Testing out Week 1 of #bigbible

As you may have seen from the video, my housegroup has started pre-testing the material, so here’s a few thoughts from the session that we had last week… You can “meet” us in the forum, but we’re a group in our 30s and 40s, including a number of ‘devils advocates’ question wise! This is a real housegroup in action with the material!!

What about the project?

This entire project is quite experimental in using the possibilities of digital technology, so we thought about some ideas for that first…

  1. We talked about the general aims of ‘The Big Read’, especially the challenge to mix up housegroups. One idea that was raised for this was that every housegroup could ‘swap’ a member once a month with another housegroup.
  2. For the Main Course, we talked about the possibility of having a poll each week (the forum has this facility), which encouraged feedback, e.g. 7/10 of the group thought that ‘x’.
  3. We talked about those who are joining just the ‘virtual housegroup’. Should this have a name and a clear leader? Should there be subgroups within it (depends how many join… the impression so far is that many are doing this as a physical housegroup, and many are still nervous of using the forum)?

So what of the ‘menu’ itself?

  1. Nibbles? Our housegroup has always met for a meal before engaging with whichever activity we have chosen, and I made the mistake of  offering to cook, so I forgot to take ‘the book‘ with me, but as the material is largely self-contained, and we can use whichever version of the Bible we choose (we compared ‘The Message’ and ‘The NIV’), the session worked well. We talked about the ice-breakers, but as our group knows each other well, but hasn’t necessarily seen each other for a while, conversation flowed easily. We did talk about the possibility of another game, in which the group ‘draws lots’, and talks about who draws what, and the impact that might have on them as individuals.
  2. Main Course? Leaders may choose to print off materials from e.g. Bible Gateway or photocopy materials, but need to ensure that the group has the reading in front of them, whether you use the audio readings provided by Pray as You Go or not, as this allows discussion of some of the detail, using the very open questions as a starting point.
    1. After we had got past the ‘modern connections’ of Zebedee/The Magic Roundabout and the slightly unfortunate translation in The Message that “they mended their fishnets”, we tackled the questions.
    2. We talked about ‘being called by name’, that they were called/offered a choice, and that they chose to accept it (free will/not forced).
    3. We talked about whether the men, in abandoning their responsibilities and families without a backward glance was positive… and whether Jesus’s group would have been regarded as a cult at the time.
    4. We talked about the fact that ‘Jesus healed all ailments’, and those who struggle not to be healed in the modern day/what that might mean. We went on to talk about ‘mental health’, and the difficulties that the church has in accepting that this is something that needs healing as much. We talked about the use of the word ‘demons’ (only in one version), which now brings up connotations of ‘Buffy’ and TV shows of that genre. As ‘real’ beings, it is unfashionable to believe that they actually exist, but it brings a much deeper spiritual dimension to the reading/the world we live in.
    5. We talked about the renaming of Simon Peter, and how this can be confusing to follow ‘the same character’ through the Bible, especially as we don’t live in the same cultural context where names mean quite so much.
    6. On looking through the reflection, once we’d got through the discussion about visions of the Pied Piper, and the notion of pigs jumping off cliffs in a computer game style, we talked about the reflection, and particularly focused on the idea of ‘Follow Me’ not just ‘do.  We noted that it’s impossible to be Jesus as he was perfect, and that often we are so busy doing we do not have time to be, and that we need to learn to slow down. [Note from Bex: ever since I first read this in early January, this has been a challenge to me, and not for the first time, but the challenges are getting louder!] Is the job of churches to enable people, not to do? Or will different people do different things at different stages of life. In reality, most churches rely upon the ‘15% of doers’… could the load be spread, or is it good to have a space to relax and ‘worship’ (whatever ‘worship’ may mean to different people).
    7. What is the purpose of a housegroup came from this, how do we care for the people within it? The ‘job’ of the group is to love, care, nurture (and challenge) the people in the group.
  3. Pudding? This may be where the leader needs to be prepared to push the group into one area or another (and get a volunteer OK to take notes and post discussions to the forum), as we spent a while looking at the different options before plumping for ‘We are surrounded by a diversity of people on all sides’ under the ‘Steamed Puddings’, although not before we’d had a quick discussion of ‘WWJD’, and wondered if it should not be ‘WWJND’ (so we may not know what he would do, but can more easily know what he would NOT do)… and the use of our ‘conscience’ in identifying our actions.
    1. With members of the group with knowledge of a number of medical conditions, we talked about the idea of ‘labelling’ (which someone in the States has called ‘nature deficit disorder’), and a version of Gulliver’s Travels in which everyone has ‘an illness’/’an excuse’: when someone comes along who says he’s fine, he is labelled as having ‘delusional disorder’. Do we have a responsibility to make people see that they have a problem, do we see too much, is ADHD an excuse for unrulyness… do we care too much for ‘a name’/’a label’. With a couple in the group with a son who has sensory deafness post-meningitis, they talked about what had happened, and that often diagnoses seem to come with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Others in the group talked about the psychology of being in a gym session where the instructor says ‘this will be easy/hard’ and how this impacts the level of energy that you put into the session.
    2. I have written something about ‘Casualty’, Jo Brand, and ‘The Cry’, but I may have to return with more detail on whatever we talked about for those… it was something to do with drugs on TV, and led to a conversation about family relationships in India, where families look after each other, but where there’s no money for basic drugs. In talking about the ultra-poor, we also talked about the super-rich and any responsibility they may have, particularly in a time of recession.
    3. We talked about the aunt of one of the group who has recently died. Towards the end of her life she would wander the streets of London in tattered clothes (fiercely independent til the last). Most people avoided her, but the local tramps were the most caring and helpful, creating their own version of community. People we think of as ‘nothing’ may be those that God uses to open our eyes.
    4. We talked about a number of friends, particularly thinking about how it’s not always appropriate for us to ‘take the load’, and we need professional/voluntary groups to help out. Social workers, with all the press coverage recently, tend to follow the rule of the letter, and are not always particularly helpful. Organisations such as the Salvation Army exist to help take the load (but need financial support to do so).
    5. We talked about the upcoming census, and wondered how people will define themselves, something that has been raised by Richard Littledale in a pretty busy post since.
  4. After Dinner Chocs? We looked at the activities, and looked at those that fitted well with our (busy) lives. 2 members are going to look at their family trees, one is going to talk to their kids about what’s important to them, Bex is going to pray for Facebook friends who appear in her feed, and another is looking at their personal links in relation to some of the charities.

So, how do you think your housegroup is going to work with this material? Do you think your sessions will look the same, or how different?

About drbexl

Life Explorer, academia/learning, Christian, cultural history, WW2 posters: Keep Calm & Carry On, digital world, coach. Twitter: @drbexl @digitalfprint, @ww2poster @bigbible