Sermon-based small group experiences are being utilized in a massive number of churches. I must confess, I have hesitancies about this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this concept is a crime or that, in most instances, leads to heresy. I can only tell you that a massive number of discussions created by well meaning and very effective small group pastors have been e-mailed to me for an opinion and 97% of those discussions wouldn’t take a small group on a transformational journey.
I thought it might be positive to give those of you who are writing sermon-based discussions a template that you might use as you are writing these. Believe me, what you find below isn’t all that you need nor will it make what you write completely effective, but it should give the individuals writing these a logical flow to the small group experience.
Conversation Starters require the following necessities:
1. An easy to answer question that everyone can respond to without moving into deep conversation.
2. In most instances this question falls into one of the following categories:
a. History… “When you were a kid…” or “When you were in high school…” or “When you started your first job…” or “When you went swimming for the first time…” etc…
b. What if… “If you had a million dollars…” or “If you could build anything you wanted to build…” or “If you had never been born…” or “If you could get a do over on one decision you made…”, etc…
c. Who did… “Who would you turn to if…” or “Who is your favorite…” or “Who do you trust the most with…” or “Who has been the most giving…” etc…
d. When… “When did you first…”, or “When were you the most…” or
“When do you wish you had…” or “When would you like to…” etc…
e. How… “How would you like to…” or “How many times have you…” or “How will you someday…” or “How did you first come to undestand…” etc…
f. Where… “Where would you like to…” or “Where did you first…” or “Where is the place you wish you could…” or “Where did you first…”, etc…
3. Don’t try to write these so that they evoke laughter. This is a great mistake. The goal is simply for each person to respond to the question uninterrupted, be heard, be thanked for speaking, and then move to the next person.
4. The goal of the conversation starter is to create a conversational environment. Getting people to talk early in the meeting will do that.
5. Give the group only one Conversation Starter question, please.
List the passage here from the English Standard Version. This is the version Josh uses when he preaches.
Three Conversational Experiences:
I. Review (What did the teacher/preacher say?)
A. This should be no more than two questions.
B. Remember, these questions are not to unveil new information, they are to get the group to regurgitate what the pastor said in his sermon.
C. Use questions that get the group to restate the main points of the sermon. To ask leading questions of this nature start with one or more of the following phrases.
1. How would you describe…?
2. What do you think the pastor meant when he said…?
3. If you could summarize the main points of the pastor’s sermon what would you say they were?
4. Since Sunday, what part of Sunday’s sermon have you been unable to get out of your mind?
5. What did the pastor say that you’ve been revisiting again and again?
6. What do you think the pastor wanted us to remember when we left Sunday?
7. When you think of last Sunday’s sermon, what words or phrases stick out?
II. Remind (What does Scripture say?)
A. These questions must drive the group to determine what the Bible is saying, not what someone in the group wish it said or the group thinks it says.
B. These questions are looking for a concrete answer, not opinions.
C. These questions could start with the following types of phrases…
1. “What does God say about…?”
2. “Why did God tell them…?”
3. “What are the three things God reveals to us…?”
4. “When did God say they should…?”
5. “What did God use to…?”
6. “Where does the Scripture say this experience took place and why does that matter or does it?”
III. Respond (What does what we learned today demand we rethink, do, realize, accept, or expect?
A. These question are geared toward getting people to realize, embrace, consider, and make change in what they think, do, realize, accept or expect. To define and give examples…
1. Think - What thoughts run through your mind that the Word of God just told us are untrue about you, those you are in relationship with, your worldview, or your view of who God is?
2. Do – What are you doing now that you have become aware of that you need to stop doing OR What have you not been doing that you now know you should be doing?
3. Realize – What do you realize about life, God, others, etc… that you did not realize until now?
4. Accept – What do you now accept as factual and acceptable that you’ve always thought to be true OR What did you once accept as right action, thoughts, or activities that you now must set aside because the Word of God just pointed out that they are not?
5. Expect – What do you now know you can expect from God OR What did you expect from God that you now know is not an expectation He is responsible to carry out?
B. Each of these questions will use the “word” you or “we.”