“We in our Churches are intimate strangers” Win Arn
Small Group Ministry is Important for the Catholic Church
Blessed John Paul II said:
I invite you to…”to consider the parish as a community of communities…[It is helpful] to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that allows for human relationships…[These smaller communities make it] easier to gather to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ” (Pope John Paul II The Church in America, January 22, 1999)
From the Website of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD:
“From the very beginning, the Church has often grown and thrived among small groups of disciples. Jesus Himself began with the 12 Apostles, and throughout the letters of St. Paul we see him referring to small groups of disciples. This paradigm which we see in the Bible has continued throughout the history of the Church, and today, numerous movements and programs have sought to lead people to a deeper relationship with Jesus through the small group format and through small group ministry.” (From the Web Page of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD)
Cheers Theme Song
Makin’ your way in the world today
takes everything you’ve got;
Takin’ a break from all your worries
sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came.
You wanta be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same.
You wanta be where everybody
knows your name.
You wanta go where people know
people are all the same.
You wanta go where everybody
knows your name.
Copyright Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo and Publisher
What can we expect in our Grace Group?
A Grace Group offers:
Sharing and Prayer, Study and Care.
Sharing: Sharing is a simple ‘check-in’ by stating “highs and lows.” A “high” is generally simple and pleasant, something like “I talked to my grandkids on the phone last night” or “I finally bought a new car.” Sometimes the “high” is really significant: “I got word back on that biopsy and I don’t have cancer” or “I got the job. Thank God I got the job.”
A “low” is in the same vein: “the Ducks lost and I’m bummed” or “I sprained a finger playing basketball.” It can also be something monumental such as “I’m being sued” or “my daughter’s husband just walked out on her.” Sharing is the first part of Grace Group life.
The sharing should be brief. A Grace Group is not a therapy session. It’s just friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, building relationships with one another. The group leader’s task is to insure that everyone gets the opportunity to share; that no one person dominates and there will be a time limit.
Prayer: We will engage in both formal and informal prayer. Each Grace Group session is designed to start with a “Hail Mary” and to end with an “Our Father.” The last third of each session is designed to provide time for informal intercessory prayer. Some folks are uncomfortable praying informally and aloud. If you are in a group but don’t want to pray aloud, someone else, usually the leader, will cover for you. Intercessory prayer is critical for the life and health of the Grace Group. To hear someone praying for your expressed need is comforting and powerful.
Study: St. Jerome said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” A passage of scripture will be read and discussed at each session. There will be no formal teaching, but the emphasis will be on what we think and feel and about the scripture and, most importantly, what we hear God saying to us in the passage.
Care: A man named Win Arn once observed: “We in our Churches are intimate strangers.” What he means is that we share in some profoundly intimate things—particularly the Holy Eucharist—but we haven’t got a clue about what’s going on in the lives of most of the folks around us. It’s awfully easy to be ‘anonymous’ in a church the size of St. Mary’s. Some like it that way; many don’t. Although we do a pretty good job of tending those in need with a very limited staff, parishioners in need sometimes do fall through the cracks.
These Grace Groups are important for helping out in a time of need. If you get to know the other group members well, you are more likely to care about what happens to them; and visa versa. Usually the care is for everyday things—knowing that someone you trust is feeding your cat and picking up the mail when you’re on vacation.
It’s comforting also to know that these same folks will visit you in the hospital or watch your kids in an emergency. There have been several instances when people have had a loved one die, all the members of their Grace Group rallied around and provided a lot of loving support. Meals were cooked and shared; people were picked up at the airport; it was support from fellow Catholics you have learned to love and trust.
Sharing and Prayer; Study and Care.
Affinity is that hard to define “chemistry” important for the life of a successful Grace Group. It means, in part, that folks have a connection with one another and that folks really like each other.
Affinity is a gift of the Holy Spirit
If affinity is not present in a Grace Group, the group will probably cease to exist.
Do’s and Don’ts
• Differences on important issues will occur. Be VERY CAREFUL with them. It’s okay to leave disagreements unspoken.
• Whenever possible, handle difficult issues outside the group.
Confidentiality is Crucial
• What is said in the group must stay in the group.
We do not confess one another’s sins
We don’t allow anyone to do all the talking.
The Leader’s Role and Responsibilities
• Be a Facilitator—encourage everyone in the group to participate
• Be a “Time Keeper.” It’s awfully easy to spend too much time on one topic and forgo another aspect of the group.
Hang Loose and Maintain a Relaxed Spirit
• Trust the Holy Spirit. Remember that Christ is present and the Group is surrounded by “The Great Cloud of Witnesses.”
How to Start a New Grace Group
If you’d like to start your own group, prayerfully write down a list of people with whom you’d like to meet. Pray about the people on the list and then call and invite them. Simply put, there are 3 components to starting a new Grace Group.
• Build your list
• Pray your list
• Work your list.
Building a list with names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses gives you something concrete with which to work.
Praying your list places it in God’s hands and invokes the blessings of God.
Working the list is critical. You may get a few rejections, but research has shown that the ratio of success is about 3 to 1 on cold calls. For example, 30 names would generate 10 folks who would want to be in a Grace Group.
Grace Group Format
Opening Prayer: The “Hail Mary”
Check-ins: Share “highs” and “lows”—ask each person of the group about their highs and lows in the past week.
Scripture Study—“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4—Revised Standard Version)
• The “there and then“ message
o Give a very brief explanatory statement about the text; this is often found in the footnotes of most study Bibles. If you choose to select the suggested readings, you will find both the text and an explanatory statement on my blog.
• The “here and now” application
o One person reads the scripture aloud; each group member responds with one word from the text that was striking.
o Another person reads the same passage aloud; group members respond with a phrase that struck them.
o A third person reads the same passage a third time and then group members discuss the text.
These basic questions may be helpful:
• “What do you think about this?”
• “What do you feel about this?”
• “What is God saying to you in this text?”
Intercessory Prayer: Ask each person for a prayer request which the leader will write down. After the list of requests has been compiled, the leader will read each request aloud and ask if anyone would like to pray for that particular request. If so, note it on the paper—if not, then the leader will offer the intercession. Be sure that all intercessions are offered aloud to God in prayer.
Close with an “Our Father”
Grace Group Format
Check-In: Highs and Lows
Read the Passage 3 times
“What do I think about the passage?”
“What do I feel about the passage?”
“What is God saying?”
The Request The One Making the Request The Intercessor