Lenten small groups were now a tradition at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, NJ. A book or topic was selected and all the small groups gathered to discuss it (unlike the fall small groups that offered a variety of books or topics). But Lent 2019 was different.
Adult education, small groups, preaching and worship were all going well. But the staff was pondering what to do to bring something new to these areas of congregational life. What came to be was to weave the three together during the Season of Lent. This is what happened.
“Questioning Jesus” was the theme for the Lenten small groups. It was also the theme for the adult education class on Sunday morning and the sermons those same Sundays. Well in advance of Lent, Pastor Dave Davis and Shane Berg, a New Testament scholar from Princeton Theological Seminary, chose the questions, all from the Gospel of Luke during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.
A study guide was prepared by Shane Berg and Carol Wehrheim. It was distributed to leaders and participants. It was also available to anyone who was not in a small group, but interested to following the study on their own. At least one church member put together a group that met on Facebook.
The process worked like this. Small groups dug into the text during the week. On Sunday morning Dr. Berg opened up the text with additional information and tools. Then Dr. Davis preached on the text at both morning services of worship. It made for a fulsome study of the text, looking at it from many angles and gaining new insights each time.
The small groups were encouraged to take a brief time at the beginning for comments about the education presentation and sermon from the previous week before moving into the discussion of the next week. In this way, they also made connections between the texts from week to week.
The Lenten experiment was so successful that for five weeks this fall, two Old Testament scholars will present the adult education classes on the book of Exodus. Small groups have a modified discussion guide. And the sermon texts will be selected from the “chunk” of Exodus that will be covered in adult education each week.
This pattern might not work for you but how might you connect small groups, adult education, and preaching for a season in your congregation? For those who take advantage of two or more options, this preparation for worship and hearing the Word preached opens their ears and hearts to God’s Word.