Our Approach: What Makes Us Unique?
Faith Works provides discernment-centered and theme-based resources for small groups, Bible study and worship. We began by producing material for congregations following the Narrative Lectionary and plan to also provide resources for congregations following the Revised Common Lectionary in the 2018-19 church year.
All resources share our five distinguishing characteristics:
A focus on SPIRITUAL discernment
Deep listening and spiritual discernment is central to our mission. Our aim is not so much to instruct people how to think about God as it is to help people hear how God is inviting them to rethink their lives.
This comes out most clearly in the way we use questions. In traditional small groups and Bible studies, questions are an opportunity for the group to think together. They are structured as a list that the group goes through one by one. In contrast, Faith Works views questions as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking groups to go through the questions and discuss them one by one, we invite participants to read all the questions ahead of group time and find the one question that “hooks them”—the single question that speaks to them personally. Once that question is identified, participants are asked to live with that single question for a number of days prior to the group meeting. Participants then come to their group, 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 a new and personal insight. This approach leads us away from abstraction and intellectualizing and instead invites us to connect the questions to personal stories and our daily living.
A theme-based framework
Faith Works resources are theme-based. This means that we usually build our curriculum around one Christian virtue - or calling - each month, or liturgical season. We all hunger for depth. The culture around us is one of information-overload, short-attention spans and shallow engagement. People come to our churches hoping to escape from this thin-living. Offering curriculum that stays focused on one single theme for a sustained period of time is our way of helping congregations provide the depth and sustained focus people seek.
This theme-based approach also brings a fresh perspective to the well-known, and sometimes well-worn, lectionary readings. Simply put, new and focused frames enable us to see and hear new things.
Experiential learning & spiritual exercises
We all long to experience faith not just learn about it. Too often, we fail people by providing them with small groups and Bible studies that are information-focused. This is why spiritual exercises are central to most of the curriculum we produce. We want small group participants to experience the monthly themes and lectionary texts, not just analyze them. So we develop spiritual exercises for members to do prior to their group meeting. These exercises get participants out of their heads and into life. Group members come to their groups ready to share encounters they've had not just ideas they've been thinking about.
Robust resources for personal reflection
Our small group and Bible study guides include numerous resources for participants to engage on their own apart from the group meetings. We think of these recommended resources as additional companions and discussion partners. They include quotes, poems, online videos, music selections, book recommendations and movie suggestions. These resources are not intended for group discussion, but rather provide participants a way to go deeper on their own. Think of them as personal devotional material. Some congregations send these additional materials out to their entire congregation, whether they are in a small group and Bible study or not. For many it serves as a monthly spiritual journal.
Daily online inspiration
We maintain a Facebook page that serves as a companion to our small group and Bible study material. The intent is to keep your members engaged with the monthly theme and lectionary readings on a daily basis. Think of them as online daily devotionals. View it here.
Check out free samples of our material here .