Small groups and church

We had an interesting discussion last night about how Sunday church relates to small groups such as house groups.  People were saying how they found sharing in smaller groups was the way in which their faith deepened and became better related to their daily life.  Church on Sunday was more a place to be moved by liturgy and the power of worshipping with greater numbers.   As one suggested, Church was like a lecture, the small group like a seminar.

But at Holy Trinity, quite a lot of the congregation only experience ‘church’ – the Sunday worship.  So should we be trying to introduce some of what the small group offers into that? I tried a slightly interactive Bible study at the morning service once, and got – well – a mixed response.  Is it the dynamic of our liturgical worship that makes it hard, or just unfamiliarity with that kind of learning in church?

The ‘Ministry of the Word’ – the first part of the liturgy, with its BIble readings and sermon – goes back to the synagogue teaching of the early church, which would have been followed by the Christians going off to an ‘agape’ feast – Holy Communion.  So it is a teaching/learning section of the liturgy.

We know that people learn differently these days:  in schools, there is far less of the ‘chalk and talk’ and much more of the ‘personal discovery learning’.  The same is true of workplaces and professional development.  So should our learning in worship ‘move with the times’ too?

I can almost hear at least one of our hard-pressed professionals at Holy Trinity saying to me:  “No, not more dialogue/flipchart/feedback stuff at church!  I do that all week and want church to be different!”   So should we re-think the readings/sermon slot at church more radically?  Not make them just a pseudo-house group, but something more meditative, dramatic, what??   Or should we – with a more mission focus – be presenting the Basic Truths of the faith?

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5 Responses to Small groups and church

  1. David Warnes says:

    I’ve had experience both of an arrangement in which, once a month, there was the opportunity to discuss the readings and the sermon with the preacher immediately after the parish eucharist and also of a home group where the theological agenda was determined by the members and the leader (in that case myself) undertook to provide materials for discussion and learning. What the two had in common was that they were “opt-ins”, so neither addressed the need to deepen the understanding of the whole people of God, which I think is a pressing need. The home group involved me in a considerable amount of preparation work, but was well-attended and enjoyed – the best evidence of which is that it kept up its momentum after I left that parish. Having frequently suffered “near death by Powerpoint” in my professional life (I’m an NSM and a retired teacher), I think your empathy with the hard-pressed professionals in your congregation is wise. Would a blog for your congregation be one means of addressing the need. Clearly it would exclude some, but it might include those who would find a home group or post-service discussion intimidating. Posting the text of each week’s sermon and inviting questions and comments might be a good starting point.

    • alisonpeden says:

      Thank for the suggestions – and yes, a congregational blog might be an answer, though I suspect it might only interest the already ‘keen’. It’s how to engage on a Sunday morning. Better preaching?

  2. Eamonn says:

    ‘Better preaching’ – better than what? The theme of AKMA’s ( contributions to the Glasgow and Galloway clergy conference was precisely the difficulty of striking a balance between informed (or even ‘academic’) input and the pastoral responsibility for fostering the spiritual growth of the congregation. Comfort and challenge simultaneously is what I at least try to aim for; whether I achieve it is for those who hear it to say.

  3. alisonpeden says:

    I meant ‘better than I have preached in the past’. I wish I had heard AKMA’s presentation – his blog post was very tantalising!

  4. Yes, this is definitely a very relevant issue in today’s church I feel, not just for HT. I mean, one idea I have had lately has been perhaps have small groups either after, or before church, situated around the church hall. If after, perhaps after the teas and coffees. Some people may be intimidated by having to come to other peoples houses, so perhaps centralizing one group could be good, whilst having the Fellowship group continue.

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