Extended Benefits

by Esther M. Bailey

Our small group had been struggling to find the right study material. After a sermon one Sunday, I got an idea. The pastor's words had challanged me to take a step forward in my Christian life, but I easily lose the long-term value of the sermon without any follow-up to strengthen the message. Since our group members all attend the same church, I though, Why not base our discussions on the sermons?

I suggested the idea, and the group embraced it with enthusiasm. While we don't expect life-changing experiences every time, we have seen positive results. Here are a few ideas that worked for us.

Preparation. I write down Scripture references and main points from the sermon each week and encourage other members to do the same.

Starting discussion. I may open the meeting by relating an "aha" moment I had during the sermon. People are usually quick to offer comments and additional insights. Other times I ask for a one-or two-sentence overview of the message. The points members highlight help us determine which ideas to discuss.

Scripture review. Each week we read aloud the scriptures covered in the sermon. If the pastor referenced a single passage, we read through it verse by verse, discussing a verse at a time. I generate dialog by asking about the meaning and significance of words and phrases.

If the pastor spoke on multiple passages then I assign everyone in the group a different one. We then read and discuss them in the order the pastor presented them.

Getting practical. I encourage members to think of small steps we can take to live out the sermon. I throw out a suggestion or two and invite others to do the same. We then take a moment privately to select how we'd like to encorporate what we've learned into our lives. Members have the option of telling the group about their goals. When I share openly, I find others are more likely to do the same, expecially if confidentiality is assured.

-from Discipleship Journal, May/June 2009, pg. 60