Why This Podcast May Be Perfect for Your Next Church-Wide Small Group Study

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In the fourth episode of the new Open to Wonder podcast, guest and university pastor Mary Hulst shared the two words the young adults she works with fear most. Spoiler alert: the words are Bible study

I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if their fear of Bible study flows from experiences of awkwardly answering uncomfortable questions while seated shoulder-to-shoulder in a room with church people who they might not know, study guide in hand and eyes downcast during the painful pause that filled the room after every question because they didn’t have time to do their “homework.” Or maybe that’s just me (and perhaps some folks in your church too?). 

All of which has got me thinking:

  • What if there were a way for a church to offer a faith-forming alternative format for a small group study for people who might be looking for something different? 
  • What if the “study guide” were a podcast that people could listen to while walking, commuting, cooking, or doing any of the things one does while listening to a podcast?
  • And what if people could engage with the topic in a way that connects with their unique learning style and personality? 

Surprisethere IS a podcast that can do those things! It’s the aforementioned Open to Wonder podcast from Faith Formation Ministries. 

In it, hosts Chris Schoon and Karen DeBoer (yup, this Karen DeBoer) explore with their guests all kinds of faith questions: big ones, small ones, weird ones, and hard-to-talk-about-in-church ones, and they invite listeners to imagine what faith looks like in our day-to-day lives. 

There are all sorts of ways to weave the Open to Wonder podcast into conversations about faith formation with your congregation. Here are 3 of them—choose whatever works best in your context:  

  1. Post a link to the podcast on your church’s social media and website and invite people to check it out. 
  2. Weave the content into a sermon series. Post the appropriate episode link as a follow up to each sermon. Chris and Karen often share their takeaways; make space (online or in person) for people to share their takeaways too.
  3. Invite people into a more intentional listening experience by asking them to commit to listening to the podcast over a period of time. Offer options for people to engage more deeply with the content in small groups (online or in person), via social media, with a friend or those in their household, on their own, or in conversation with God. Provide them with some questions to encourage them to think deeply about what they're hearing. Some people may enjoy engaging in a series of conversations about each episode; some may find it works best to plan a discussion around all of the episodes at once, similar to the way a book club meets to discuss a book; others may simply prefer to listen and process the content on their own. It’s all good! 

But wait, there's more! To make it as easy as possible for you to try this at home (and at church!) we've created a list of conversation prompts and questions for each episode of Season One: Beyond Sunday: an exploration of how faith is formed during the hours we spend outside the church’s buildings. You'll find those plans here: How to Engage Your Congregation in a Conversation About a 'Beyond Sunday' Faith. #timelytopic

The Open to Wonder podcast; a fresh idea for exploring how faith is formed in everyday life. No awkward pauses required. 

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