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The Coffee Break Small Group training is a hands on learning experience to equip leaders to facilitate conversations about the text so that people can discover for themselves what the Bible says and means.

November 1, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

Does anyone have a good suggestion for Adult Bible Study/Small Group materials? 

October 25, 2016 0 6 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Westwood CRC is excited to host the "4 Chair Discipling Seminar" in Kalamazoo on November 5. The training helps a church with an overall strategy for building a ministry that multiplies disciples. 

October 20, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Enjoy the Fall Coffee Break Newsletter! Find resources, information and ideas for Coffee Break, Small Group and Children's Ministry leaders. 

October 6, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Sam Huizenga describes what it means to be collaborative in her work coaching and training leaders of small groups. What about you? Do you have a story about working collaboratively with another church or ministry? 

September 21, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Coffee Break and small group leaders in Grand Rapids, MI and Platte, SD experienced a newly revised leadership training where participants led the learning process. We all left tired and inspired!

September 12, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

As a child, what were the rules while eating a family meal? Now consider the small group setting. Are there topics to avoid or "handle with care" so that everyone can enjoy conversation and feel included? 

September 7, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Brand new Discover Your Bible studies will be released over the next several weeks for use in the 2016/17 ministry year. Get all the details about what's new and when it's available right here! 

September 6, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

I'm looking for resources on small group models. Any suggestions?

August 17, 2016 0 1 comments
Resource, Curriculum

August has arrived! If you’re a church leader, you may be looking for a curriculum for your small group, adult study classes, or youth group. Perhaps one of these 5 curricula is a good fit for your church. 

August 8, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

A recent Banner article gave a sample structure for small group meetings and got me thinking about my own experience. I came up with a list of what I've seen work well and wondered, what would you add? 

July 12, 2016 3 5 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

Leaders have been asking: "Will there be new Discover Your Bible studies ready for next fall?" The answer is: Yes! 

May 10, 2016 1 1 comments
Q&A

I am wondering if anyone has suggested small group Bible study materials for adults who are seeking resources on caring for aging parents, parenting adult children, and other similar issues.

April 14, 2016 1 3 comments
Blog

How do your groups use Discover Your Bible, Infuse or Discover Life Bible study series? That's what we would like to learn more about!

March 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

In 2006-2010, Community CRC, Kitchener, Ontario embarked upon a visioning process during which we adopted a new vision: Growing our relationships with God, each other, and our community.

February 9, 2016 0 2 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Enjoy this recording of a webinar on how to lead English as Second Language (ESL) Bible study.

December 21, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

In this free webinar, Barbara Hampton will share skills, methods, and best practices for leading ESL Bible Study groups.

November 10, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Come face to face with the Christ of Christmas and discover the real meaning of the Christmas story. Discover Christmas is a four session study that's great for small groups, families, and more! 

October 26, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

What can a Bible study or Coffee Break leader do to encourage the influence and impact of the Word in the lives of group members? Here are a few of my ideas; I'd love to hear yours, too!

October 19, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

The Forest City attendance graph showed growth but the home group graph showed plateau. They began to ask, “Why are small groups not growing at the same rate as our congregation?”

October 8, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Discover Nehemiah, a new 2015 study in the Discover Your Bible series, is now available and ready to be ordered. 

September 29, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

In this webinar, Ruth Kelder leads a conversation on the factors that help—or hinder—creating a safe place for people to grow in their faith.

September 25, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

Learn—with others—ways to enhance small group prayer. Listen at home or with your leaders! This webinar took place with about 12 leaders from across the US and Canada. 

September 21, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Leaders are asking questions about developing and growing adult small group discipleship ministries. What are your questions? See how the questions fit together with other leadership questions.  

September 8, 2015 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

What should be included in a new member's class? Please share your ideas, best practices - and maybe things to avoid - in developing a new members class.    

September 2, 2015 1 6 comments

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This is a great series! 

Check out the video series For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles at http://www.letterstotheexiles.com/. It addresses the question "What is our salvation for?"

For those new to Christianity or still searching, we used the Christianity Explored series through the book of Mark. It was a great way to share the gospel and spark open conversations. 

Our small group is enjoying the book by Lois Tverberg called, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus.  As her teacher Ray VanderLaan does, she challenges us with new insights into the words and work of Jesus by understanding his Jewish world.  

One more thing, many of the DYB studies are available in book or PDF format. We are also working on an phone and tablet apps! Stay tuned!

Hi Colin, 

The Discover Your Bible series is a great tool for small groups to discover together what the Bible says and means. The series originated for use in Coffee Break. Today, the Discover Your Bible series is going global and being translated into many languages.  

Discover Your Bible is an inductive style study. The skeleton of questions in the study guide serve to help group participants observe and interpret what the text says in order to lead to good application. The leader's guide equips the leader with extra questions to build the conversation about the text and offers leadership tips. We have several tools to support leaders as they lead Bible discovery. Here's a link to Leading Bible Discovery. There are also webinars on the Coffee Break Network page. 

The purpose of Bible discovery is to equip people to read and discover for themselves and to build a conversation around the text. As people dig together into God's word, the Holy Spirit speaks. This simple method works for people new ot the Bible or experienced Christians. In other words, the Word does the work of evangelism and discipleship.   

Hi Leon! When you talk about models, are you referring to creating a small group structure for the whole church (i.e. deciding what kind of groups to start, creating meeting schedules, choosing materials) or a model for a specific group (i.e. the format for a small group Bible study)? 

posted in: Small Group Models?

We have a small group in my church, that has been in existence at least ten years. We usually meet in our church at 6:30, and then have a potluck dinner together. This works well!

Afterward, for about an hour and a half, we discuss a book, Banner article, or video. We are always looking for good discussion material, and my reason for adding this comment is to ask for suggestions. Which resources has your discussion group enjoyed?

John Cook, Ottawa Calvary, jgcook@rogers.com

 

Thanks for this! Lots of good thoughts here. Important note about some people not being comfortable praying aloud. I think your suggestion for structure helps. It can also be a good idea to ask for volunteers to lead in prayer. After a few weeks or months, other may feel more comfortable stepping up. 

Great suggestion. I think it can be incredibly discouraging for new people to hear that the small groups are "full." I would add that it can be helpful to have regular announcements (from church leaders, on the church website/Facebook page, or in the bulletin) that invite people to join small groups.  

Other questions are:
What is the purpose of the group:
Is it for Bible Study?
Is it for Bible Study and growing in your walk with God?
Is it for Bible Study and looking at your own personal struggles?

All these can mean different things to different people. You might think these three are all the same thing. They aren't. It is very difficult if some people in the same group only want the first one and not number 2 or 3.
.......
Is the small group a mentoring group? This means that the leader is mentoring the other participants. in these groups there is less discussion because the participants are being taught. The leader would be more mature in whatever they are learning. The participants need to have agreed upfront that they respect the leader and want to be learn from him or her.

Is the small group a discussion group where everyone will freely discuss what ever they are studying? The leader then moderates.

Trained leadership/good leadership/servant leadership is a most important part of a small group.

.......
Some people are very uncomfortable with praying out loud. To help them get more comfortable start simple. Ask for prayer requests, Then ask each person just to say "Please Lord bless ____ (the person on their right) and keep that going around the circle. Then the leader prays for the requests at the end.

After a couple of meetings ask each person to share one thing thing they would like prayer for. Then ask each person to pray for the person on their right about that one prayer request. Keep going around the circle.

After some more weeks ask for the prayer requests to be personal to the person asking. Something about themselves. and follow the same routine.

This way everyone knows what is expected and they know exactly who and what to pray for. In time as people get more comfortable you can have less structure
 

I would like to suggest that small groups change membership every three years.  If close friendships have formed during those three years the members can continue relationships on a friendship level.  If groups don't switch out members, they can become cliques all too easily.  New church members can find it very difficult to find a place to "fit in."  At one point, when I was a new member at a church, looking for a small group, I was told that the small groups were "full."

The material is available exclusively for prospective 2016 UNISA CTA students, to unsure unhindered access whilst awaiting finalisation of academic registration for 2016, which may have been delayed in some cases. Registered students will be able to access all materials from myUnisa. The material may not be used by any other party, for any reason, unless express written permission has been obtained from UNISA in advance. http://microsoftstudyguides.tumblr.com/

Love the materials available. have used them in prisons for 16 years with great success.

Prison is my men's group and Bible study all in one.

Disability Concerns has a number of resources on the Network that you may find helpful. 

You might check out a ministry called YES! (Young Enough to Serve) at http://www.yestoserve.org/about-yes/.  Their resources seem to encompass a variety of opportunities and challenges we all encounter.

 

Hi Cindy! A book that I've been meaning to check out (I keep hearing great things about it) is Max Lucado's You'll Get Through This. Those who have read this book say it is a great reminder that though life is full of transitions, challenges, and painful struggles, God is WITH us and is working in all things. The book is full of scripture and hope for when life gets overwhelming. It's not necessarily a Bible study book but a great resource nonetheless. 

 

Thank you Chris for sharing your vision, goals and practices. I find this helpful for what we are doing. We are at an earlier but similar place in restructuring elder/deacon districts. It is our goal also to move to a new place of being church for one another. Community, every member caring for the body, is a model we are intentionally following based on I Corinthians 12 (Church=the BODY of Christ).

Jim Poelman

Redeemer CRC, Sarnia On

Thanks for your contribution to the conversation about mission and community. Good stuff!

Sounds great Pete. Would you be willing to share your document? It would be fun to see a few membership class samples! 

Sounds great Pete. Would you be willing to share your document? It would be fun to see a few membership class samples! 

Something I designed years ago has served me well even with adaptations in different churches.   A four-week (4 hour) class entitled "Believing to Belonging"   Week #1 -" Believing"  Basic on faith.  Verses from Ephesians and Romans.  I also teach "the Bridge" and have them place themselves someplace around the great Chasm.  Week #2 - "Believing part B"   This week I go over Reformed thought and doctrines. I review the Creeds and Confessions.  Week #3 "Belonging part A -   What does it mean to belong to a denomination and what is the CRC?    Week #4 - "Belonging part B"   - I talk about our specific church... its dreams, vision, and ministries.  Practical stuff.      Each week we keep it highly relational and tell some stories and most participants ask a lot of questions.  NO lecture.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for your great ideas and experience!

 

Allow me to share our experience on the mission field in Mexico where we work with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. We constantly offer a new members class called "Inicios" or "Beginnings" at our 11 a.m. Sunday School hour. The class runs for four months so we offer it three times per year. 

 

The course starts with the big questions: What does it mean to be a Christian? Who is God? What is our problem? Who is Jesus? What does Jesus do? How to receive salvation? We teach on justification, sanctification, adoption. From there we move to some sessions on the denomination and some Reformed history. From there we move to our local church: our values, how to grow in grace, areas to serve, our ministries, meaning of sacraments, importance of covenant, etc. And we end with the membership questions to asked at one's public profession of faith.

 

The course neither guarantees membership nor obligates anyone. If, at the end of the course, people would like to make their public profession of faith and be baptized (if not baptized before), then they fill out a membership sheet, meet with the elders and then set a date. We have almost all new folks go through the same course: new believers and those from other churches, although the needs are different. Also covenant youth raised in the church take the course prior to their profession of faith.

Rev. Ben Meyer

Seymour CRC (Grand Rapids, MI)

Missionary to Guadalajara, Mexico with CRWM

 

 

 

Thanks, Sam, this is a great topic and one that I hope people will comment on. When I revised our membership process a little while ago there was a dearth of materials about the topic. I found one very good book, called Membership Matters, I think, but not a whole lot else. 

My "working" process (always open to change) is based on CS Lewis' image of the Christian faith as a great house with many hallways and rooms. The first session is about belonging to Christ and is a presentation of the gospel. The second is about the biblical nature of the church and what it means biblically to be a member of a church. The third session is about the "hallway" of Reformed theology, history and practice and the last is about the "room" that is our own church. I also sometime show a video about infant baptism if this is a topic of discussion. I would love to hear what others do.

I'm a little surprised that our denomination doesn't have a simple "welcome to the CRC" type of video that could be shown to prospective members, at least not one that I've found. This wouldn't have to be a big DVD production, just a simple Internet video. I think it would fill a real gap.

 

 

Getting church-goers to become engaged in scripture. What a novel idea.

One might start by removing all of the Bibles from the church pews. Have folks bring their own to worship that they can mark up and wear out. Smart phones will finally have a place in worship as parishioners -- especially young people -- become exposed to their favorite Bible app.

We as Reformed Christians have become lazy when it comes to opening up scripture. We've been conditioned to depend on the pew Bible, and that -- sad to say -- if often the only exposure that we have to scripture through the course of the week. We need to get trained to actually choose our favorite Bible translation and then take it with us to worship, to Small Groups, to work, wherever.

Biblical engagement is a huge issue within our churches, simply because we haven't grown up with the need to have an intimate relationship with our very own Bible. Without that intimate relationship, how can we expect to have meaningful small group discussions around biblical content?

 

 

 

I am using Seeking God's Face for the third year, and I love it!  The scriptures are so effectively related to the beautiful prayers which also refer to one of our creeds or confessions. I use Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions, also available from Faith Alive, as a companion to Seeking God's Face. It's made me more aware of all that's in our confessions and creeds, some of which I haven't reviewed since high school catechism classes. I highly recommend use of both books for personal devotions. 

I'm so glad we get to make us of helpful technology to do Coffee Break training. As one of the presenters I'm wondering, "What questions would you like to have addressed on these webinars?"

For the last hundred years, "believing on" has been a dispensational insider word for, "It ain't enough to believe IN Jesus. You gots to believe ON Jesus."

At the risk of being ex-communicated, scriptural covenants are accumulative, not substitutionary. The Noahic Covenant is applicable to all humans. The Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants only apply to Jews - the people who came out of Egypt with Moses.

In Acts, the Jerusalem Synod observed the 613 commandments and didn't know what to make of Paul. They told him to teach gentiles to observe the Noahic Covenant and hoped he would stay far from Jerusalem. There is sarcasm and irony in Acts.

Neo-Christianity is the religion of Paul and Constantine. We have to work with what we have. Rev. Punt is correct in his interpretation (as far as he went), was cleared and then totally ignored. 

To paraphrase a 1st century Saint, "I've been "believing in Jesus for 70 years, Jesus has always taken good care of me, and I will not now turn on him now". As for the theological details, 80% is circular, assumes hard facts not in evidence, simply logical opinion.  I have no dog in that fight. Another 25 years or less I will know which theology is correct or I will know nothing.

How about if we read scripture not through the lens of our culture, or the lens of the Jewish culture, nor through the lens of the Greek culture, but through the lens of the gospel?  Then we will not get lost in an either-or proposition for community vs individualism, but rather embrace both.  Jesus emphasized believing on him, and loving God and your neighbor with the clear direction that we must be born again.  These things are not something the community can do for you, no matter how deeply you are imbedded in the community.  On the other hand, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, part of the body of Christ the community of the body which is celebrated in communion.  And then, the flip side, if the branch does not bear fruit, it will be pruned, and separated from community, separated from Christ...   This is the community we ought to be concerned about.   The rest is not about community vs individualism, but about obedience to what Christ would have us do in our relationships with others, as well as in our private closets.  

This is a valuable perspective on US church culture as a whole (though dangerous to generalize). The prevailing US cultural environment of individualism, is counter-Biblical. While the solution may not be classic liberation theology, it does require for some of us a radial re-reading of Scripture, not through the lens of our own dominant culture, but through a 1st century Jewish cultural lens. That's why I've appreciated Tom Wright's work so much (even if he isn't right about everything!)

Thanks Michael. I agree with your view point on his theology. I was waiting for someone to bring that up!

I did think his description and perception of North American culture was insightful. So, in what ways is the western church bringing Christ's love to all people? I wonder if the missional community movement is one example. What other examples do we have? 

I understand that there are many things we can learn from other Christians in other cultures, but part of that learning has to be done with an understanding of who Jesus is. Unfortunately, Dr. Goizueta’s Liberation Theology criticisms of the Western church fall a bit short because we do not share the same view of Jesus, his salvation or his kingdom.

The answer to our over-commercialized, consumerist western ecclesiology is not to find Christ in poor people, but to be found by Christ and witness his love to all people.

My son was baptized on Sunday. It reminded me again that we belong before we believe! I agree that we get that backwards too often. While preaching on the great commission (which he called the ordinary commission, because it applies to all of us) a pastor recently asked, "who do you know that needs community?" What if the church really was a place where people found a sense of belonging? Would there be more belief? 

Charles, I suppose this charge could be levied against anything we do in the church - sermons, sacraments, other spiritual disciplines.  Without biblical content and the Holy Spirit, all forms or methods (including huddles and triads) will only strengthen a person's commitment to a religion or philosophy.  The goal of huddles and triads is to strengthen one's commitment to Jesus through Scripture and mutual support and accountability, not to a system or philosophy.  I fail to see how pointing willing participants toward Jesus could be considered manipulative or unethical.

What alternatives would you suggest?

posted in: Huddles and Triads

I suspect that these methods would help strengthen a person's commitment to other religions or philosophies if the content was altered accordingly. If that is the case then it might not be the Holy Spirit at work here, but rather psychology. Doesn't it concern you that you might be employing psychological manipulation under a deceptive cover of spiritual rhetoric, and wouldn't that be unethical?

posted in: Huddles and Triads

Absolutely, Michael.  It seems like adding intentionality and small community to the spiritual journey accelerates it.  Of course, it's not the formula that makes it happen.  But it seems like God has created us in such a way that these things create opening in our lives for the Spirit to work powerfully.

What I like most about this is that one doesn't have to be spiritually gifted to grow.  A person just needs to be committed and have a few committed friends alongside him or her.  I think about the first Beatitude - the kingdom is available to even the poor in spirit.  No spiritual pedigree required.  Good news indeed!

posted in: Huddles and Triads

Thank you Nathan for your concise summary. It is my experience that triads & quads and I expect focused huddles of 5-7 as well, are very helpful to move the many folk who are stuck at the good friends with Jesus stage of spiritual growth to the close friends of Jesus stage--moving the gospel more deeply to the heart, as well as the head.  Is that yours as well?

posted in: Huddles and Triads

Thanks for your comments, Gilbert.  I agree that discipleship is not about a tool or method.  I refer to it as a culture, and I'm thinking specifically about how to help people in the community of faith grow to be more like Jesus.  I realize that discipleship extends to people at all spiritual places.  So I'm admittedly using that term more narrowly.  

I also must confess that I have been impacted by the instant gratification culture we live in.  I hoped this article would show that the slow speed of discipleship makes it a counter-cultural practice.  It's a call to embrace the speed of discipleship and reject a worldly definition of success.  Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

"Another fruit/joy is seeing the changes in the lives of those we are discipling."

Thanks for mentioning this.  One of the biggest sources of encouragement in my own journey is seeing the Spirit at work in others.  Discipling people gives us a front row seat to God's work in others' lives.  Very satisfying!

I appreciate what Nate wrote -- about patience etc.

However, I think his whole blog article misses the point.  Discipleship making is not a matter of getting the right tool, finding the right approach.     Biblical discipleship, it seems to me, is much more radical and exciting.   It amounts to something like this:  

There is a vibrant community, rooted in tradition, practicing scripture-informed habits:  worship, sacraments, welcoming strangers.  This community is not designed to meet the perceived needs of the world.  rather this community lives the truth, practices the truth.  Is a community at heart that is not of this world but in it.    this community in its evangelism zeal practices 2 traits:  invitational and subversive.     We invite people to become part of a community that they can see is different than the world.

The focus of "Slow or Fast" in terms of making disciples smacks too much of the culture of consumerism:  we measure 'success" by how we perform.

Let's rethink evangelism with a Biblical mind:  a living, healthy community of folks whose social interaction displays to the world a "people set apart."

 

Thanks for your testimony. 

Being part of a discipling group and then beginning my own group I agree that there is no way to go fast.
We tried that in the first one and it did not work.
Learning new practices is one thing,
Actually using the new practices is another thing entirely.
One needs time and the encouragement of others on the same road.

The fruit in my life is becoming more intentional in my walk with Jesus. Being able, with His help of course, to actually do the things He calls me to do.
Another fruit/joy is seeing the changes in the lives of those we are discipling.

I agree with these three ancient words, that seem true now, just as they have always been. I would also add that genuine community is a key element of discipleship. We are not called to be disciples alone. All through Biblical history, God has been raising up a people to reflect his glory; we are together being built up into a spiritual temple where he dwells; we are different parts of one body that will grow into full maturity with Christ at the head. And I could go on with "one another" examples and images of our oneness in Christ. The individualism in our culture and in our churches hinders discipleship. I feel so blessed to have a few dear sisters in Christ with whom I have experienced deep, community; we've shared prayer, heartaches, joys, struggles, learning, and also amazing "fiducia" moments. When I think of discipleship, I think of them and what we have together (we do not attend the same local church, but together we have been the church to one another).

Hey, Sam, this looks really good.  Go you!  You've got a good thing going and I like it that you are keeping it fresh.  Keep your faithful followers posted on developments!   Thanks for your work on this.

posted in: Big News!

A missionary with Christian Reformed World Missions recently wrote a blog entry on using a song by Mumford & Sons as an evangelism tool. In the blog, he also quotes Grant Lovejoy who writes, “The best discipling resource among oral communicators is not a printed booklet but an obedient Christian. Oral communicators learn by observing.” I have certainly found this to be true in my ministry.

Like Paul, share your testimony (Acts 26). God has arranged this encounter, your equipped for this work, rejoice, no one is better fit for the task than you are.  

Salvation is personal; Jesus calls his sheep by name (John 10).

As for something to give the person: If the person is into social media, internet etc.

                Link: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-gospel/

 

For pamphlets: Varied just search gospel tracts.

                I have two short works I can put in the mail to you tomorrow if you want them for free:

                1. Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard, 31 pages

                2. Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Made Easier to Read by John Jeffery Fanella, 32 pages (it has a few notes marked on one page)

The best book I've read on the topic is: 'Evangelism - Outside the Box' by Rick Richardson. He gets at the heart of the matter within us... how to engage the Spirit in the process, and in the end offers some very intriguing ways of presenting the gospel, including Alpha, GIGs, and on a napkin (post-modernly).

Our church has also experienced the struggle with study material for Coffee Break and small groups.  People don't want to put anything INTO the process, they want to come and receive the information because they're too busy to study at home.  But I found that the times I've learned the most is when I was the leader - I HAD to put into the group in order to receive.  If we put into, we receive, and our faith grows.  

This sounds terrific, Keith! My brother is a CRC pastor in Toronto and meets with a group of business people for a lunchtime discussion. I don't know what materials he uses, but I believe the concept is the same. I'll have to get more details from him. But there's one CRC example anyway. :) 

I will try to learn more about the CCBF network and curriculum. 

Thanks!

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Abby VanderMeulen