Sometimes the best solution is the obvious one.
My small group at church was between books. We finished Isaiah and were about to begin Luke, but we needed a topic to fill a gap. Since we meet on Sunday nights and attend the same worship service on Sunday mornings, I realized the answer was staring me in the face. We could discuss the sermon!
A few people in my group had experience with sermon discussions. They knew this wasn’t just a repetition of the preacher’s outline. This was good, hard work. Like strong hands kneading dough, God can use discussions like this to press the application of his word deep into the lives of his people.
Why Discuss the Sermon?
The preacher isn’t the only one with sermon work to do. He studies, prays, and prepares, but the folks in the pews have a job too.
We need to listen carefully and weigh the sermon against Scripture. We’re also called to apply the Bible, and this is where a small group discussion can be helpful.
Consider the benefits of having a conversation about the sermon.
People who anticipate a discussion like this are more likely to pay close attention during the sermon. This greater engagement naturally leads to greater spiritual blessing.
The small group will focus on application, and when several people work hard to apply the sermon together, powerful things can happen. You might see connections or sense conviction you hadn’t noticed on your own. A friend might mention needs in the church or the community that would be an ideal outlet of application.
Think of the benefits to your church if your small group members were diligently discussing the sermon and applying the Word preached! It would mean quite a transformation.
How to Lead a Sermon Discussion
It doesn’t take much to lead a sermon discussion in your small group or Sunday school class. With a little preparation and some good questions, you’ll be ready to go.
- Announce it. Let your group know your plans to discuss the sermon. This will encourage them to listen carefully and take notes in preparation.
- Apply the sermon yourself. To lead a good discussion, be sure to prepare yourself. Listen to the sermon, think about the connections and implications, and pray for insight and conviction from the Spirit. Bring some personal applications to share in case the group discussion slows down.
- Read the Bible passage. If your group meets directly after the worship service, this might not be necessary. But if your group meets hours or days later, reading the Bible passage will start your discussion with the proper focus.
- Ask open-ended questions. Begin the discussion by asking for broad takeaways from the passage or sermon. This gives an opportunity for people to share what God is teaching them. Conversations that drift into criticism of the preacher aren’t usually productive, so be prepared to steer the conversation back to the Bible.
- Ask application questions. Here is the heart of the discussion. Most of the work of observation and interpretation should be completed by the preacher during the sermon. Your small group provides a great setting to go deep on application. Ask your preacher to write two or three application questions for the congregation to consider; these can be printed in the bulletin along with the sermon outline. Use these questions as starters, but follow the conversation naturally into other areas of application. (You might need to remind your group about the two directions and three spheres of application.)
- Ask about obstacles to application. We can dream up all the applications we wish—putting them into practice is the difficult part. Once the group discusses a few concrete applications of the passage, ask what might get in the way of the changes you’re proposing.
- Pray! Real change in our lives doesn’t happen because of a sermon, an insight, or a small group discussion. We need the Holy Spirit’s powerful, transforming work to help us glorify God. Before your small group adjourns, be sure to commit your applications to God.
If you use your church’s sermon to propel your small group into the Bible, you’ll have lots of time to wrestle through applications. As you’re confronted with ways you need to change and encourage others to change, it won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.
Thanks to Peter for his help in preparing this article.