Just the sound of the word makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. In my mind race images of Mrs. Ray, my mean, old fifth-grade teacher, assigning us eight hoursâ€™ worth of math word problems … due tomorrow! Every minute of homework meant one less minute of playtime. I hated homework!
Some adults still have that same kind of aversion to homework. Mention homework in your small group, and watch mouths droop and shoulders slump.
But it doesnâ€™t have to be that way. When handled right, homework can be a positive, enlightening, encouraging opportunity. When a group has done its assignments, there is less of a chance for "sharing ignorances." People learn how to discover the truths of Scripture for themselves. It is easier to keep a passage of Scripture in context if the group reads passages in advance. People who usually would not open up in a small group meeting will talk if they already have something written on paper in front of them. And there are many other good reasons for doing homework.
One warning: If you lead an intentionally open group—that is, new people are always welcome to join you—homework is a definite no-no. How would you feel if you showed up at a meeting for the first time, and everyone but you had answers to the leaderâ€™s questions already written out? Intimidated? Certainly, and that group would probably never see your face again.
(Most small groups should be open groups if we are to be a disciple-making church. But there may be room for a few groups that are intentionally closed — or at least closed for a season. Accountability, discipleship, and recovery groups are examples of groups that should, perhaps, be closed.)
In a closed group, then—one that keeps the ...