A major consideration when a group selects a new study is whether members want homework. The very word "homework" produces some not-so-fond memories from childhood. We recall crisp fall afternoons, perfect for impromptu football games, spent working equations. We struggled through three chapters of War and Peace and missed The Brady Bunch. Homework undermined our character, forcing us to produce totally unbelievable lies like, "My dog ate my homework." It's amazing we survived the trauma at all considering the pounding in our chests as we hoped against hope the teacher would forget to collect work we hadn't done. Given our negative history with homework, it isn't surprising many of us resist the idea of daily assignments as part of our small group experience. We didn't get this far in life to be reduced once again to reacting like a sweaty-palmed ten year old.
Yet, for all its bad press, homework plays a vital role in the spiritual formation of a group and its individual members. The truth is, we aren't children anymore. Our motivation is not to appease parents and teachers but to pursue a relationship with God. Hopefully we are mature enough to embrace the benefits of regular study for ourselves and recognize the value of shared interaction. I suggest we replace "homework" with a term more reflective of what it accomplishes in the Christian life.
We might consider calling it our Daily Spiritual Maintenance. Then we can ask people how they prefer to receive their RDA of spiritual nourishment. Will they be content with a weekly buffet of tasty tidbits or would they prefer satisfying their appetites at a daily sit-down dinner?
We might point out this a Living Accommodation Choice. God calls us to set up housekeeping in His kingdom. Instead of dwelling in the land, many settle for apartment living, residing in rented abodes rather than taking on the responsibility for home ownership.
Perhaps we should invite people to join us on the Ultimate Quest: A Kingdom Adventure. The journey requires daily trekking, but why settle for a someone else's slide show when you can experience spiritual insights first hand?
Ultimately, we are calling people to a Long-term Committed Relationship with the God of the universe. He is courting us. When will we stop playing hard to get?
Leaders, watch your language! Stop asking people if they want homework. Ask instead if they want a vital relationship with God and the awesome experience of a journey in His kingdom. Ask if they are ready for the security of abiding in Him while being nourished at the table He sets before us. The discipline of daily time in the Word and in prayer is enough of a challenge. Let's not compound the difficulty by saddling it with a negative name.