How to Create a Sermon-Based Small Group Study

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Helpful information from group practitioner, Spence Shelton

Our small groups here at the Summit primarily study along with our pastor’s sermon each week. This is a great study method, which you can read more about here. This coming Sunday, Pastor J.D. is going to be teaching from Ephesians on Relationships. So here on the blog, I am going to walk you as a group leader through an exercise I think you can find immensely valuable: crafting a sermon-based small group study. I am even throwing out the challenge to our group leaders this week to use Pastor J.D.’s manuscript that he posts on Saturday night and the study we’ve already written on Ephesians to try to write one for their groups this next week.

Structure: For our purposes, you have 3 parts to the discussion time: Intro, Dig, Apply

What you know from the sermon:
Scripture: Ephesians 5:21 – 6:9
Theme: Gospel-Centered Relationships

1. Intro: This part of the discussion is trying to get the group talking on subject. Hopefully engaging the very area of life the Scriptures are going to speak into. So here is a great time to just get to know people’s history a little bit. So write down a few questions based on your group make-up that could get people talking about their own relationships with their parents, spouses, kids, employers, etc. This is one topic that EVERYBODY can jump in on.

Ex: What was the best thing your parents taught you when it comes to relating to other people? or What was the best advice your parents gave you on dating? On parenting?

WARNING: Don’t let this last too long! You want this to get the ball rolling not to be the only thing you get to in the night.

2. DIG: In a sermon-based model, I think you do 3 things here.

  1. Review from sermon: Ask some form of the question “What did God teach you through the message this weekend?”
  2. Engage other texts that speak into the main one: This is the secret to a good sermon-based study. Come along side of your pastor by investigating other places in Scripture that speak to the same thing. What are these texts? Here is a way to find them:
      1. What were the texts your pastor mentioned but didn’t get into much in the sermon? Look at your notes or the manuscript where available.
      2. Use a study Bible to check any cross-references in the main text.
    1. Now, in these texts, ask yourself a couple of basic questions:
      1. What is the surrounding context of these texts? Basically, what is the author talking about? Ex: What is Paul talking about before and after 1 Corinthians 13? The church!
      2. What is the author saying? Can you find his thesis? What action steps is he calling you to and why?
      3. How does this shed light on (or does it) the main text from the sermon?
    2. Now, how do you see the gospel in what you are discussing? You should never leave a small group study without seeing the centrality of Christ in what you are discussing. If you do, you’ve missed something.

3. APPLY: Here is where you want to ask the “take it home” questions that can get pretty personal. Call people back to both the sermon and the discussion you are having. Your goal is to get out of the theoretical and into the take-away that will affect each group member’s life over the next week.

Ex: What relationships are coming to mind that you are in right now that you need to allow God to change your interaction in through the gospel? or Where are you finding this hardest to implement in your life right now?

WARNING: This section could and should get deeply personal. You may even want to divide up into guys and girls if you are a co-ed group and allow that time to also be a time of prayer.

So these are the basics to sermon-based small group study creation. It’s nothing glamorous, but the benefits of helping people engage the material you are already working through as a church are powerful. Go get em!  

Spence Shelton Spence is the Small Groups Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Wonder what that involves? Too much to put here, but he loves it! You can read more from Spence on his blog.

More from Spence Shelton or visit Spence at http://spenceshelton.com

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