What Makes Us Unique?
We are focused on spiritual discernment and daily living. As a result, we include a number of unique components in our our small group curriculum (Life's Calling) and Bible study material (Storylines). Here's an overview:
Listening for God in the lectionary, and in life
Our small group and Bible study guides help people listen for God's voice in the lectionary selections. They are also structured to help people hear God's voice beyond the biblical texts. Embracing the progressive view that “God is still speaking," we work hard to open participants to God's call in the world around them. This includes contemporary and interfaith voices. We understand spiritual discernment to include listening to the lectionary, listening to our lives and listening to each other.
Questions That Walk With You, Not Quiz You
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. Faith Works' resources use questions differently. We see them as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking groups to go through the questions and discuss them one by one, our process is to ask participants to read all the questions ahead of time and find the one question that “hooks them”—the single question that speaks to and challenges them personally. Participants then live with--or “walk 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.
Spiritual exercises are central to our small group material (Life's Calling). We want small group participants to experience the monthly themes and lectionary texts, not just analyze them. So each small group packet contains spiritual exercises for members to do prior to coming to their group meeting. These exercises get participant out of their heads and into life. Group members then come to their groups ready to share their experience of the theme and texts, not just their thoughts about it.
listening together to "third things"
Along with listening for God’s voice in the lectionary readings, our Bible studies (Storylines) invite participants to listen for God's voice in the words beyond the Bible. This spiritual discernment technique is often referred to as the practice of “Listening to third things.” Learn more about third things here and here. In Storylines, these “third things” usually take the form of online video talks, poems or parts of podcasts. As Quaker teacher Parker Palmer says, “the goal is to invite the group to interact deeply with this third thing, to get in dialog with it, to get inside it and let it get inside you- letting it evoke from you whatever it is that the soul wants to say.” Again, the goal is not to analyze or debate about these third things. Instead, they become an additional way for participants to hear God's unique call for them and their lives.
listening on your own
Our small group and Bible study guides both 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 additional discussion partners. They are not intended for group discussion, but rather as a way for group members to go deeper on their own. Think of them as personal devotional material. Some congregations send these additional materials out to the entire congregation, whether they are in a small group and Bible study or not.
Additionally, we maintain a Facebook inspiration page for all subscribers to use. You can view it here. This facebook page helps keep your members engaged with the monthly theme on a daily basis. Think of it as an online daily devotional that supports your efforts to make church more than a "weekend thing."