Connect Group resource for Week of Monday 8th June

This is a suggestion for how to lead an online Connect Group, based on the talk that Liam Thatcher gave on Sunday 1st June. It lasts around 80 minutes, but feel free to extend sections, remove sections, add your own or just do your own thing entirely! Whatever works best for you and your group.

The discussion questions and reflections will work without having listened to the talk, but if you are going to use them you may want to send out the following link to your group so they can listen/watch before you meet:

Liam’s talk

Information for Connect Groups

  • This Thursday we are calling the whole church to pray and fast because of the events of the last few weeks and the spotlight they have put on racial injustice within the UK. We will be breaking our fast together by taking communion at the end of the church wide prayer zoom, from 8pm – 8.45pm.

 Note to Connect Group leaders 

Many of us in this time are starting to have more candid and open conversations around race issues, and how racial inequality is experienced in the UK, and sadly even in the church. We understand that leading a group at this moment may well be complex and messy, especially as we attempt to pastor people who are experiencing things in very different ways. For our people of colour there may well be feelings of grief, sadness, anger, fatigue, despair or re-triggered trauma. For our white people there may be feelings of grief and anger against injustice, but also guilt, shame, confusion, defensiveness, or fear of saying ‘the wrong thing.’ 

We want to create spaces where people who know and love one another, and who understand the gospel, are able to have uncomfortable conversations.  The gospel of Jesus enables us to humbly acknowledge our sin, confess it and repent of it, because we know that through the Cross there is forgiveness and grace and the power to change. 

The gospel also reveals to us a God who has stepped down into the evil of the world, experiencing the weight of injustice personally, in order to not only bring us hope for a different future where His Kingdom of love and justice will one day come in full, but his loving presence with us right now. 

We are all going to get things wrong in the months and years to come, but we can’t let the fear of that stop us from engaging in conversations that are long overdue. We need to remember that perfect love casts out fear, and pray that our love for one another, and the body of Christ, will win out over everything else. 

This week you may want to just lead an honest discussion around people’s reactions and reflections on the last few weeks and the issues of racial injustice it has brought into the spotlight, encouraging people to share their personal experiences of racism if they feel comfortable.  

Or you may want to use the below and use Liam’s talk on fasting from Sunday to help frame the discussion. 

NOTE: If you are a white leader of a majority white group you may want to call the people of colour in your group before the meeting to give them a heads up about the conversation and to talk through any fears or hesitations they may have about entering into a conversation like this in an ostensibly ‘white space.’ 

Tips for hosting Connect Group online

  • Make sure you are online a few minutes before the start of the group so that you are there to welcome people as they arrive. 
  • If you have a lot of people in the group, you may want to ask everyone to keep their mic muted unless they are talking in order to keep background noise to a minimum. 
  • In the Gratitude & Concerns round where you want everyone to speak in turn you will need to let people know who is next. We’ve found it helpful to be very active in directing this, and to ask people to end with something like ‘Thanks for letting me share’ (very STEPS!) so you know when they are finished:
    •  Group Leader: ‘X is next then Y.”
    •  X: “… thanks for letting me share.”
    • Group Leader: “Thanks for sharing X. Y is next then Z”.
    • Just make it clear that people are welcome to say ‘pass’ if they’d rather not share.
  • If your group is small enough, during the discussion you may want to suggest people unmute their mics so they can jump in when they want. This will help discussion flow more easily. With large groups you may need to keep people’s mics muted unless they are talking. This will take more active moderation – we’ve found it helpful to ask people to raise their hand when they want to speak, then wait for the moderator to bring them into the conversation. 
  • If your platform has a chat function, make use of that by pasting discussion questions, relevant quotes or Bible verses, and the links to the talk. You may also want to ask people to write their prayer requests, which could be emailed around after the meeting. 
  • Have the link for your next group available to share. 
  • You might also want to think about planning a short group chat either directly before or after one of the services as a way of offering another touch point for your group and to make it feel like you’re ‘going to church together.’ 

Note: Read out everything in italics. You may want to post these in the chat too. 

Welcome & Prayer (5 mins)

Welcome everyone to the group and remind people of the following: 

  • As a general rule it’s helpful to keep your mic muted unless you’re talking to reduce background noise. 
  • During the discussion if you want to speak, raise a hand and I’ll throw the conversation to you. 
  • We’ll be using the chat function to post links, quotes, Bible verses and prayer requests. 

Start your time together by praying, thanking God for the opportunity to be together and asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together (you may want to ask someone else to pray).

Gratitude & Challenges (15-25 mins)

Ask everyone to introduce themselves and share one thing from the last week they are grateful for, and one thing they are finding particularly challenging. 

Don’t forget to make it clear who is to share next, and to let people know they can pass if they want to. 

Overview & Group discussion (20 mins)

This week we are calling the church to spend Thursday fasting from food and praying about racial injustice and racial reconciliation within the UK, London and our own church community 

In preparation for that we are going to work through Liam’s talk from Sunday where he outlined 4 reasons that the scriptures give for why people fast and pray. 

“Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true. It is body talk… for the person, the whole person, to express herself or himself completely. Fasting is one way you and I bring our entire selves into complete expression”. – Scot McKnight 

Q1.  Have you ever fasted before? Share you experiences. 

Liam listed the following reasons or postures we can take when fasting:

  1. We fast to Grieve Sickness and Death (the effects of sin in our world)
    • 1 Sam 31:13
    • 2 Sam 1:12, 3:35 and 12:16-23
    • 1 Chronicles 10:12
  2. We fast to Repent for sin
    • 1 Sam 7:6
    • Ezra 9:3-6 & 10:6
    • Nehemiah 9:1-2
    • Jonah 3:4-10
  3. We fast to show Solidarity with the Oppressed
    • Isa 58:6-7
  4. We fast to pray for Protection and Victory
    • Esther 4
    • Praying and fasting like Isaiah 58:8-12 empowers us to live like Isaiah 61:1-2.

Q2. Which of these reasons for fasting do you feel are most pressing for you this week and why? 

Prayer (10 mins)  

Move into a time of petitionary and intercessory prayer:

Our church community
Our world

You may want to take specific prayer requests – if the platform you are using has a chat function, ask people to write them down – you can then copy them into an email to the group. People can take it in turns to pray, unmuting their mic as they do. 

End your time by praying the Lord’s Prayer together. We often treat this as just a template for individual prayer, but it was given to a community and was intended to be prayed as a community.

Our father in heaven
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.