What should we do in our City Group? Leaders of City Groups in Christ City Church are always faced with this questions. Should we read a book together? Or maybe go through a letter in the Bible? It could be daunting to have to come up with a program every week.
It took us a while to find rhythm in our Tuesday City Group that Andrew and I host. We went through several suggested resources and books of the Bible in about a year, which were great and very helpful and those suggested resources are great for City Groups to use. However we wanted to mix things up, and try something different so back in September, as the church was going through the series in the Gospel of Mark, we thought, why not discuss the passage and sermon from Sunday? We started doing just that and we have not looked back since.
Why Sermon-Based City Group Discussions?
City Group allows for more time to slow down, really process the message and unpack the implications of the passage for our lives. And because the context and main idea of the passage were given on Sunday, it puts everyone on the same page. It also means that we can quickly go deeper into discussing how we can live out the principles and practices from the passage.
It gives an opportunity to remind each other about the main points of the passage and the sermon which helps establish the truths that were taught. It also moves us past “great sermon huh? yeah it was” type conversations. We listen to the sermon with more intentionality knowing that we will discuss it a few days later. We are better prepared to really answer the question: “How did God speak to you through the sermon…what did you learn and take-away”? As Jesus repeatedly pointed out, it’s not the hearing of God’s word that counts but the doing of God’s word. He wants us to build our lives upon the rock, not the sand (Matthew 7:24-29).
Talking about the sermon during City Group also means that you’re not adding another message for people to dwell and be challenged on – you’re taking something that was already heard in a larger setting and helping everyone understand how they can apply it in a personal and authentic way. It’s important that each of us hears God speaking to us.
Here are some tips that we found helpful.
Always look at the passage at the beginning
First of all it brings our focus to God’s word. After all it is God who we ultimately want to hear from. It also helps people who might have missed Sunday. So start by reading the passage together to ensure it’s God’s word, not just the sermon, that is guiding our discussion.
Focus on implications and application
As mentioned above, the context of the passage is covered in the sermon so we don’t have to go in depth about studying every single verse or discuss meaning of particular words. We can challenge each other on what the passage means to us on a personal level. The use of the word ‘implications’ as well as ‘application’ is important. ‘Application’ implies an action that we have to initiate based on the passage principals. ‘Implications’ emphasise that God’s word is inevitably relevant to us even without us taking any action.
Ask some sermon/passage specific questions
As you will see below, there is a model of questions that can be used. We found it’s also helpful to come up with a few questions that come directly from the passage or the sermon. It adds a bit more time to preparation but it also gives the leader a better understanding of the passage and helps with facilitating the discussion. For example you might say…
- I found x,y,z illustration of God’s love very helpful because…how do you understand God’s love?
- I found it helpful to think of sin as such-n-such…how do we often think about sin in our lives?
- I had never seen abc in the Bible before and it totally amazed me because…what did you think of that?
- The speaker encouraged us to do these-three-things in the talk…I find it hard to know how to do the second one. What are your thoughts here?
- I wasn’t sure if I agreed with point two of the talk…here is why…what did you think?
- The concept of abc comes up a lot in this passage, what do you think about it?
- What does God want you to understand through x,y,z?
A simple guide: The Looking model
Here is the model of questions that can be asked. It’s a very good starting point and helps with staying accountable and also provides continuity with learning week after week.
- What progress were you able to make since our last City Group?
- What have you learned since the last time we met?
- Have you had any new insights since our last conversation?
- What sticks out to you?
- What do you see/like?
- What do you dislike or find confusing?
- What does this reveal about Humankind?
- What does this reveal about God?
- Where do you see the gospel?
- What is God saying to you?
- What is God saying to us?
- What does God want us to do?
- Where are we/you not believing the gospel?
- What do I need to do to obey God this week from what I learned tonight?
- Who do you know that would benefit from what you learned tonight? How is God asking you to share with them this week?
- Who can we be praying for?
- How can we, as a group, be on mission this week?
There is no expectation to ask all of the questions – pick one or two from each section, or create your own, to cover all areas. As I said, this is just a model/guide, and it’s important to add three-four specific questions that come directly from the sermon. Ultimately we trust God’s Spirit will be at work in the hearing of God’s word on a Sunday and the application of it in City Groups.
So can I encourage you to consider doing something similar. Leading a sermon based City Group discussion can really help sharpen the church wide focus – we all listen to the same message and then we all interact with the same message, taking it to a personal level. It can help create a sense of unity and sharpen our learning and growing experience.