group life guides and books
Resources to assist the small group leader ...
by Kristin Stone
"Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." - John 21:25
Over the summer months, many small groups like to do lighter studies - ones that don't require a lot of homework, preparation, or perfect attendance. Other groups find it easiest to just take a break. If your group is unsure about how to spend the summer, consider trying something a bit different...a book club!
Book clubs are fantastic ways to keep your group connecting and fellowshiping without having to meet up as consistently as a small group would generally do. There are a few different approaches that you can take:
- Bible Book of the Month: Pick a different book of the Bible for each month of the summer. Choose books of manageable length (no more than around 30 chapters) so that members can easily add the reading to their daily Bible study. Throughout the month, members will read the book on their own, recording their thoughts. At the end of the month, have a celebration where you eat dinner and discuss the book. Some groups choose to make these book celebrations really meaningful by giving them themes or acting out certain memorable parts. For example, if your group read the book of Esther, consider having a "royal" party - dress up, eat fancy foods, etc. If you read one of the Gospels, you might reenact the Last Supper, complete with washing one another's feet.
- Christian Literature Club: There is so much excellent Christian literature that has been written over the years, yet we often don't have time to read it, much less discuss it with others. Consider picking a classic Christian book and reading it as a small group. With the more dense books, it's often a good idea to meet about every two weeks for discussion. A summer book club of this variety will allow your small group to meet less often and give you a break from your study of Scripture, yet it will still engender discussion about foundational Christian truths. During your meetings, you might even choose to pull out relevant Scripture to enhance your discussion.
- Be reasonable with your goals. If doing a book club is a new venture for you, start with a smaller book. You want your members to be able to keep up - a book club is no fun if only one person has managed to do the reading!
- Designate a leader. Just as in a traditional small group meeting, you'll want a leader to open up the meeting in prayer, keep it moving, and then help it come to a close.
- Have a plan. With your participating small group members, work out a plan of action. Know what passages you will have read by what dates. Set dates in advance for your meetings/discussions, and discuss what those will entail. Will you eat dinner? Meet at the Farmer's Market? What about your kids? You also might consider making up a "reading plan" that divides the readings by day - this can be helpful for those that need more structure.
- Do some research. You could just go into your discussion time and talk about whatever comes to mind. However, it can also be a good idea to do a quick google search for discussion questions or commentaries. These can often enrich your discussion and lead it in deeper directions than you might come up with yourself.
- Consider the kids. If childcare is an issue, consider ways that you might involve your children. If they are of reading age, you might choose books that they would understand (or books with a teenage or child edition). If you are discussing a book of the Bible, share with them the Bible stories as you are reading and then invite them into the discussion.
- Make it optional. Some of your members just might not like to read. Others might be traveling too much to make a book club feasible. This is okay. Instead, invite them to the fellowship portion of your meeting, or encourage them to sit in on the discussion and ask questions.
- In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
- Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
- The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Consider the benefits of a book study as you enter into the summer months. If you decide to go for it, pick out a book and make a plan soon!