planning a group study

I love putting together studies to share with friends. I’m part of a wonderful group of ladies who plan the women’s ministry in our church. My role is that of Spiritual Growth Coordinator. I planned a study for us on the fruit of the Spirit for this year. What follows is my step-by-step guide for planning a group study.

First I found two great books to use.

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit by Christopher Wright

Fruits of the Spirit: Treasures from the Spiritual Classics by Evelyn Underhill

I created scripture cards for all of us.

I typed up and printed the Bible verse about the fruit of the Spirit, and I cut them to business-card size and matted them with pretty paper.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

I also made prayer cards in the same way using a prayer provided in one of the books:

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Amen.

The idea is for us to place these scripture cards and prayer cards in prominent places so we can be reminded each day. I have mine on my bathroom mirror, but they would also work well on the refrigerator or as a bookmark.

I decided to cover the unit in ten separate lessons, an introduction and a separate session for each fruit. 

For each one, I crafted opening questions (which I email to everyone the week before our meeting). I adapted most of these questions from those in Wright’s book. I also selected five facts from my reading for each lesson. I looked for things that especially resonated with me, as well as things that summarized big ideas.

During a study session, we begin by discussing the opening questions. Then we read the Bible verse together and go through the five selected points. I like to provide a handout so we can take turns reading the points. We spend a short time discussing each one as a group. Everyone has interesting insights to share, and we explore the ideas together. Lastly, we close by reciting the prayer together.

Typically, we spend about ten minutes on the study as part of a longer meeting. It was so much fun for me to prepare these lessons.

Examples from my fruit of the Spirit study (from the session on peace):

The assignment in preparation for meeting together was to reflect on the idea of peace and consider two questions:

  • What promotes peacefulness in you?
  • What Bible stories illustrate the power of reconciliation and peacemaking?

The discussion points I selected (nearly verbatim) from the books:

  • Consider that it was not during his ministry in Galilee, but when he drew near the cross that Christ especially emphasized peace. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • God calls us to work at peace in the way we live, to live at peace with others, and to work for peace among Christians and in the wider world.
  • Living at peace with others is not about agreeing with one another all the time, but about accepting each other even when we look at things differently. In doing so, we have the mind of Christ and bring glory to God.
  • Peace as a fruit of the Spirit necessitates addressing and resolving conflicts, being careful to avoid words and attitudes that might cause misunderstanding or division, being quick to apologize, and avoiding all kinds of gossip.
  • Jesus gives the deep, enduring, tranquil peace and an inward quiet of acceptance. This beautiful and complex shalom means all-around wellbeing and contentment in relationship with God, others, and creation.

Recap and suggestions for longer sessions:

  • It helps for each participant to have a book so you can assign reading for each session.
  • Preparing handouts or small cards is a nice touch.
  • Send out opening questions ahead of time and ask them to make note of something that jumped out at them in their reading to share with the group.
  • Repeating the same opening or closing activity each time is one way to tie the sessions together.
  • For longer sessions (or in case your group isn’t very talkative), consider preparing more than five discussion points.
  • Offer follow-up questions at the end. What have we learned today? What is our most important takeaway? What steps should we take now as a result of our study?

I love planning a group study! What study will you develop?

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