Do you have any resources/tips/advice for a ladies Bible study who would like to introduce prayer partners? I am leading about 10 women and would like to introduce the idea to them. 

September 20, 2017 0 2 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

The creators of TOGETHER, an inclusive adult Bible study, have partnered with Faith Formation Ministries to put together a list of Ten Ways to Be a More Inclusive and Welcoming Adult Small Group. 

August 29, 2017 0 2 comments

For years I attended small groups that appealed to my interests and helped me grow spiritually. And I never thought about the people in my congregation who didn’t have the same choices. 

August 22, 2017 0 1 comments

There is a group of us on Facebook who have decided to form a small group. Has anyone else done this? If so, do you have suggestions that might help as we begin our group?

July 20, 2017 0 2 comments

The fall Coffee Break retreat, which will be held October 27-29 in Pittsville, MA, is filling up fast! Retreat with other leaders in a beautiful setting. 

June 27, 2017 0 0 comments

Let’s move forward in leadership this summer. Check out these two leadership exercises to stretch and strengthen leadership skills.

May 23, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Throughout the history of Christianity, I've observed two models of church planting that I will label Frontier & Immigrant. Each model has implicit strengths and weaknesses. What is your congregation?

March 15, 2017 0 0 comments

Three new Discover studies will be available in the fall of 2017! The studies on Thessalonians, Jonah, and the whole Bible came out of partnerships between experienced leaders, writers and ethnic voices. 

February 20, 2017 0 0 comments

The free stand-alone Discover Your Bible lessons are offered in a PDF format that can be printed in the familiar booklet format, notebook size, or in large print.

February 11, 2017 0 0 comments

It’s easy to remember the big stuff from the past year—things like weddings, or selling a house, or natural disasters. But how can we remember God's goodness in the seemingly mundane moments of life?

January 17, 2017 0 1 comments

Are you a Coffee Break or Small Group leader? Consider attending this exciting learning retreat in Port St. Lucie, Florida from February 3-5, 2017! 

January 10, 2017 0 0 comments

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

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

October 25, 2016 0 7 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

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

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

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 0 0 comments

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 0 0 comments

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

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 0 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 0 1 comments

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 0 3 comments

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



Hi Kate, 

I'm not sure if you're asking about having partners within or outside the group.  Sometimes we can invite women who can't come to the group (perhaps because they're working or otherwise unavailable), to be partners with people in the group, or to pray for the group as the group is meeting. 

However, I suspect you are asking about pairing up, or partnering within the group.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Invite women to pair up, in the group, share one prayer request with each other, and pray .  (Women will often share more freely with one other person, rather than aloud in the group.)

2.  Suggest that women can pray silently or aloud - God hears all of our prayers. 

3.   Suggest that they  pray in response to a statement or question such as "What are you thankful for this week?" or "Who can I pray for that you are concerned about?"  or "What do you want to ask God for this week?"

4.  Give everyone a blank recipe card and ask them to write down their name and a prayer request.  Then trade with a partner, and pray for each other during the week. 

5.  Or....Each woman brings a mug, and places the above card with name and prayer request in the mug.  Trade with a partner, and you are reminded to pray for your partner whenever you have a cup of tea/coffee at home.  Alternatively, these mugs can be exchanged secretly, so that no one knows who is praying for them - like a secret sister.  Pray for your one person throughout the season, and reveal your prayer partner at the end of the year.

6.  This year, we made prayer journals, and are encouraging women to bring the journals each week, and record the things that we are praying for.  Each woman can also pray throughout the week for the needs expressed.  (send me a note if you want more info... mlensink@crcna.org)

I'd love to hear ideas from others as well! 


Do you mean you want to teach these women to pray together in pairs or small groups?
Do they pray out loud, in group, at the present time? 

Sounds like you have a great system worked out, Keith! This Ten Ways tool was intended to help people think about how they can incorporate people of all abilities (including immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, and others) into their small group ministry. If your groups are doing that, we'd love to hear how it's going!

I see incredible value in having virtual small groups specifically for men and specifically for women -- separate -- where they become accountability groups. The weakness of 'regular' small groups is that they tend to become either social gatherings or lead to superficial discussions on a book.

Our face-to-face small group meets weekly, discussing the past Sunday's sermon topic for the first hour and then splitting up into separate groups for men and women for the second hour. This is where accountability and spiritual formation truly takes place; talking about our personal struggles, our relationships (spouses, parents, children), our temptations and sins.  That discussion continues throughout the week in a Facebook group where we hold each other accountable.

It would be incredible to form a Facebook group that functions as an accountability group. Since you don't know each other, I can imagine spending the first several meetings just getting to know each other; getting deeper and deeper into personal issues and struggles.  There is something 'comfortable' about not knowing each other in this virtual setting. But it requires participants who dare to become vulnerable and who dare to hold each other accountable.  THAT is what the church and what faith is all about.

Needless to say, this kind of accountability and vulnerability can't work if it's a mixed group of men and women. The issues are simply too different.

The 'success' of a small group ministry rests with the content. Small groups have a tendency to become social gatherings rather than spiritual formation gatherings.  Our small group spends the first hour discussing the past Sunday's message, using questions provided by the church office.  The second hour is much more significant; men and women separate, meet in separate rooms, and become accountable for their personal lives over the past week. They share -- frankly and openly -- about their struggles over the past week as they dealt with sin, temptation, the amount of time they spend in devotions, their relationships (spouses, parents, children).  And throughout the week, they connect to each other by email or phone to see how they're doing.

This is spiritual development. It's accountability, something that few small groups seem equipped to do; nor do they desire to become that vulnerable.

Your "Ten Ways.." are a given. They are the ground rules.  It's what happens during that weekly discussion time that shapes one's faith journey, and that ends up strengthening the entire congregation's faith journey.

This is great, Ruth! Can't wait to hear how it goes in your Together group this fall!

I was a part of a women's small group that met in the suburbs of Chicago.  We typically met twice monthly, on Friday evenings.  As members of the group experienced location changes or health issues that prevented traveling across the city/suburbs to join us, we became a virtual small group.  We meet at the same regularity, but use Google Hangouts to videochat with one another.  We share about our lives, study and pray together.  We've even had new women join us who have only met the rest of the group through the digital world!  It is a true blessing to use technology to the glory of God!  We now span Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Tennessee!

The first one covers Genesis, the second covers the rest of the Pentateuch. Book number 4 covers the Wisdom books.  http://okcupid2.tumblr.com/https://okcupid2com.blogspot.com/

Thank you for sharing this helpful article! Any chance these links may be housed on a different site now? A few readers have been looking for the "Ministry Interview Form" but it looks like it may have moved. 

This is an old post i can see. But i am doing my own looking into 'sonship' for my own reasons. I am glad i am still able to access this information on the internet and that a select group hasnt spoilt that for me. Persoanlly people have to prove their information to master the concept of christian thinking. I prefer to grow off the spiritual advice of those whom can balance the ability to seek not just mastering concepts but be sensitive to enjoy the mystery and revelations of the holy spirit. I think that is the main problem that is so called disenfranchising...to me that would be a poor use of words.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

At Calvary CRC in Ottawa, ON, we have a small group that meets for a potluck dinner and discussion. We are always looking for good resources! To date we have found useful these resources:

Bridges - Christians connecting with Muslims (Crescent Project)

Manning - Abba's Child

John Timmer - Four-Dimensional Jesus

John Timmer - The Kingdom Equation - on the parables of Jesus

We'd love to hear from others!

John Cook, jgcook@rogers.com

I would like suggestions for resources for small group study - not necessarily Bible studies


John Cook

This is such a wonderful idea, Staci. Thanks for sharing it!

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



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