Connect Group resource for Week of Monday 18th May
This is a suggestion for how to lead an online Connect Group, based on the talk that Liam Thatcher gave on Sunday 17th May. 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 before you meet:
Information for Connect Groups
- Next week is our Week of Prayer as a whole church, so do remind your group about the events going on, including our Communion service on next Tuesday 26th May. All the details are on our prayer page.
- We also have a special emotional health seminar on Facebook live on Tuesday 2nd June at 8pm, so do consider joining with your Connect Group! Details are here.
- Please remind your groups to sign up for our new weekly email: christchurchlondon.org/subscribe
- For suggestions of how you and your group can practically help your neighbours and city, head over to our new Caring for our City page.
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)
These are excerpts and main points from Liam’s talk. There are a few questions for each point to help the discussion flow but don’t feel you need to answer all of them, just go with where the conversation flows in your group!
Liam spoke about the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus. Goodness has to do with doing good. In particular, doing good towards others. It’s the same word Paul uses in Galatians 6:10. Faithfulness is to do with consistency. Dependability. The combination of goodness and faithfulness is powerful and results in trustworthiness.
Liam led us through Psalm 23…
‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters’ (v1-3)
Psalm 23 is not promising that all of your life will be green pastures… but that in a life which is full of ups and downs, as you navigate the wilderness of life – full of challenges – regularly and against all the odds, God will lead you to places of peace, where He restores your humanity and refreshes your soul.
Scholars tell us that because water and grass were so rare in the Palestinian hills, a good and faithful shepherd would create artificial pasture and still water for their sheep.
Grass: They’d find space where they would remove rocks, prepare ground and plant seed.
Water: Sheep were typically scared of drinking from flowing water… So if a shepherd found a spring, they would dig rock pools that captured some of the spring water and provided a still cool place for sheep to drink.
Paths: They would have a few of these places hidden away in the wilderness, and would lead the sheep between them on rotation.
We can know that the Lord is: my good and faithful shepherd, who so loves His sheep, that He hand-crafts for us, pastures where we can be nourished, rock pools where we can drink in safety, and leads us on safe paths to get there.
- Isn’t beautiful to know God loves you like that? What do these verses speak to you as we read them together? Can you share stories of where you have known God to be the Good Shepherd of your life? What do you think God might be teaching you for this season through these verses? Is God the shepherd of your life?
If you feel drained, or fearful, or lacking peace… God’s promise to you is that he will care for you like a Good and Faithful Shepherd. He can lead you to places of peace and nourishment, even in this season which can feel dry and hard.
- Does anyone feel this? Does anyone need to receive the peace of God?
‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ (v4)
David is real about the realities of life. The valley is a dangerous place to be, especially if you’re a sheep! This Psalm doesn’t promise that followers of God always get to walk ROUND the dark valleys. We have to walk through them too, but David says ‘when I do so, I don’t have to fear.’ Why?
‘For you are with me.’ The presence of God is the antidote to fear. Look at verse 4. The Psalmist has begun by talking about God in the third person. He is my shepherd, he lies me down… But here, the pronouns shift. It’s no longer he or him. It’s you. When you walk through the valley, the idea of God won’t help you. God as a theory won’t bring you comfort. Impersonal pronouns will not help you. You need to know Him. It’s easy to sing about God in abstract terms in the good times, but when things are hard, the idea of God won’t sustain you. The only thing that will bring you peace is knowing Him, having personal connection with God in prayer, and experiencing first hand his Goodness and Faithfulness.
- Where have you known the presence of God as reality and not just in theory? Are there areas where you would like to know God more and not just in theory? Which characteristics of God have become true and real to you, and how did this happen? How has God made Himself known to you?
Meditation (5 mins)
Before praying, take a moment to remember who you are praying to. You may want to encourage people to close their eyes, sit up straight in their chairs, place their palms face up on their knees/table and concentrate on their breathing – breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 3 seconds (people may feel more comfortable doing this if their video feed is turned off).
In John 10 Jesus says this: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.’ (John 10:11, 28)
In Jesus, the goodness and faithfulness of God stepped out of heaven, took on flesh and came to chase us down! He is pursuing you because He loves you. And if you want to experience His love that will restore your soul even in your darkest place… stop running. Surrender to Him. Open your Heart to Him and invite Him to be the shepherd of your soul, to lead you to places of peace.
Lead people in prayer to receive the presence of God. Breathe in the peace and presence of The Holy Spirit… Breathe out… questions, uncertainties, loneliness. Breathe in… breathe out…
Prayer (10 mins)
Move into a time of petitionary and intercessory prayer:
Our church community
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.
You may want to end your time by praying together the Archbishop’s prayer for all those affected by coronavirus and or/the Lord’s Prayer.
If praying together, remind people to unmute their mics.
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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 for ever.