Facilitator’s Notes

1. How do we set up groups?

Some will be doing this in groups which are already running. It will need to be explained to them that the Big Read depends on individuals actually reading their bit for each day! There are no pre-planned ‘study materials’. The material is what they will have read.

Other groups will be specially set up for Lent. It is suggested that you look at the layout of the book and the number of weeks of readings and decide when you are best to hold your meetings. And ensure that those who sign up both have a copy of ‘Lent for everyone’ and are committed to reading the readings (if only in the abbreviated section!).

2. Let the group know in advance which week’s readings you will be discussing. Don’t plan to cover all seven readings; make sure they don’t expect to cover all seven either!

3. Read the readings each day for yourself, letting them touch you according to your own needs. Be aware of which passages may especially touch group members, but know that you cannot prepare for all eventualities!

4. Decide which two readings you might focus on if the group are not forthcoming. If they do talk a lot it will probably be best to see which readings impacted them most and find out why.

5. Encourage conversation about two of the readings, or about whole themes which arise from the week. Be aware that some people will be very accepting of the message of hope in the gospel, and very moved by the stories. Others might be much more questioning, as if to say ‘well, these wonderful things have never happened to me!’ Do encourage both sides of the argument: scripture itself has this conflict (e.g. much of the Old Testament tells of God’s faithfulness, the book of Job questions whether God might not be faithful . Luke chapter 1 starts about an orderly account and a secure basis for the gospel, and then introduces us to a good faithful priest, who is suddenly thrown into disorder and insecurity!)

The doubters in your group or the ones with a fresh approach, and the ones who are more ‘traditional’ in their tone, may all have something positive to offer. There is no need for all to agree or to have every question answered. It will be important, sensitively, to offer to God in prayer the things the group hasn’t been able to resolve, or the further areas in which we might need to learn. Have some simple prayers or prayer ideas ready–not just out of a book or ‘off-the-cuff’ but something that will help express the needs of ALL members of the group.

6. You may like one week to try the ‘lectio divina’ divine reading approach, but do allow enough time (at least 25 minutes) for it. Give people a chance afterwards to say which of the four approaches came alive most for them and why.

7. Think through in advance for each week ways in which Matthew’s stories may make special connections with the life-stories of group members. Have suitable leading questions ready!

8. Be aware that some bible stories may bring up difficult pastoral issues for members. Allow them, if they wish, to share difficult experiences. Consider ways in which prayer support might be offered, but beware of ‘easy answers’ for long-term problems. Be appreciative, and never ever dismissive. A basic agreement about confidentiality needs to be achieved in the first session.

9. Agree with the group about a finishing time and stick to it.

10. Realise that you can’t do everything in one night, but be deeply encouraged if your group has managed to learn in all these three ways:

  • on the affective level (their emotions and feelings)
  • “behavioural” (what they do)
  • “cognitive level” (knowing more)

If you have helped them to learn deeply in this way – if only from one of the week’s passages, you will have done a successful job – and left them hungry for more!

With thanks to  Alastair Macnaughton Director of Developing Discipleship, Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership, who wrote this for ‘The Big Read 2010‘.

About bigbible

The #BigBible Project. Educating in the digital spaces, creating 'bigger Bible conversations' between #digidisciple(s). Look out for #bigread14.