of new corn. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.

“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.’

2 Kings 4:38–44

 

 

Two curious stories. Two stories about ravenously hungry people being fed by miracles from God. Perhaps that is all there is to them: stories that proved what a great prophet Elisha was. Personally I can’t help feeling there is more to them than that!

Here are three guys who made a contribution. They put something in.

The first man put poisonous weeds into a pot of stew. It wasn’t intentional. It was ignorance and perhaps carelessness. But the result was a disaster; you can see those hungry young students pulling faces as they tried to spoon up the bitter concoction. Ugh, revolting, ‘there is death in the pot!’

Have you noticed that in group situations there are usually characters who have the unfortunate knack of making problems even worse by what they put in? Negative things, bitter things, reproachful things. ‘I told you this would happen!’ ‘Nobody ever listens to me!’ ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things, haven’t you!’ By the time they’ve said their bit everything seems worse than it was before.

Then there was a man who made a really helpful contribution. This was another occasion when there wasn’t enough to eat, and he turned up with twenty bread rolls. This was a kind and generous action but the trouble was that there were a hundred hungry men to feed. This man did the right thing though. He did what he could, even if it wasn’t going to solve the problem. This is important. Do what you can, give what you can, so long as what you are putting in is good. Whether you share words, deeds, gifts or prayers. Don’t hold back, thinking, ‘What’s the use?’ Give what you can even though it seems pitifully inadequate.

The third man was Elisha. His contribution was faith. He had a special quality of faith that put him in touch with God’s methods and God’s timing. His faith turned the bad broth into appetizing stew. His faith multiplied the bread to feed a hundred hungry men. When people are around who have the quality of faith it is surprising how situations can change. You probably feel that you don’t have as much faith as Elisha had, and you may be right. But just remember that you have the same God!

 

About Norman Moss

Norman and Margaret Moss commenced ministry together in 1957. After 9 years in Chiswick, they pastored a church in Wimbledon for 31 years, and since then have been widely engaged in travelling ministry. Margaret contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Ethics (IVP) and Norman has written several children’s books. Both have wide experience with small groups.

My faith isn’t private

I’ve been a Christian since birth, or at least, since I can remember. I grew up in a Christian household, went to Sunday school and then various youth groups. I found a church while at university and went on and off, always going to my ‘home’ church during the university holidays. Sometimes I felt close to God, sometimes He was pretty far down the priority list. But I always described my faith as personal, specific to me, private… My encounters with God were nice, enjoyable, comforting…

On 17 September 2013, my husband and I invited several church-goers in their 20s and early 30s to join us for a new small group. The group flourished and we all enjoyed discussing the Bible, our faith and the odd contentious topic in a safe environment. I still thought my faith was fairly private, but it was nice to be able to talk about it with like-minded people. We all took it in turns to lead a session, and one week one of the boys led a very challenging session on miracles, which included showing a film about God doing big, showy miracles in a church in America. This was new to me, and I didn’t understand it. What it did achieve, however, was to open my eyes, just a little, to the possibility that God didn’t need to fit into my understanding, and that I didn’t need to understand why He did what He did. I just needed to embrace it.

A while later, during a session about prophecy, we all prayed for each other in smaller groups. I prayed for a friend who was in the process of buying a new house and in my mind as I prayed I saw an image of my friend and her husband sat in a sitting room with a Christmas tree in the background. A few weeks later she sent a picture of her new house – it was the same as the house I had seen in my mind as I prayed, and they had moved in by Christmas. I was excited and amazed, and my eyes were opened a little more about the possibilities of God’s power and love.

Gradually over the following months, I experienced more of God, always when with my small group. In a session on fellowship, friends had words from God for me, and I saw pictures in my mind which I believe came from God and which tied in with images that others had that evening. I attended a Friday night worship session a couple of times and felt buoyed up in my worship by the presence of other Christians. My meetings with God became breath-taking, awe-inspiring, profound…

And that’s when I realised it – my faith is so much stronger when it is held up by other Christians. All of my ‘big moments’ with God over the past two and a bit years (and they are getting so much more frequent) have happened when I am with people. My faith isn’t private – it is communal, loud, often filled with tears and laughter and so much bigger because my friends help it to grow. I love getting to talk about God with my small group. But even more than that, I love getting to meet God with my small group.

So if you, like I did, have a ‘private’ faith, I would encourage you to seek out ways to interact with God while with other people. If you are part of a small group, don’t just ‘study’ God or talk about Him – talk to Him, and help each other meet Him. Go to your small group expecting to meet God, and ready to share Him with each other.

About Suzie Lambert

Suzie is an HR advisor at a small oil and gas recruitment company. She is an active member of her local church, contributing in a variety of ways including singing in the band, leading the intercessional prayers, and co-ordinating one of the small groups. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, hanging out with friends and has recently started taking on fitness challenges.

The family feel…

One of my favourite things about my small group is its strong sense of community and support – excuse the cliché – it really has got a family feel.

I know that the group support me, that they care about me and I miss them if someone can’t make it to the group. But, I have to be honest, it has taken me over a year of meeting with my small group to reach a point where I do feel ‘at home’. There have been times when I feel uncomfortable about speaking out in discussion, when I haven’t wanted to pray out loud and when actually I just want to skip the group altogether and do my own thing.

I’ve tried to figure out what has got us to the point where people feel confidents to share, to be vulnerable and honest and have come up with practical ways that have developed our small group from a Bible study to a caring community with God at the centre:

  1. Prayer – there is nothing that strengthens friendship more than praying together and for each other. By bringing God into friendships they will strengthen.
  2. Take a break – Pause your normal routine to factor in a social event and plan an activity: dinner, a walk, bowling or whatever you want. You get to know a different side of people when you laugh and have fun together and learn more about people when you step outside of your normal surroundings.
  3. Keeping touch – as it’s currently the Easter holidays your group might be taking a break and have decided not to meet for a couple of weeks. Start a group message or email so that you can still encourage each other, swap prayer requests and stay in touch whilst you aren’t physically meeting up.

You can’t force a ‘family feel’, or suddenly expect everyone in your group to be best friends, but by investing time in each other outside of the ordinary small group pattern you will begin to develop a small community of genuine support and love for one another.

 

About Emily Owen

Emily dreams of travelling the world and writing about the great things she sees God doing along the way. Whilst waiting for dreams to come true she happily works for CWR, plays a lot of netball and is trying to learn Spanish.

 

Why holiday breaks can cause problems for small groups…

How a changing culture may affect some of those in your small group

In the past 100 years we have seen radical changes in Western cultures. Three of these many changes have had an observable influence on Christian small group life. The first has been the gradual deconstruction of nuclear families, leaving many single parents struggling with children, trying to make life work for them and having little available time for anything else. The second influence has been the increasing number of people who don’t get married or who are separated or divorced. These individuals, willingly or unwillingly, find themselves living the lifestyle of singles. A significant number live alone. The third is the ageing population, which has resulted in many people spending long hours each week on their own, perhaps with limited social contact with family or friends.

So what does this have to do with small groups?
The concern I’m raising here is not just relevant to small groups, of course, but it is also relevant to local churches during the longer holiday seasons such as the Christmas period. For many mums and dads with small families, holidays can be times of celebration, relaxation and fun together. This is surely not the case for many people who live alone or who don’t have the time, the finance or the opportunity to take it easy. I’m sure that we wouldn’t have to look too far to find live-alone singles and single parents who do not enjoy the long holiday periods. Some of these people may be in your small group. In fact, holiday times for these people simply accentuate their lonesomeness.

For a number of single people – especially those singles with young families who are struggling to make ends meet – the long holidays can be very lonely, emotionally draining, financially challenging and stressful times.

However, many small groups also close down for these seasons. The reasons for the breaks from group meetings are evident, but what can we do for those members for whom small group life is a welcome highlight of their week?

What can be done when your small group takes a holiday?
I think there are a number of issues that are raised by this situation for small groups in particular, and some may apply to your local church as a whole. First, as small group leaders and church leaders, we need to be aware of the demographic mix of our church or small group. How many people will be on their own when groups take a holiday break? How can we ensure that these isolated people are not simply ignored or neglected whilst everybody else is enjoying the season? I believe there are a number of easily organised things we can do that will include these people and let them know that they have not been forgotten.

One option is that we can organise informal get-togethers. This may be an invitation to have a meal at somebody’s home, or an early morning coffee gathering once a week at a particular café, or perhaps we could arrange a social activity that is open for anyone to come. All that is required to make this work is to determine the activity, the location and for one or two people to be willing to be there. Organising a meal in your own home doesn’t even need this much. This kind of arrangement allows people to continue meeting even if there’s only two or three who come together. Informal social gatherings provide opportunities for people to connect and support one another. These events can be a life-giving oasis for any individual who is going through a particularly difficult time.

In addition to these strategies we can encourage group members to use mobiles, emails and social media to stay in touch with one another, just checking how other group members are managing life.

 

FOR THOUGHT

How many people in your small group will be on their own during the holidays?

Has your small group recognised which of your members live alone?

How can these people be made to feel included rather than excluded during holiday times and celebrations such as Easter, the summer and Christmas?

 

About Ron Kallmier

Ron, an experienced teacher, counsellor and pastor who served as CWR’s Director of Training, turns our attention to a few of the essential leadership skills relevant to discussion in small groups.