I’ve moved quite a bit in my life (I once counted and I’ve lived in over 30 different houses!) and attended many different churches. I’ve experienced the gamut of small group dynamics, and I know just how hard it is for a church small group to be both intimate and spiritually fulfilling. From awkward teenage gatherings (where talking about boys instead of God seemed to be the order of the day) to an intergenerational group (where we dove deep in spiritual matters but didn’t have much relational intimacy), I’ve seen how hard it is to strike the right balance. I feel very blessed that my current small group is the most fulfilling one I’ve ever been a part of—a life-giving and refreshing blend of being truly known alongside diving deep into the real issues of faith.
In my experience, vulnerability tempered with structure has led to small groups with the best blend. Groups with too much focus on shared life experience but no structure lacked focus and the ability to stimulate spiritual growth. While these groups could be pleasant and even led to real friendship, they often amounted to a spiritually shallow relationship. Groups that immediately immersed themselves in bible study, and were highly structured, led to spiritual knowledge but didn’t facilitate a deep knowledge of each other.
I’ve used the Sacred Ordinary Days liturgical planner on and off since the Kickstarter days. In the times when I was using my planner and actually carrying through my practice, it deepened my faith in tangible ways.
Recently, Jenn asked me to dream a little about what it might look like to utilize the tools in our planner to foster both vulnerability and structure in a small group setting—which might lead to a more fulfilling collective experience.
Here are five ideas for using the Sacred Ordinary Days planner as a group:
- Start by going through the Daily Office or Lectionary readings. This might be self-directed reading followed by group discussion, or reading together as a group. It might even be a space to practice lectio divina with your group.
- Share in the suggested practices for Liturgical seasons and Holy Days to foster intimacy in your small group, and to have some fun together. For example, during Eastertide, your group could go on a nature walk, observing signs of new growing life together.
- Challenge each other to narrow your daily focuses to 3 top priorities and engage in robust, ongoing discussions to create a shared daily culture of rest and reward. How might that look in our busy daily lives? How can we help each other cultivate these and other practices of Sabbath?
- If your group already has a shared base of trust and vulnerability, and you are seeking some structure, you might consider sharing your weekly examen reflections. Or your group might practice the weekly examen together when they meet.
- A particularly close community might want to write a corporate rule of life to structure their lives and their time together. Your group could see how other groups like monastic orders have built theirs, and use the Rule of Life pages of the planner to record your own.
I’m grateful for how the Sacred Ordinary Days planner unites my personal worship with the corporate experience of ancient church tradition. Perhaps it can also be a resource that enriches and enlivens our small groups?
Do you feel fulfilled and sustained by your current small group experience? Might your group gain some structure or opportunity for shared vulnerability by incorporating some of these suggestions? What other ways could your group walk alongside each other as you walk toward God?
Chelsea Pennington joined the Sacred Ordinary Days team as our Graphic Designer in January 2020. Chelsea is an incredibly talented visual artist with a background that merges classical fine art with contemporary graphic design. She's a Baylor grad and worked in graphic design for Baylor before coming to work with us. After hiring her for a few freelance projects, Jenn knew she would be the perfect addition to our team and began plotting how to hire her fulltime.