How to Lead Adult Groups

How to Lead
Adult Groups
Living the Good News
a division of Church Publishing Incorporated
600 Grant Street, Suite 400
Denver, CO 80203
Shaping and transforming lives and communities
through shared experiences of the Sunday readings.
Cover Design: Merten Design Group
Living the Good News,
a division of Church Publishing Incorporated
Editorial Offices: 600 Grant Street, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80203
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© 2006 by Living the Good News.
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Living the Good News is copyrighted material. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
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in writing from the publisher.
The scripture quotations used herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible. © 1989
by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the
USA. Used by permission.
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Chapter One: The Leader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Chapter Two: The Learner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Chapter Three: Using the Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Chapter Four: Preparing a Living the Good News Session . . . . 23
Chapter Five: Exploring Scripture with Adults . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Chapter Six: Praying with Adults . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Chapter Seven: Using Creative Activities with Adults . . . . . . . . 34
Chapter Eight: Ministering TO Adults . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Chapter Nine: Ministering WITH Adults . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
So you have been asked to lead an adult group! How do you feel? nervous? stressed? confused? eager? excited? committed? Don’t know where
to begin?
These feelings and many more are natural to us who are called to work
in Christian education. Reading this booklet shows that you are willing
to invest time in your ministry. This booklet can help you discover:
◆ the unique gifts you bring to your ministry
◆ simple methods that will empower and enrich your ministry
◆ the most effective way to work with the Living the Good News curriculum, a lectionary-based, arts-enhanced, learning-by-doing program
A Lectionary-Based Curriculum
Since its earliest days, Living the Good News has encouraged churches
to offer learning opportunities to every age group, in a way that nurtures
both the individual Christian and the Christian family together.
Living the Good News sessions, every Sunday at every age level, are
united by a common focus that is derived from the lectionary readings
for the day. Sessions for adults generally focus on several or all of the
lectionary readings, always including the gospel. Together, adult participants seek to explore the meaning of scripture in both the Church’s tradition and our lives today. Scripture journals encourage adults to take
time for more in-depth reflection as, week by week, they encounter the
breadth and depth of the Christian message presented in the lectionary.
What Is the Lectionary?
The lectionary is the set of readings we hear week by week in the Sunday
Eucharist. The lectionary has a three-year cycle that focuses each year on
a different gospel. In the years 2006, 2009 and 2012 (Year B), most of the
readings are drawn from the Gospel of Mark. In the years 2007, 2010 and
2013 (Year C), most of the readings are drawn from the Gospel of Luke.
In the years 2008, 2011 and 2014 (Year A), most of the readings are
drawn from the Gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of John is read on certain
Sundays in all three years.
4 ●
The lectionary is not a chronological approach to reading the Bible, nor
is it a book-by-book approach. Instead, each week the scripture readings
are closely linked to the seasons of the Church’s life cycle, its liturgical
calendar. In the first half of the Church year, we follow the major events
of the life of Jesus, including his birth, death, resurrection and the birth
of the Church. In the second half of the Church year, we study Jesus’
actions and teachings. Seasonal traditions offer a special joy to a curriculum based on experiential learning.
How Does Learning by Doing Work?
Proverbial wisdom tells us:
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
All of us learn best when we make our own discoveries and draw on
more than our sense of hearing. In a session where this kind of experiential learning is taking place, there is minimal “teacher talk.” Instead you,
the leader, create opportunities for your brother and sister participants
to make and communicate their own discoveries. You ask questions, listen, respond and value the participants’ own responses.
Reflect on your own experience. Recall a learning experience that excited
◆ What first interested you in learning that skill or information?
◆ By what method did you learn?
◆ How have you used your new skill or information?
◆ How did learning it change your life?
At all age levels, experiencing scripture has the power to transform. In
Living the Good News sessions, younger children are not asked to fill in
workbooks; instead they play active games that involve running, jumping
or skipping as well as answering questions. Children are not asked to
color between the lines; they are encouraged to create art that has
meaning for them, using various media.
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Youth are not handed scripts for dramas; the fun (and learning) is in
developing their own plot, dialogue and props. Adults are not given lectures; they discuss, write poems and reflections, meditate, make music,
roleplay and pray.
The Arts:
Learning by Doing for Today’s Church
Today’s Church is changing to reflect more and more the changes of the
multicultural society in which we live. With our curriculum, we strive to
include materials that will both reflect and nurture this diversity. A
Middle Eastern poem, an African-American quilt, a Japanese instrumental: these rich materials shed new light on what the gospel means in and
for today’s Church.
As Christians, we affirm the goodness of God’s creation. We experience
life as beings capable of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual
response. So in formation, we do not appeal to the intellect alone, but
draw structure and activities from several “languages”: The language of
movement. The language of art. The language of story. The language of
faith skills. The language of relationships.
Diverse activities appeal to the different learning styles of individuals, but
of even more importance is the way they establish and strengthen relationships. Where discussion can sometimes serve to highlight our differences, a common movement challenge or art exploration offers us a
chance to work with the differing gifts of others in a spirit of discovery and
respect. We grow in the very gifts needed for our common life in Christ.
Our prayer is that the explorations we offer in our arts-enhanced Living
the Good News curriculum will nurture both your own Christian journey
and the faith formation community you lead, week by week.
Participants do not come to us as “blank slates” on which we leaders
write our facts and theories. Instead, participants come to us with rich
lives and experiences that we, as effective leaders, want to draw out as
we work together week by week. Living the Good News will give you the
tools you need to become that effective leader.
So welcome to Living the Good News! And blessings on your ministry.
6 ●
Chapter One:
The Leader
In this chapter:
reflecting on your goals
the role of the leader in implementing Living the Good News’
lectionary-based curriculum
◆ the importance of building good relationships
◆ ways to make this a good experience for you
What Are Your Goals?
We all have different goals for our Christian ministry, even those of us who
work with adult participants. Look over this list. Check any of these goals
that apply to what you want. Add any goals of your own to the list, too.
■ To grow in my own spiritual journey. I want to follow Jesus Christ more
closely. I want to be a better leader.
■ To provide an interesting session for participants. I want to affirm
each person’s worth, regardless of race, class, gender or learning style.
■ To explore basic theological concepts. I want to offer discussion leadership consistent with informed biblical interpretation and the theology of the Church.
■ To explore scripture. I want to invite participants to enter more deeply
into their biblical heritage.
■ To carry out my pre-session preparations with a minimum of time and
exertion. I live a busy life!
■ To share with participants the rich heritage of the Church, including
it’s liturgy and prayer. I want to communicate the joy I have in the
prayer and life of the Church.
■ ___________________________________________________________
■ ___________________________________________________________
■ ___________________________________________________________
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Now look back over the list you’ve made. What are the three most important goals for your leadership ministry?
Your Role and Living the Good News
Living the Good News wants to support all the goals you set for your
ministry. Unlike many programs, which rely on textbooks or “scripts” for
the leaders to follow, Living the Good News is committed to ministering to adults by first ministering to their leaders. We want to help you
find ways to lead sessions that:
◆ honor individual learning styles and intelligences
◆ explore the weekly lectionary in ways that empower the participants
◆ are easy to prepare and enjoyable to lead
◆ invite you, the leader, into a deeper understanding of scripture,
theology and the practical concerns of your ministry
Relationships First
Session plans take second place to the relationships you build with the
members of the group.
Much of what participants learn comes not from the content of the session, but from your patience, warmth and respect, shown in each activity,
discussion and interaction. Remember, as a leader, you are constantly
modeling God and God’s Church for your participants.
That makes leading less daunting, since it becomes less critical that every
activity is covered, that all questions are discussed or that a pre-selected
“point” is communicated. What matters most is your warmth, your openness and your ability to convey to every group member: “Who you are,
just as you are, is a precious gift to me, to our group and to God’s
Church.” Let God take care of the rest.
8 ●
Chapter One: The Leader
“Ministering to Me!”
You’ve agreed to take on a rewarding, but demanding ministry. We suggest you not try to do it the hard way. What’s the hard way? Not making
time for yourself. Not getting together with like-minded people engaged
in the same ministry. Getting so bogged down in carrying out ambitious
projects that you lose touch with the dreams and vision that led you to
this ministry.
We encourage you to nurture yourself, to treat yourself like the beloved
child of God that you are. Remember, when God calls us to ministry, God
intends to meet our deepest needs and respond to our deepest desires.
We firmly believe: the first step in ministering to the needs of the participants in your group is to minister to you
Working alone or with a group, try these activities to help you recognize
your gifts and to set goals for your leadership:
◆ Write a quick reflection on or discuss a memorable teacher, leader or
mentor you have had, in or out of school. What were this person’s
◆ Use your curriculum to meet your own needs for prayer, reflection and
study. You can set aside a regular time each week to study the scripture background that comes with your curriculum and to meditate on
the week’s gospel. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit who enables us to
understand scripture and share it with others. Let the story of God’s
people flow into your story.
◆ Draw on your inner resources by thinking of ways in which you have
experienced God. Think of answered prayers. Think of the person who
came to help just when you most needed someone. Think of a time
when you felt hopeless but still knew the “peace that passes all understanding.” Think of your mountaintop experiences.
◆ Write a quick answer or discuss: What strengths do I bring to leading?
(If you are working with a group of leaders whom you know well, break
into small groups and brainstorm a list of each leader’s strengths.)
◆ Pair up with another leader. Meet monthly for lunch or make a weekly
phone call to hear each other’s concerns and to encourage each other
in your ministries.
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If you had no restrictions on time or money, what would you most like
the participants in your group to experience? Discuss with a partner or
think silently about your answer. Make a symbol of what you want to
accomplish. Shape the symbol using a two-foot piece of aluminum foil
and hang it in your office or kitchen.
◆ For your own renewal, plan short times of reflection throughout the
year. Visualize yourself sitting with the participants in your group in
the presence of God. What does that look like? What questions would
you ask? What are God’s answers?
10 ●
Chapter One: The Leader
Chapter Two:
The Learner
In this chapter:
reflecting on the diverse goals of adult learners
an adaptation of Chapter 1’s worksheet for the learners in your group
an introduction to learning styles
an introduction to multiple intelligences
suggested activities for different learners
Adult Learners
Adult learners are our peers. They want to be treated with respect, want
to set and fulfill their own goals for education. We suggest you invite
participants in your group to discuss their individual and shared goals
during a session. Begin by asking individuals to complete this version of
the worksheet given in Chapter 1. Then ask participants to discuss:
◆ How can we best structure our time to meet our goals?
◆ What guidelines might be important for us to observe to help one
another meet our individual and shared goals?
What Are Your Goals?
We all have different goals for our time together. Look over this list.
Check any of these goals that apply to what you want. Add any goals of
your own to the list, too.
■ To grow in my own spiritual journey. I want to follow Jesus Christ
more closely. I want to be a better Christian.
■ To participate in an interesting session; to feel that my contributions
to the group are valued, regardless of my race, class, gender or learning style.
■ To explore basic theological concepts. I want to participate in discussions in the context of informed biblical interpretation and the theology of the Church.
■ To explore scripture. I want to enter more deeply into our biblical
■ To carry out any preparations or follow-up away from the sessions
with a minimum of time and exertion. I live a busy life!
■ To share with others the rich heritage of the Church, including it’s
liturgy and prayer. I want to communicate the joy I have in the prayer
and life of the Church.
How to Lead Adult Groups
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■ To have a safe forum where I can explore the everyday issues that
challenge me most deeply: work, family, political values, economic
concerns, etc.
■ ___________________________________________________________
■ ___________________________________________________________
■ ___________________________________________________________
Now look back over the list you’ve made. What are the three most important goals for our time together?
Learning Styles
Our learning style is our personal window on the world. This style determines how we think, make judgments and experience people and events.
Here we’ll focus on these three typical styles of learning:
◆ learning by hearing and speaking (auditory style)
◆ learning by seeing (visual style)
◆ learning by moving and touching (kinesthetic/tactile style)
Each of us, adults as well as children and youth, uses all three styles but
favors one. In each session, Living the Good News suggests a range of
activities designed to meet the needs of participants with varying learning styles.
Those Who Learn by Hearing and Speaking
Auditory learners primarily use their ears and voices to learn. They:
◆ remember what they hear and what they say
◆ prefer listening to reading
◆ want to tell and listen to stories
◆ like to respond with words instead of actions
◆ enjoy discussion
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Chapter Two: The Learner
memorize by repeating words aloud rather than writing
understand a difficult subject by “talking it through”
like to give verbal responses to questions
can easily follow oral directions
Some appropriate activities for auditory learners include:
◆ listening to a story
◆ recording a story on audiotape
◆ singing songs or making up new ones
◆ completing an unfinished story
◆ roleplaying
◆ narrating a story that others act out
◆ doing a “newscast” recounting a scriptural event
◆ narrating a slide show that others illustrate
◆ discussing the content of a photograph
◆ doing a choral reading or “reader’s theater” presentation of scripture
◆ reading a passage aloud for the group
◆ brainstorming solutions to a problem or dilemma
Those Who Learn by Seeing
Visual learners use their eyes to help them understand and remember
new concepts and skills. They:
◆ like seeing a picture of what is being described
◆ appreciate a bulletin board or display of objects related to a lesson
◆ want to quietly absorb the world around them
◆ like to imagine stories in visual detail
◆ memorize by reading or copying repeatedly
◆ like visual reminders, icons, graphic displays, etc.
◆ want verses and instructions written on board
◆ benefit from a time line of biblical events
◆ use charts, diagrams and pictures to help them remember
◆ like seeing material on a handout or overhead transparency as the
leader presents it
Activities appropriate for visual learners include:
◆ seeing videos, films, slides, computer presentations or live theater
◆ illustrating stories
How to Lead Adult Groups
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making any kind of visual art: murals, slide shows, videos, shadow
puppets, posters, masks, costumes, scenery, collages and paintings
◆ creating visual reminders
◆ touring the Church to find symbols, furnishings or works of art
◆ silent, imaginative prayer that invites the participant to visualize; for
example, “Close your eyes. We are on a hillside with Jesus. The sun is
setting, and there is a crowd of restless people around him...”
◆ devising symbols and representing them with cut-out paper, stitchery
or some other art form
◆ creating puzzles or mazes
◆ writing and illustrating booklets or journals
◆ making a poster of newspaper headlines related to a Bible story
◆ research using maps and illustrated commentaries
◆ brainstorming words related to a concept and writing those words
around the central word (called webbing)
◆ writing a Bible verse in the shape of an object that symbolizes the
Those Who Learn by Touching and Moving
Kinesthetic/tactile learners do best when they touch and are physically
involved with what they are studying. They want to make, build, move
and do. Kinesthetic/tactile learners:
◆ learn and remember concepts through simulation, roleplay and drama
◆ enjoy learning via computer
◆ participate enthusiastically in parades, processions, dances, creative
drama and other whole-body activities
◆ memorize by copying words over and over
◆ want to move around during worship (lighting candles, collecting the
offering, ushering)
◆ like service projects that involve action (carting donated items for the
church sale, serving dinner at a community soup kitchen, taking newspapers to the recycling center, running in a marathon to raise money
for a cause, etc.)
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Chapter Two: The Learner
Activities appropriate for kinesthetic/tactile learners include:
◆ making sculpture
◆ working with play dough or cornstarch clay
◆ using sign language, charades, mime, creative drama, liturgical dance,
◆ using “body prayer” (slow, silent body movement somewhat like dance,
used as a form of prayer)
◆ using art materials with tactile interest, such as, pastels or finger paint
◆ building models of biblical scenes, such as, a vineyard (the setting for
several parables)
◆ making clay representations of biblical subjects, such as, the creation
story or the stations of the cross
◆ making and decorating gifts (jewelry, pencil holders, note pads, hot
pads, wind streamers, etc.) or making a mobile to illustrate a Bible
◆ playing an oversized version of a board game (Participants become the
playing pieces; big, painted boxes become the dice. Movement from
start to finish depends on answering questions about a scripture passage.)
◆ moving as if experiencing a particular feeling (sad like the disciples
were when Jesus died, happy like they were when he rose)
◆ finding and underlining words or sentences in different colors, highlighting, making written notes in the text as a study aid
Multiple Intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences is a formal presentation of what
most people have always known by observation: we are all different, and
we exhibit different strengths in various activities. You may love to read,
and consume books the way some people consume candy. Your best
friend rarely reads, but can reproduce a song on the piano after hearing
it once on the radio. Your daughter is a natural athlete, picking up any
sport after a few tries; your brother, meanwhile, has always felt most at
home in nature, and is drawn to environmental causes. You were always
amazed at your mother’s natural ease at dealing with and helping people, while your father seemed more in touch with himself and grounded
than anyone else in your family. The natural aptitude we demonstrate for
given activities or areas of interest reflect our innate “intelligences.”
How to Lead Adult Groups
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The theory of multiple intelligences, originally proposed by Dr. Howard
Gardner in 1983, suggests there are eight different intelligences (though
research continues on the possibility of others, including “spiritual intelligence”). His original eight include:
◆ linguistic (good with words)
◆ logical-mathematical (good with numbers/logical reasoning)
◆ spatial (good with pictures/visually sharp)
◆ bodily-kinesthetic (good with the body/coordination/movement)
◆ musical (good with reading/playing music, but also listening to/appreciating)
◆ interpersonal (relates well to others/listens/understands)
◆ intrapersonal (understands/relates well to self)
◆ naturalist (good with the nature/environment; enjoys/understands the
natural world)
Historically, our culture has placed greater value on only two of these
intelligences—linguistic and logical-mathematical. To “succeed” in our
educational system, you’ve needed to be good at either words or numbers. Lots of intelligent kids struggle, not because they’re “not smart,”
but because they’re smart in areas other than words or numbers.
The theory of multiple intelligences is useful for those who minister to
adults for two reasons: One, it helps us recognize the value of everyone in
our group, not just those who shine verbally or logically, and to look for
and affirm the strengths that every participant exhibits. Two, it emphasizes that there are different ways of knowing, so we can offer a rich variety of activities to the people we lead, addressing a broader range of
intelligences and making their experience richer for more participants,
more of the time.
We especially encourage faith-formation leaders to attempt to include
those activities they instinctively shy away from. If you’re a leader who
says, “I never do movement..,” try to find one way to include movement
activities—even if you need to recruit a helper. Remember, you too have
your own mix of intelligences from Gardner’s list, and you’re more likely
to choose activities that comfortably fit them.
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Chapter Two: The Learner
A Choice of Activities
It’s not important that you accurately identify each participant’s preferred
learning style or mix of intelligences. What is important is that you provide a choice of activities so that participants can find their own preferred ways to participate in your group.
As you watch participants make choices from their unique approaches to
learning, you can also better appreciate your unique style. Since the
beginning of time, there has never been another you, and in all time to
come, there never will be. As Carl Jung said, “We must think of life as
developing from within as well as from without... Each child bears within
himself the germ of his own personality.”
If we put learning style and multiple intelligences theory to use, we recognize that no single approach can meet all participants’ needs.
Standardizing our leading methods is a real temptation in our culture,
where we standardize everything from intelligence tests to premeasured
packets of coffee. When we celebrate diversity instead, we take our pattern from God, who delights in making so many people with so many different gifts to cherish.
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Chapter Three:
Using the Arts
In this chapter:
a rationale for using the arts in faith formation
help you’ll find in your session materials
The Arts and Faith Formation
As Christians, we affirm the goodness of God’s creation, and we constantly engage with God’s great, good creation in many ways: physically
(running, hugging, gardening), emotionally (laughing, crying, creating, loving, standing in awe of a spectacular sunset, expressing our love for family members), intellectually (reading, discussing, analyzing, exploring) and
spiritually (worshiping, appreciating, meditating, standing in awe before a
magnificent sunset or the intricate beauty of a newborn baby).
Faith-formation requires nothing less than this same, whole-person
experience. We encounter God (and others and ourselves), not only
through the intellect, but also through structures and activities drawn
from all of life’s “languages”: The language of movement. The language of
story. The language of relationships. The language of art.
We choose faith-formation activities for two reasons: First, they communicate content. That is, adults want to know the basic content of our faith.
We want to know the meaning of our common worship and the sacred
stories of scripture. Second, our faith-formation activities model process.
We want to participate fully in Christian community with all our varying
gifts and talents. The arts as learning-tools are uniquely suited to both
these purposes.
The Arts Build a Foundational Spiritual Vocabulary
We wouldn’t think of depriving children of language or other basic life
skills. We teach children—on purpose—the words, signs and symbols
needed to function in the world. At first, we teach the basics: yes and no,
hot and cold, 1-2-3, apple, ball. We teach them who Mommy and Daddy are,
and that an eight-sided street sign means Stop. With these kinds of
basics, they begin to navigate their world, making discoveries and meanings on their own.
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Chapter Three: Using the Arts
Learning the language of faith requires similar attention. Children (and
teens and adults) need instruction in the basics of Christian vocabulary,
along with some kind of roadmap to the world of “practical” Christianity.
We need to know what pray and church and Bible mean. We need an introduction to Jesus, his mother, Father and the Holy Spirit—not to mention
the whole cast of woolley characters from Adam and Eve to Paul and
Silas. Moreover, we need the words to describe our core Christian values:
love and help, togetherness and friendship, compassion, truth and forgiveness.
The arts can serve as an engaging way to expand on these Christian
basics. An artful, authentic rendering of a mother and child is a bridge to
Mary and baby Jesus—and the “feeling” in the picture has a name. A
piece of poetry-as-prayer becomes an experience of the loving communion of which it speaks—the words God and love come to life in new, richer
ways. Consider this: Is it the words or the melody of “Cumbayah” that
made our first contact with it not only memorable but, many years later,
prayerful as well? “Come by here, Lord. Come by here.”
The Arts Honor the Spirit of Creativity
We all enter the world as natural artists. Our appreciation for creation—
both ours and God’s—is uncluttered and deeply authentic. To a child, a
cardboard box is a skyscraper, a city bus or a place to serve tea; a random noise becomes the inspiration for a song; a fragment of song
becomes the inspiration for a dance. Children carry the entirety of the
possible with them into the next “moment of becoming”—that is, until
we train spontaneity out of them.
God is Creator. God is creativity, its source and its inspiration. A big
challenge in faith formation with children is to help them to remain
comfortable and present in the creative process, that is, close to God.
Exposing young children to the arts helps safeguard this creative spark
by sending the message: Divinity welcomed here. In the true spirit of
Christian unity, children can be encouraged to experience the artwork of
others for what it really is: an invitation to their own.
And by “children,” we also mean adolescents and adults. That divine creative urge remains in us all, even if culturally (including Church culture),
it’s only occasionally nurtured or encouraged. To draw close to God is to
draw close to creativity. To nurture creativity is to nurture faith.
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To view a painting by Marc Chagall or read a poem by Nazik ‘al-Mala-‘ika
is to invite God to open your heart and soul to new possibilities, to give
God the opportunity to disrupt your thinking, shake up your feelings and
usher you into a new space where you find fresh, original ways to perceive the world and your relationship to it.
To pick up a pen, paintbrush or ball of clay is to join God in the on-going
process of creation. What might come of it? An insight, a connection, a
release of emotion…who knows? The process, however, is the thing…
you and God joining hands, working together, creating.
The Arts and Community
Art activities establish and strengthen relationships. Where discussion
can sometimes serve to highlight our differences, allowing us to stay in
our heads, a common movement or art activity offers us a chance to
work with the gifts of others in a spirit of discovery and respect.
Art activities build community by allowing participants imaginative ways
to communicate who they are, what they feel and what they think about.
Art builds relationships by inviting adults to work together to do something they’ve never done before, inviting them to grow in the gifts needed for their common life in Christ.
A key message in Christian theology is that we are all one in God’s creation.
Fostering understanding in our multifaceted, multidimensional, multicultural world becomes a matter of revelation—seeing beneath what seems to
separate. The arts can be a place we discover each other and begin to recognize the voice and vision of every culture as our own. Arts-enriched activities help us find our points-in-common with the larger world.
The Arts Help Us Foster Healthy Development
Seemingly by divine design, every moment of experience has in it the
potential to teach us something wonderful about the world and to help
us become more competent in it. One place to learn about the wonders
of God and to discover our place in God’s creation is a world rich with
color, sound, texture and imagination. God’s abundance—as manifest in
the arts—provides the perfect setting to help adults become the full persons God intends them to be.
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Chapter Three: Using the Arts
The Arts Break through Routine
and Circumvent Our Defenses
Another discussion of the raising of Lazarus? Been there; done that. We
know the story, and we know how we’re supposed to respond. Nothing new.
Nothing uncomfortable. Is that what you want? Is that what God wants?
Then you’re looking at a painting of the raising of Lazarus. This isn’t how
you pictured it. It’s dark and creepy. There’s a small ray of light falling on
Lazarus’s face as he rises from the grave—and he looks like someone
half dead, half alive. You feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Wow, this is something! And who is that standing in the shadow? Is that
a woman? Is that one of his sisters? Whoever it is, they look as bad as he
does. You never really thought about what this moment might mean to
her—how her life will be forever changed. And that other patch of light—
that must be Jesus. What if this hadn’t worked? What if Lazarus had not
come forth? How would Jesus have felt then? How is he feeling now?
How will this change the way he thinks of himself? How he thinks of his
friends and followers?
When we engage with the arts, both as observer (who sees/hears/touches/responds to art) and participant (who creates/expresses using the
methods of art) we get in touch with what is most authentic in our
human (and therefore Christian) experience. We are drawn below the
surface of daily life—fast, flashy, distracting—to what matters most—the
spirit, the heart, the soul. We slow down and truly see, listen and be. Our
culture does not encourage this, but God invites it. God invites us to
welcome and experience what we feel, to examine and critique what we
think, to stand in awe or sit silently in God’s presence, fully in the
moment, attentive to the detail, willing to listen.
Using music, literature or the visual arts can do a quick end run around
our natural defenses, facilitating a deeper look into the stories we otherwise take for granted. We see with new eyes, hear with new ears, experience scripture, the world, each other and God in fresh, original ways.
Throughout your Living the Good News sessions, you’ll find art used to
help overcome the inertia of familiarity and repetition. Think you’ve heard
the story? Not like this. Suddenly you hear it again—for the first time.
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The Arts in the Living
the Good News Curriculum
Whether you’re an experienced arts educator, or new to either learning
through the arts or to faith-formation work, we’ve supplied what you’ll
need to use the arts effectively with any age level.
Each quarter, you’ll find rich art resources to use with your curriculum:
fine art reproductions, musical selections, great literature and ageappropriate arts-based activities combine to draw peoples’ imaginations
into the gospel in new and challenging ways. We provide information
and tips to help you:
◆ lead activities in effective ways
◆ respond appropriately to the art work of participants
◆ engage the group—and yourself!—with the works of art provided.
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Chapter Three: Using the Arts
Chapter Four:
Preparing a Living
the Good News Session
In this chapter:
guidelines for session planning
preparing a typical session
a description of a sample adult session
Guidelines for Planning a Session
Each week, choose one idea that you plan to focus on with the participants. Choose activities that explore this focus and that offer choices
for learners who might prefer different learning styles, quiet or active
activities, group or individual work, the familiar and the unfamiliar.
◆ Feel free to explore only a few activities that will fit comfortably into
your time together. You do not have to offer every activity in the curriculum to be a success.
◆ We know extra time is hard to find, but try to do as much preparation
before the session as you can, so that during the session you have
time to communicate the most important messages of all:
— “We are glad you are here.”
— “We have time for you.”
— “You are respected here.”
— “You are important to God and to all of us.”
Preparing a Session
Let’s look at two possibilities:
◆ Leading participants is your primary Christian ministry. You want to
spend at least an hour of preparation time during the week before you
meet with your group. You want your preparation time to nourish you
as well as the participants you’ll lead. In this scenario, we suggest
spending a short time on preparation over several days:
— Day one: Take a look at “Session Essentials.” Is there any advance
preparation you need to make? Are there any special materials you
need to gather? (5-15 minutes)
— Day two: In “Session Essentials,” look over the Format of the session. Which Enrichment activities do you want to include or omit?
Decide on a schedule for your group. (5-10 minutes)
— Day three: In “Helps for Leaders,” read the scripture background.
Use the Reflection to meditate on the week’s gospel. (10-20 minutes)
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— Day four: Consider the discussion questions in the Core Session.
Consider your own responses, and think ahead to what challenging
responses participants might give. (10-15 minutes)
— Day five: Decide which Enrichment activities to include. Make sure
you have the materials for these. (5-30 minutes)
— Day six: Expand your knowledge with the rest of the “Helps for
Leaders” or material on the Enhanced CD Interactive Disc. (15-20
◆ Your ministry is important to you, too, but life is hectic. It’s an hour
before you’re supposed to teach, and you don’t have time for reflection, study or practice. You still want to do a good job, though, and
you can. We suggest:
— Look over “Session Essentials” to find all the information you have
to have at a glance.
— Skip any optional Enrichment activities and stick to the core session.
— Gather together the materials. Omit any materials marked optional.
— Keep your quarterly Guide handy during the session to quickly look
over activities as you need to.
— Before you start, take a deep breath and remember: your most
important job is just to be. Be respectful. Be caring. Be present.
Know that you and the participants are blessed to be together.
What Does a Typical Session Look Like?
As participants arrive, friends greet one another. You make time for
this exchange of greetings, welcoming newcomers, acknowledging current local, national or worldwide concerns.
◆ You begin with a quick opening activity (a meditation, brainstorming,
one thought-provoking question, etc.), then move into discussion of
the scripture readings.
◆ You choose discussions and activities appropriate for your group,
keeping in mind the group’s size, its shared goals and the time you
have available. You might invite participants to make choices: some
participants might prefer a Biblical focus, while others want to explore
the visual arts, literature or music.
◆ You choose at least one discussion or activity to bring everyone
together again. Most often, the group will unify around the gospel
◆ You close with prayer based on the session activities, the day’s psalm
or the group’s own preference. You look ahead to next week’s session
with this group of brother and sister Christians who, together with you,
are committed to living the Good News in their daily lives.
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Chapter Four: Preparing a Living the Good News Session
A Sample Session
For an example, this is how a Living the Good News adult session
might explore the Advent gospel from Luke that contains Mary’s song of
joy in the approaching birth of Jesus (Luke 1:39-49). What do we want to
keep in mind as leaders of adults during such a session? We know participants are stressed with Christmas preparations. We want to acknowledge their stress, but also to explore the joy of Mary, which represents
the joy of the Church in God’s gift of our Lord. Finally, we want to
explore the story in the context of the Church’s teaching and worship.
First, we invite participants to quickly list all the things that are on their
minds as they prepare for Christmas. Then we ask them to fold this page
and set it aside for the duration of the session, as a way to symbolize
their choice to take time out of their busy lives to reflect on God’s word.
Next we read together a prophecy from the Old Testament concerning
the coming of a savior. Participants reflect on the prophet’s message for
his contemporaries and the relevance of that message to our society
today. A discussion of a passage from Hebrews about God’s blessings
encourages participants to consider their own blessings.
Group members take part in a dramatic reading of Mary’s song, then find
ways that Mary’s words become their own words. They see how various
artists have interpreted this event over time and perhaps participate creatively by writing haiku or experimenting with a woodcut technique. The
session concludes with a prayer of joyful thanksgiving for God’s blessings
in the life of the Church and the lives of the participants.
An ideal preparation for such a session would not involve gathering
materials and supplies—the materials used are minimal—so much as
making time to gather yourself. When you come to the session prepared
to be present to both God’s word in the readings and God’s people gathered with you, you can trust that God will be present, too. This is the
heart of preparation: be present. And trust in God.
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Chapter Five:
Exploring Scripture with Adults
In this chapter:
tips for exploring scripture with adults
a worksheet about open-ended questions
sample discussions from an adult session
Bible Study
The adult sessions in the Living the Good News curriculum present to
participants the fullest exploration of the weekly readings. Younger age
levels might explore only one or two readings, but most adult sessions of
Living the Good News offer discussions based on all the weekly readings.
Adult sessions offer both discussions and “learning-by-doing” activities.
These activities involve the whole person—senses, emotions, mind and
spirit. We believe a learning-by-doing approach can help participants
grasp an idea more fully than they would through intellect alone.
We encourage you to incorporate at least some of these activities into
your group’s time together. Many adults may feel awkward when invited
to work with clay or pipe cleaners, or to create songs or poetry; they may
feel these are childish activities. Such concrete experiences, however, can
serve to move group members from learning about an idea toward an
understanding of the idea. The discussion during the project may also be
a valuable by-product.
Discussing Scripture
At the heart of a Living the Good News adult session is discussion of
the week’s scripture. We recommend that most discussion of scripture be
based on open-ended questions. We’ve included a worksheet to help you
explore this technique.
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Chapter Five: Exploring Scripture with Adults
Another common technique we use is to vary the discussion between large
group and small group settings. Large groups can be a good way for participants to encounter a diversity of opinion. Small groups can be a good way
for participants to explore more deeply a limited question or selection of
issues related to the day’s scripture. When possible, we recommend that
small groups offer feedback to the larger group gathered together.
We encourage leaders to find ways to communicate the group’s explorations to the leadership or membership of the church. Examples:
◆ The group could meet with outreach workers to share a list of brainstormed service options
◆ The group could write an article for the church newsletter
◆ The group could schedule a brief meeting with the clergy and lay leadership to communicate concerns raised during discussions
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Open-Ended Questions
An open-ended question elicits many possible answers. Examples:
◆ What’s on your mind today?
What do you think tomorrow might bring?
If you could only choose one gospel to read for the next year, which
would you choose and why?
Some questions elicit limited answers. Examples:
◆ What’s your name?
How old are you?
How many gospels are in the New Testament?
We can use limited-answer questions to quickly find information or test
knowledge, but richer dialogues begin with open-ended questions:
◆ If you had to pick a new name for yourself, what would you pick? Why?
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Chapter Five: Exploring Scripture with Adults
What do you like best about being just the age you are?
What do you hear Jesus say in this story?
Open-ended questions encourage learners to analyze, reflect, dig deeper.
Following are several open-ended questions that will work with any scripture story. Read the questions. Reflect on possible answers. What other
scripture-study questions could you invent?
◆ What did you hear in today’s story?
What gospel story do you find most challenging?
If everyone in the world heard today’s gospel and took it to heart, how
would the world be different?
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Sample Discussions
For an example, here are two sample discussions from Living the Good
News adult sessions. In Year C of the lectionary readings, participants
will explore the Advent gospel from Luke that contains Mary’s song of
joy in the approaching birth of Jesus (Luke 1:39-49).
Mary’s faith is affirmed and supported by the faith of Elizabeth her
Ask for two volunteers to read Luke 1:39-45, one taking the narrator’s
part, the other taking the part of Elizabeth.
Invite group members to discuss the following after rereading the gospel
◆ Why might Mary have made the trip to see Elizabeth?
— What do you think Mary felt when Elizabeth responded to her
— What is your reaction to Elizabeth’s faith-filled announcement?
◆ What part does the Holy Spirit play in this meeting?
— What part does the Holy Spirit play in helping us to recognize
God’s presence in others?
◆ What kind of support did Mary and Elizabeth give to each other?
◆ Why does Elizabeth call Mary “blessed”?
Later in Year C, participants have a chance to respond to Paul’s description of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
Paul emphasizes the meaning of the gospel and his role in proclaiming it.
Ask a volunteer to read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, then discuss the
following questions:
◆ What does the word gospel mean?
◆ How does Paul summarize the gospel in this passage? (List the points on
the board or newsprint.)
— When you think of the good news of Jesus, what seems most
significant to you? Why?
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Chapter Five: Exploring Scripture with Adults
What personal meaning does Jesus’ resurrection have for Paul according to these verses?
— In what way does Paul reinforce his apostolic authority in this passage? Why might this be important for the early Church?
— Why does Paul call himself the least of the apostles? What impact
does this reasoning have on you?
◆ What does the term “grace of God” mean to us?
— What risks did Paul take in order to experience God’s grace?
— In what ways have we experienced God’s grace bringing us into
◆ Based on his statement in verse 9, would Paul have been our choice
for an apostle? Why or why not?
— What does God’s choice of Paul tell us about God’s power to make
us new?
Guidelines for Discussion Leaders
In the two sample discussions above, note how often open-ended questions are asked. Again, such questions do not have “right” answers, but
rather can invite a wealth of creative, thoughtful responses. What happens if we hear a response that we can’t agree with? We can still
acknowledge the response, and the person who made it, in positive
ways. Consider responses that affirm, such as:
◆ So you feel that...
◆ You see it this way...
As we work together with adults, we can be sure of one thing: there is no
single way of looking at any aspect of Christian life. A leader who recognizes and values differences is a leader who will elicit wholehearted participation from members of the group.
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Chapter Six:
Praying with Adults
In this chapter:
diversity in worship
prayer in the Living the Good News curriculum
tips for praying with adults
Diversity in Religious Experience
Just as we have varied learning styles and unique blends of intelligences,
we have varied tastes in worship and prayer, too. Some of us like to
come to church to hear the music or sing in the choir. Some of us look
forward to a thought-provoking sermon, while others prefer time for
silence and meditation. Some of us like the beauty of a traditional
church building, and almost all of us take pleasure in joining with
friends and loved ones for worship.
Just as you take into account varied learning styles and multiple intelligences
in planning for diverse activities, we would encourage you to take into
account these varied tastes as you plan prayer experiences for the group.
Praying Together
At the end of each session plan, you will find a section called Praying
Together. This activity offers, over the course of a year, varied prayer
experiences to the group. You might find a prayer based on the day’s
psalm, or other liturgical prayers or phrases. Often a session suggests a
prayer topic related to the lectionary readings, with suggestions for
spontaneous prayer.
Sometimes you will find suggestions for active prayer:
silent prayer with body movements
musical versions of prayer
unfinished prayers (You begin by saying, “Dear God, today we pray
for...” Each person in your circle finishes the prayer.)
◆ imaginative prayer, when we visualize ourselves with Jesus
◆ writing prayers as acrostics or poems
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Chapter Six: Praying with Adults
We’ll help you by giving easy instructions for leading different prayer
experiences. Don’t feel you have to stick to our directions or use our
words; think of our ideas as recipes that you can change to suit the
tastes of your group.
A Sample Prayer Time
In this session, group members have discussed the relationship between
baptism and our call to be God’s servants. They have explored a reading
from Isaiah describing the ministry of God’s servant, then compared
those descriptions to similar readings in Acts and the Gospel of Luke.
During a discussion of baptism, they have identified ways that they have
experienced God’s power and call to service.
The session closes with this prayer activity:
Invite group members to stand as you read sections of the Nicene
Creed, a statement of our basic beliefs as Christians. After each section, pause and invite group members to offer thanks for the work of
God in them personally and in the community.
Close the prayer time by reading the last verse of Psalm 29: “May the Lord
give strength to all people! May the Lord bless all people with peace!”
Tips for Prayer
Whether you adapt our prayers or invent your own prayer activities, you
might want to keep these tips in mind:
◆ Plan a session that will leave time for unhurried prayer.
◆ Some groups will want a special place in the room set up for quiet
prayer. This place can have sacred art on the wall, fresh flowers on a
small table or simply be a roomy, empty space.
◆ Other groups will want to gather together in a prayer circle in the middle of a large, empty space. This arrangement allows for a better sense
of community.
◆ Prayer time ends most comfortably with a ritual that’s repeated each
week. The ritual can be as simple as exchanging a gesture of peace, or
hearing the leader say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with us this
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Chapter Seven:
Using Creative Activities with Adults
In this chapter:
◆ exploring creative drama
◆ guidelines to art activities
◆ guidelines to music activities
◆ guidelines to writing activities
Creative Drama
Creative drama, mime and storytelling offer leaders excellent ways to
explore faith and scripture in adult sessions. Another approach is “readers’
theater,” the dramatic reading of a story from scripture by a narrator and
others who read the parts of the various characters. (You might want to give
the audience a part as well, maybe sound effects or cheering for the hero!)
Some of the activities in Living the Good News sessions suggest dramatizations of incidents from scripture, with the players making up their
own dialogue. These informal skits provide an enjoyable way for participants to explore the details, as well as the emotional content, of an incident. At other times, groups are asked to plan and present a brief skit on
some real-life situation related to a key idea.
In a typical adult session, drama in all its forms should be done in a
spontaneous fashion—no memorizing of lines or elaborate props and
costumes. Encourage participants to project themselves into the scene
and to use their own words to express feelings and ideas. If a group
chooses to put a biblical event in a modern setting, welcome current
idioms of speech and humor.
Enjoying a learning experience makes it a memorable encounter. Humor
is one key; sometimes laughing at human folly produces that “Ah-ha!”
experience, when suddenly we come to a new realization about ourselves.
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Chapter Seven: Using Creative Activities with Adults
Dramatized stories, mock biblical “newscasts,” parables enacted in modern settings—all communicate the Word in lively, engaging fashion.
Incorporating the dramatic arts in Christian education helps us discover
that we are indeed co-creators with God.
These methods allow all ages to work, talk, play and create together.
They provide an arena in which individuals may express who they really
are. Such a shared experience engages us directly with scripture, evoking
insights that can inspire significant change and growth.
The arts are a way of knowing and responding to religious experience. A
painting, a poem, a drawing can be a silent reminder of an important
encounter or insight. Art can also offer us an important channel through
which we express our understandings, beliefs and feelings. In fact,
through participation in art, a person’s understandings may deepen and
come into focus. Many people can express ideas more readily in a visual
way than by verbal means. Not least of all, art in individual or cooperative form can be satisfying and fun.
However, even as we firmly assert all these benefits of including art in
adult sessions, we need to affirm: many adults do not want to participate
in art projects. Many participants have decided at some point in their
lives that they are “no good” at art. You will not find the same readiness
to tackle any subject that marks the free approach of a young child.
Many adults will show more interest if you offer art projects that do not
depend on drawing: collage, sculpture, painting, posters, etc. Other
adults will be grateful for an alternative activity when you have planned a
visual arts project.
Be especially sensitive about asking adult participants to show others
their work. Allow everyone the option of keeping a response private.
Some art projects that adults generally find more inviting than drawing
◆ Making a poster that incorporates ads, graffiti writing or newspaper
headlines. This allows those participants who strongly prefer verbal
expression to contribute to a visual arts project.
◆ Working with clay. There’s something about kneading and molding clay
that invites adults into silent, absorbed appreciation of the experience
in their hands. Other tactile sculpting materials include pipe cleaners
and ordinary kitchen foil.
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Creating art in response to either music or poetry. One leader posted
on the board a Langston Hughes poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
The words “my soul has grown deep like the rivers” prompted a surprising willingness in the participants to draw and paint their responses.
In music, we experience the joy and wonder of Christian faith. Whether
bright or mysterious, soothing or lively, music invites us into the open
arms of God, a God eager to sweep us into the dance of Christian community and worship. We urge you to include music, often part of the
Enrichment Activities, in your session. Specific songs are included on
the Enhanced CD Audio Disc. Listening to recorded music is an activity
most groups will easily accept. Creating or making their own music
might take more of your time and effort to initiate or sustain.
One often-successful activity invites participants to invent lyrics for old
tunes. Another is drawing with the non-dominant hand as music plays,
to see what shapes emerge freely.
You can invite music ministers to teach a song or to lead a hymn-sing.
You can ask volunteers to prepare a mime, a movement activity or a
liturgical dance to accompany a song sung by the whole group. To
encourage singing, use songs familiar to the participants. Try to connect
the music used in your sessions with the music used in worship, integrating your whole church community.
Writing activities can help adults:
◆ explore and remember Bible stories
◆ tell their own personal stories, exploring feelings and enhancing selfesteem
◆ create imaginative stories
Writing, from lists to stories, are activities frequently found in the curriculum. Here are some suggestions drawn from Living the Good News
◆ Respond to a piece of writing with various art materials.
◆ Discuss similarities between a writer’s experience and personal
◆ Work together to write a group poem or prayer.
◆ Create a conversation between pieces of art, literature or music.
◆ Use a prompt similar to a line of literature, and ask participants to
complete the sentence.
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Chapter Seven: Using Creative Activities with Adults
Two special activities that involve words and writing are “webbing” and
To “web,” write a word in the center of the board or sheet of newsprint.
Then ask participants to write the words that come to mind as they think
about this word. Participants connect these new words to the central
word with drawn lines, resembling the strands of a spider’s web. As participants continue to define and expand these new words, the “web”
grows, revealing a wealth of meanings and associations for the original
word at the center of the web. This is a powerful way to open up the
meaning of important words that we sometimes use as jargon:
◆ faith
◆ salvation
◆ grace
◆ Jesus
Often an activity will say “Brainstorm a list of ways to... “ or “Brainstorm
the kinds of feelings you have when...”
Brainstorming means having everyone throw out ideas in rapid succession. All the participants need to agree on the basic rules of the game:
◆ do not judge or evaluate ideas
◆ do not wait to be called on; just speak up
◆ add on to what others say
One participant should list all ideas on the board or newsprint. The values of brainstorming are:
◆ it encourages everyone to offer ideas, and to hear their voices contributing to a discussion
◆ it presents some “way-out” ideas that often lead to a fresh perspective
◆ it encourages a cooperative, working-together atmosphere where people learn through experience that listening to others and offering their
own feedback make for a richer discussion or solution
If you need to teach a group how to brainstorm, you might explain the
process and then let members try it on a topic such as “How many ways
can we use a newspaper?”
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Chapter Eight:
Ministering TO Adults
In this chapter:
tips on building community
affirming the participants in your group
connecting Living the Good News sessions with individual goals
Building Community
People feel more at ease in a room of friends than a room of strangers.
Making time at the beginning of your sessions to build community will
give you and the participants a warmer, more connected group of people.
This warmth and sense of connection can provide a safe place for people
to raise their deepest doubts and concerns about their Christian journeys.
At your first session, you may want to spend most of the time in these or
similar community-building activities:
◆ Divide participants into interview pairs. At the end of 3-5 minutes, ask
each participant to introduce his or her partner to the group.
◆ Ask participants to design personal name tags. Each participant picks
a shape and adds details that show the group something about who
he or she is. For example, a participant could make a name tag in the
shape of a guitar to show that she likes to play music.
Know Your Group
Make sure that you, too, spend time getting to know the participants in
your group. One way you can show respect for group members is by
using their names exactly as they want them used. (Some participants
still prefer slightly formal address. Others have nicknames that are
important to them.)
Another way is to listen to group members’ interests and concerns. Each
week, jot down notes about each participant. What does each group
member like? dislike? feel strongly about? What have you learned about
him or her this week?
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Chapter Eight: Ministering TO Adults
Other ways to show respectful attention to the learners in your group
◆ adapting the schedules and activities chosen to the needs of your
◆ including activities that appeal to every kind of learner (Read more
about this in Chapter Two.)
◆ inviting group members to participate in the planning process. What
issues, concerns or activities do they find of most interest? What do
they feel would make group time more worthwhile or workable?
◆ seeing your role as that of a “facilitator” rather than a “boss.” Model a
spirit of servanthood as Jesus did when he washed his disciples’ feet.
Supporting Group Members
Jesus teaches us to love others as we love ourselves. Encouraging participants to value themselves, recognizing their individual uniqueness and
beauty in all of God’s vast creation, is an indispensable step in supporting their faith journeys. As leaders, we do this best when we offer sessions that appeal to the diverse needs of our participants, and that
receive their diverse contributions with respect and appreciation.
Revisit the varied goals of adult learners that we explored in Chapter
Two. This time, consider the participants in your group as you read.
Which participants might benefit from some of the suggestions we offer?
We suggested that some possible goals for adult learners are:
◆ To grow in their own spiritual journey; to follow Jesus Christ more
These group members will especially appreciate those discussions that
focus most on our daily and weekly personal choices. You’ll find at least
one such discussion in every session we offer, since our curriculum goal is
to empower people to change their lives through shared discussions of
the Sunday readings.
◆ To participate in an interesting session; to feel that their contributions
to a group are valued, regardless of their race, class, gender or learning
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These group members welcome the diversity of activities suggested in a
typical Living the Good News session. They will especially appreciate
those activities that solicit and affirm individual contributions.
— brainstorming activities (see Chapter Seven for more information
on brainstorming)
— prayers in which group members take turns contributing a
sentence or two
— posters, murals or other group projects that draw on contributions
from each participant
◆ To explore basic theological concepts; to evaluate discussions in the
context of informed biblical interpretation and the theology of the
◆ To explore scripture; to enter more deeply into our biblical heritage.
All Living the Good News sessions are written to include the insights of
both contemporary biblical scholarship and theological concerns. You’ll
find the information available in “Helps for Leaders,” particularly the
scripture backgrounds (also available in the Adult Journals), of interest to
group members who want to explore scripture and theology more deeply.
◆ To carry out any preparations or follow-up away from the sessions with
a minimum of time and exertion. People live busy lives!
Living the Good News recognizes the many demands on adult
Christians today. We offer sessions that are complete in and of themselves, with Adult Journals that fit easily around the group members’
own schedules. Furthermore, instead of presenting adults with a series
of scriptures and lessons that compete with the Sunday readings, adults
can simplify their study and prayer by centering their efforts on the scriptures they will hear at church.
◆ To explore the rich heritage of the Church, including its liturgy and
prayer; to communicate the joy they feel in the prayer and life of the
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Chapter Eight: Ministering TO Adults
Just as each session is based on the Sunday readings, so is each quarter
based on the Church year, with seasonal prayers, psalms and reflections
that enrich participants’ experience of liturgical prayer. In “Helps for
Leaders,” you’ll find information on feasts, seasons and saints of the
year; use this information for your own preparation, or share it (as
appropriate) with the group. The sessions always conclude with shared
prayer and frequently include time for meditation and reflection within
the session.
◆ To have a safe forum where they can explore the everyday issues that
challenge them most deeply: work, family, political values, economic
concerns, etc.
Again, the discussions of every session of Living the Good News are
designed to help participants explore together the implications of their
faith for their daily lives. Together, in the light of the faith community’s
insights, group members consider their own responses to challenging
personal and civic issues. Participants will also welcome the outreach
suggestions you’ll find in Chapter Nine.
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Chapter Nine:
Ministering WITH Adults
In this chapter:
guidelines for outreach ministry
suggested outreach projects
Ministering Together
Throughout the gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples that importance is
measured by willingness to serve. As a leader, your ministry includes
supporting the participants’ involvement in the servant ministry of Jesus,
and helping them recognize their own share in that ministry.
When we turn our attention to service projects that reach beyond the
session time and place, the first temptation is to offer participants a
chance to collect money or food for others. This is valuable work, and we
do need to share in the Church’s gathering and distribution of funds to
carry out its work in the world.
However, collecting money or food for people they never actually meet
shortchanges participants from experiencing the full benefits of sharing
in the work of the Church. We recommend that as you plan service projects this year, you consider including projects that:
◆ invite participation by members of the church from all generations
◆ bring participants into direct contact with the people being served
◆ are ongoing; giving participants the opportunity to participate
throughout the year
◆ allow participants to make choices in how they will participate
Beginning Outreach
Some early questions you and other participants can explore are:
◆ What outreach opportunities exist now in our community?
◆ What outreach opportunities do we wish were present in our community?
◆ What outreach work do we already do?
◆ What outreach work do we wish we were doing?
◆ How could we support one another in sustaining ongoing outreach
◆ How could we support one another in initiating new outreach ministries?
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Chapter Nine: Ministering WITH Adults
Take time to explore these questions over more than one session. Be willing to come back to these questions from time to time, as you evaluate
the group’s ongoing outreach. After a discussion or activity that encourages participation in church outreach or social justice programs, follow
up with practical information participants can use. Consider providing
information about the next food or clothing drive, or dates and times for
participants to help out at the soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
The Beatitudes would provide one natural starting place for such a discussion. Participants might want to list specific ways in which they could
put into action the call of the Beatitudes: turn away from consumerism
toward a simpler life, seek peaceful resolution of conflict, comfort those
who mourn, etc.
Another natural starting place would be exploring the commitment to
peace and justice of contemporary men and women: Mother Teresa,
Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Gandhi or Martin
Luther King, Jr.
Outreach Suggestions
Serving food, in person, to the hungry is one highly effective way to
develop a sense of stewardship and service. Encourage participants to
serve in a church or community soup kitchen. If there is a Thanksgiving
meal for those in need, try to take part with other members of the group.
If no such meal exists in the community, is the group being called to
begin one?
Group members could “adopt,” for regular visits, rides and help with
errands, one or more shut-in members of the church. Inviting these members into participants’ homes would be another possible outreach ministry.
Acknowledging multicultural contributions both to the church and to the
community can make for a ministry all its own. Consider preceding or
following a session with a pot luck featuring ethnic foods brought by participants in the group. These days, many different ethnic groups are represented in a typical group: Hispanics from Central America, Asians from
Viet Nam or the Philippines, African Americans, families descended from
immigrants from Western European countries, such as, Poland, Ireland,
Italy, etc. Welcome their music and enter into their customs.
Consider learning a prayer phrase or piece of liturgy in many languages,
representing the backgrounds of your group or community. Learn which
“heroes” or holidays have special meaning to these cultures. Participate
as a group in one such celebration.
How to Lead Adult Groups
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Invite a panel of Christians who have experienced life in other countries
to talk about similarities and differences in their religious experience.
Invite panelists to speak about their experiences in areas such as liturgy,
religious education, symbols, celebrations and images of Jesus and God.
Find out what special needs immigrants to your community have and
consider, as a group, ways to help meet those needs.
Finally, consider, as a group, what other populations experience special
needs in our churches and communities:
◆ people with disabilities
◆ people with substance abuse issues
◆ gay and lesbian people
◆ the homeless
◆ children and adolescents
◆ single-parent households
What difference do we make in their lives? What difference can we make
in their lives? What difference should we make in their lives?
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