Theme-based Resources for Small Groups and Worship - A more focused and deeper way of doing church!
A Collaboration with Center for Progressive Renewal
Have you ever felt that things are a bit scattered? How could you not? There's a lot going on in our congregations. Numerous programs. A and a variety of sermons. Multiple classes and small groups to explore. It’s all meaningful and stimulating. But also, well, disorienting. Pulled in so many different directions, we often feel we’ve missed out on the very thing we crave the most: depth. And why shouldn’t we? The world out there, far too often, disconnects us from each other, our deepest selves, the Divine and life’s gifts. So when we enter the doors of a community of faith, we like all the stimulating options, but what we really long for is to slow down and focus on one precious thing for a significant amount of time. Theme-based church is one path to this precious slowness and depth. At Faith Works, it’s the core of what we do.
Our resources follow 10 monthly themes, each centered around a core value of the progressive faith tradition. Our goal is simple: to help align your worship and small group work so people can dig deep. The diversity of thought remains; it’s just focused not scattered, weaving all the threads into one coherent cloth. And don’t worry, this isn’t about abandoning the lectionary cycles that we so value and depend on. We bring the lens of our monthly themes to both the revised common and narrative lectionary readings, bringing new perspectives and new energy along the way.
In addition, our work is guided by the following five core beliefs that shape the design of our resources:
SPIRITUAL Analysis without SPIRITUAL PRACTICE leaves us unchanged
So our small group material challenges participants with multiple spiritual exercises each month. We love helping people engage their faith not just analyze it. It's one thing to be asked "What do you think?"; It's quite another to be asked "Where are you willing to let your faith take you?" Spiritual reflection refines our thinking; spiritual practice shapes our living. Our packets are committed to offering people both.
Faith should disrupt our daily living
So we approach small group questions in a distinct way. In traditional small groups, questions are an opportunity for the group to think together. But we see them as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking small groups to go through the questions and discuss them one by one, Faith Works participants are asked to read all the questions ahead of time and find the one question that “hooks them”—the one that speaks to and challenges them personally. Participants then live with--or “walk with”--that question for a couple weeks leading up to the group, coming to their meeting, not with an answer to each of the questions on the list, but with a story about how this one particular question led them to rethink their choices and priorities. This technique leads us away from abstraction and intellectualizing and instead invites us into action and change.
God's voice is everywhere!
So we cast a wide net when collecting resources. Our small group and worship packets draw from secular, interfaith, traditional religious voices and biblical sources. We believe wholeheartedly that “God is still speaking” and see it as our job to help people hear the holy all around them.
The lectionaries are our dance partners
So we tailor our packets toward them. We see theme-based church as a way to enhance engagement with the lectionaries, not as an alternative to them. Three different versions of our small group packets are created each month - one designed for those using the revised common lectionary, another for those following the narrative lectionary and a third for those who use a pure theme-based approach.
Our worship resource packets also include sections that tease out the connection between our monthly themes and the lectionary selections. This approach brings a fresh lens to the texts and breaths new life into sermon writing.
none of us can do this work alone
So connection and coaching are as important to us as curriculum development. We offer numerous leadership support opportunities to subscribers. Our monthly online “implementation labs” pull worship leaders together so they can share ideas and help each other adapt our resources to their unique settings. Our quarterly new member orientations and small group facilitators trainings ensure no one is left on their own. Our facebook inspiration page provides your members with daily engagement with the themes and saves you from having to create meaningful social media all by yourself. And our worship packets are like having an in-house sermon researcher always by your side.