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Why I'm Such a Believer in Sermon-Based Small Groups

Why I'm Such a Believer in Sermon-Based Small Groups

Three reasons that just might convince you

Jay Firebaugh  |  posted 10/24/2011

If I had my way, every small group would make the basis of their study the weekend message. Obviously there are plenty of other things you can use as the basis for your small-group study time, but here are three reasons I'm such a big believer in sermon-based small groups:

1. They're holistic. In a traditional church you go to a Sunday School class and hear a Bible lesson. Then you go to the worship service and hear another. When you come back Sunday night or midweek you hear additional Bible lessons. All these separate Bible teachings can have the negative side-effect of training us to file away God's Word without fully applying it. We've been educated beyond our obedience!

One of the things I love about using the weekly message as the basis for our small-group study is that it forces us to go back and re-examine how we were challenged by God's Word over the weekend. The emphases are integration and application. God's Word is meant to be obeyed, not just listened to or read. When we have time to further reflect on the Sunday morning message in our small groups, it's more holistic and better for our spiritual health.

2. They emphasize application.James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." In our weekend worship services we listen to the Word, but it's in our small groups where we focus on helping each other apply the Word.

I have found that I can be really moved by my pastor's message on Sunday but then go to lunch and forget all about it! God's Word is meant to be obeyed, not just listened to. Even though I prepare questions every week for our small groups that relate back to the weekend message, I really ask the same basic question over and over: How are we going to help each other fully obey this? This is a good practice.

3. They're reproducible. The hardest groups to multiply are ones that require a skilled teacher. When the basis of the Bible study is the weekend message, the study is much simpler to lead. All the leader has to do is get everyone to turn to the Bible passages covered in the weekend's message and ask a few questions, maybe even questions the pastor brought up during the sermon. The leader also could put the questions on different pieces of paper and give one to each person as people arrive. Then individuals can ask the questions they were given. A third option is to have each person ask his or her own question based on the sermon or Bible passage. The key is to stress questions that help your group apply the lesson taught over the weekend.

Sometimes people object to sermon-based small groups because people may miss the message if they're gone or serving in another area of the church. But really, that doesn't matter. The point is not to go back and recover the sermon or to critique the message. You are simply re-reading the main passages and answering application-based questions about some of the main points brought out of those passages. Yes, if you heard the message, you're at a better starting point. But even people who didn't hear the sermon can respond to the biblical truths in the verses.

I don't think this is the only right way to do small groups. But I deeply appreciate the built-in advantages to sermon-based small groups.

—Jay Firebaugh is the Director of Small Groups at New Life Church in Gahanna, OH. You can check out practical tools for pastors and small-group leaders on his All About Small Groups Facebook page.

Topics:Curriculum, Discussion, Host model, Sermon based, Study, Teaching
Date Added:October 24, 2011

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Yes Please

October 28, 2011  11:43pm

There is a lot of value in this approach if the experts in education are to be believed, which I am happy to do. They show that 80% of what you hear on Sunday is forgotten. In other words, in one ear and out the other. To prevent this sort of outcome at university, every lecture that I attended was followed with a small group tutorial where we analysed what had been said. This was led by a Tutor who focused our attention with a few well chosen questions about the topic and encouraged wide ranging discussion, for and against what was taught. Of course there isn't much point in doing this if the sermon doesn't really say anything and if the preacher doesn't want his contribution being held up to scrutiny.

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Hector Lopez

October 27, 2011  9:41pm

It's worth a try.It's all in furthering God's Word. Hector

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David Troublefield

October 27, 2011  8:37pm

Discipling in a church occurs eclectically if at all. The main approaches are: (1) pulpit-centered (preacher preaches--but to a crowd of 9-to-90 year olds, and then cannot follow everyone home to make certain his biblical message "took" as a good professional educator should); (2) program-centered (offer discipling opportunities regularly--as many as can find facilitators for; but no individual focus--just hoping something "sticks" that changes lives); (3) process-centered (better; more strategic and developmental; what readers here experienced from 9th grade till graduation--our school administrators and teachers having a vested interest in transforming all of us into contributing patriotic citizens of our nation because they would have to live next door to us someday); and, (4) person-centered (mentoring; thorough, but slow--to few mentors for the masses awaiting discipling). Few preaching pastors are very good at education (the art and science of teaching). Do it all.

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Lisa Kurman

October 27, 2011  7:59am

We have been using this method of study at our church for the past two years and it has been very successful. I create a weekly study guide that corresponds with the message for the weekend and we distribute it to all who attend our weekend service. With response to a previous comment, we never expect that everyone agrees completely with a message as it is subject to the listeners interpretation. What better way for listeners to discuss their 'take away' from the message and have the opportunity to hear how others have heard and processed the information.

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Lynn Kent

October 24, 2011  7:25pm

I would be uncomfortable with this format because I sometimes have points of disagreement with the message. I don't mind putting forward alternative views, but I think it is better that they are not the direct response to a pastor's message. To do so could be seen as an attempt to undermine him.

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