How to Use What Matters in Small Groups or Congregation
What Matters to You? in both online and print versions is adaptable to various congregational settings. For example, it has been used in a six-session series during a Sunday school hour and as a study for potential members during the weeks of the church season of Lent. Yet, an entire congregation could focus on one theme over an entire month – celebrating and exploring their own connection with a particular theme through study, prayer, worship, and action.
Here are some ideas for using the resource in more traditional classes or settings.
A simple 45-minute session
1. Select one of the What Matters theme chapters.
2. If you have a copy of a What Matter poster on the emphasis, point to and state the emphasis for the day.
3. Invite the group into silence and prayer. Pray words such as these or others in your own words:
Amazing God, you call us together to be your people.
We are …<state the title of the emphasis for the day.>
Open us to your Spirit. Give us the courage to ask questions,
challenge assumptions, and grow deeper in faith.
<moment of silence>. Amen.
4. Ask participants to reflect on the first questions under "What Matters to You?" You might begin sharing in pairs and then share within the larger group. What other questions come to their mind related to the theme?
5. Invite one or two participants to prepare ahead of time and present the information, in their own words, under "What Matters to Us." Or invite a leader from your congregation who might have a special interest in the theme to share from her or his particular perspective.
6. Invite further reflection from the group and/or explore the concluding questions under "What Matters to Us." Ask: "What questions continue to linger or would you like to explore further?"
7. Close with silence and prayer – perhaps the suggested practice under "Prayer Matters."
A One to Two Hour Session
Following step 5 or 6 above --
• Assign brief stories linked to the particular theme from "Chapter 7: Our History Matters" to individuals or small groups.
• Have groups become familiar with the account and then present it to the larger group.
• Invite the total group to discuss questions found at the beginning of the particular theme's portion of "Our History Matters."
• Conclude with a time of silence and prayer – perhaps the suggested practice under "Prayer Matters."
Additional Ideas for Using What Matters
In addition to following the 45 minute or one-to-two hour session, set aside additional time to explore the theme's "Bible Matters." The entire group might study together or each inquirer could explore the Bible with a mentor from the congregation.
Consider an "action-reflection" approach. In addition to studying a theme, inquirers join with others in the congregation in a ministry of justice related to the theme. The side bar "God's World Matters" in each theme chapter may suggest ideas for such a ministry. Draw from the experience to enrich learning around a theme. Consider also including the study of a particular theme if and when your congregation participates in mission trips.
Invite a member or members who exemplify a particular theme to share their own faith related to the emphasis. You might also invite staff from your UCC association or conference or members from other UCC congregations to share their faith and experience related to a theme.
Set aside time to both pray and discern future actions. Spend time in prayer drawing upon "Prayer Matters." Also reflect on "Service Matters" and discern how God may be calling your congregation to both serve and advocate for justice.
In a retreat, rather than extensive time with only one theme, you might instead use the 45-minute design with each of the six themes offering time for prayer and worship as well. From time to time during the retreat, have a "Did You Know?" break when someone shares a story from the "History Matters" sections.
1 See Anthony Robinson's online course on church and culture "It's a Whole New World." Visit online at www.uccvitality.org/online-course/its-a-whole-new-world.html .
2 Kathryn Matthews Huey and Susan Blain, "We Have Come a Long Way: The Bridging Group." Visit online at www.uccvitality.org/foster-discipleship/we-have-come-a-long-way-the-bridging-group.html .
3 All six posters are available through United Church Resources, phone toll free 800.537.3394, $6.00 per set of six plus shipping/handling, Order #LCMCV10
What Matters is written by Sidney D. Fowler. Designed by Duy-Khuong Van (risingflare.com). Copyright © 2005 - 2009 Congregational Vitality in the United Church of Christ.