Do's and Don't's of Growth Group Sermon Discussion
Many of our Growth Groups spend their study nights discussing sermons that were recently preached at CFC. Additionally, when we deem it imporant, there are certain sermon series in which all the groups in our church devote their Growth Group study times to sermon discussions. In order to help those discussion times be as fruitful as possible, here are some tips of what to do and what not to do when it comes to sermon discussion. These tips are for Growth Group leaders and members alike, as they will help us all to steer our study and conversation in the most helpful direction.
1) DO be sure to read and re-read the sermon text. The leader should not feel the need to re-teach the passage or review the sermon outline (that has already happened in the pulpit). But we do want the text on which the sermon is based to frame the discussion. More than the sermon, we are applying the Word of God to our lives. The sermon is a means of explaining and applying God’s Word. And the discussion of the sermon is a further attempt to drive that application deeper into our lives in the context of community.
2) DO NOT turn the discussion into an evaluation of the sermon. The goal is not critique or praise of the sermon (or preacher, for that matter). So we all should avoid questions like: "What did you think about the sermon?" or "What did you enjoy from the sermon?" or "What did you like about the sermon?" These questions take the discussion away from the goals of the meeting, which is application of God’s Word, not enjoyment of the preacher’s sermon.
3) DO NOT use phrases like, “I loved when he said” or “I enjoyed this part of the sermon.” Those delve into evaluation, rather than application. DO use phrases like “I was encouraged by this promise” or “I was challenged by this truth” or “I was helped by this point." And leaders, feel free to follow up any such statement with another question. “Why do you think you were challenged by that point?” or “What in particular encouraged you about that?”
4) DO NOT ask questions with simple, obvious answers. Avoid things like: "Who wrote this passage of Scripture?" and "What was the preacher’s first point?" Better would be questions like, “What fruit of the Spirit do you need God to grow in you personally to help you obey the truth conveyed in the first point of the sermon?” or "If you were to take the implication of the first point more seriously, what might change immediately in your life? What might change gradually?"
5) Leaders, DO NOT be lazy with your opening question. Do your best to begin with a broad, thought-provoking question. Try to make your question tie in as many truths from the sermon as you can.
6) DO utilize the different giftings, personalities, and life stages in your group to help explore how the truths from God’s Word presented in the sermon apply in broader categories than any one person thinks. The mom of three young children has insights that the young accountant does not, and vice versa. Don't be afraid to ask an individual a directed question, "As a member of the medical profession, how did this truth strike you?" Their unique insight might stretch everyone else.
7) DO allow for a person to express confusion about a particular sermon point. We can all misunderstand a person preaching a sermon. Make space for people in your group to voice the fact that they don’t understand something. Try to help that individual understand the truth being communicated. Do your best to make the clarification about what the Bible says, not just what the preacher says. On a point that is misunderstood, you might take the opportunity to turn that into a question for the whole group. So after clarifying a point that is brought up, you might ask, “Why is that particular truth hard for our minds to grasp?” or "What makes this particular truth so hard to apply to our lives?"
8) DO NOT be content to keep the discussion at the surface level of what truths were communicated in the sermon. Push past mere content of the sermon or text into its application. DO everything you can to steer the conversations to greater openness and intentionality. The goal is to wrestle with how to apply these truths on a personal level.
9) DO bring other Scriptures into the discussion. You might use the passages that are cross-referenced by the preacher. But you may also bring other Scriptures into the discussion that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind. Invite all group members to do the same. You might ask frequently, "What other passages of Scripture speak to this?" The goal is for the discussion to be thoroughly Word-centered. We want the Bible to shape our thoughts in every way.
10) As a Growth Group leader, DO feel free to craft your own questions. As you listen to the sermon and as truths challenge and confront you, turn that into questions that would help others apply the same truths.
11) DO NOT feel the need to use only the questions provided for you (when that applies). Likewise, DO NOT feel as if you need to ask every question that is provided. It may be that you only need to use 4 or 6. Don’t feel the need to cut off fruitful discussion in order to get through all the questions.
12) DO present the questions in writing to your group. It is always helpful if they can read along with the questions that you are asking. It is even more helpful, in most cases, if they can see the questions prior to the meeting. So, if possible, circulate the questions prior to your meeting. But at the very least, print out copies for everyone of the majority of questions that you plan to ask. If the group members have a little more time to think, they are likely to have more thoughtful answers.
It is a gift to be able to work out the truths and implications of God's Word in the presence of God's people, who are likewise committed to the glory of God and good of one another. Let us give ourselves to the examination of Scripture like the Bereans of Acts 17, receiving the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures—and examining our lives—to see if these things are so.
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