I saw this short article recently on smallgroups.com. Thought it was timely for our One Month to Live Challenge.

Connecting Small Groups to the Sunday Sermon

Information overload — that is the world we are living in.  It is happening in the church as well.  Our children have their curriculum; our teens are doing something else; the message is on one topic; our personal devotions often on yet another; and then our small group is doing an entirely different topic or book of the Bible!  There is too much information and no time or opportunity to meditate on it, to discuss with others, or to apply all the topics at hand.

These are some of the reasons why, at our church, we decided that we would offer a small group discussion guide based on the weekend message each week. We could see the benefits very quickly:   

  • People listen more closely to the Sunday message, as they know they will be talking about it during the week.  They take more notes too. 

  • The Sunday message is more impacting due to the small group unpacking it, and it stays in front of people throughout the week 

  • Increased motivation for people to be in a small group so they can get in on the discussion! 

  • Reduces information overload for individuals 

  • Less curriculum-choosing hassles/decisions for group leaders 

  • Easier to invite people into your group on any given week, as well as to church 

  • Unity for the church as a whole 

  • Less study time for leaders 

  • Every group member is more likely to take a turn leading since the questions and the evening are all mapped out for them. It is less intimidating than a book. 

  • Church events and special things can be tied into group life via the discussion guide, which is seen by many people each week.

Not all of our groups use the discussion guide, and we do not mandate it. Sometimes a group will have a specific topic they really want to cover such as parenting or marriage due to the make-up of the group. We are flexible on that. Those who do follow the discussion guide can pick up their hard copies at the small group kiosk in the foyer, and it is always attached to our website so they can print it off at home. A nice feature of so many picking up the hard copy discussion guides on the weekend is that when I am hanging out there, I get to chat and interact with leaders who may be tough to get hold of otherwise!

It is not a perfect system, and you will have unique challenges to overcome in your own setting.  Overall, however, we have found this to be a highly effective way of creating synergy and reducing the number of messages coming to our people each week.

Taken from Small Group Dynamics ezine article:  "Practical Steps to Create Synergy between Whole-Church Teaching and Small Group Focus," July, 2008, by Shelia Ely.