How to Jumpstart a Sermon-Based Small Group Curriculum
As a teaching pastor, creating sermon series that will serve your congregations is an important part of your job description. From finding the right scripture, narrowing in on salient themes, and constructing messages that will build meaningfully week after week, the time and intention that goes into crafting these series shouldn’t have to end after everyone leaves the sanctuary for Sunday brunch.
Many churches find success aligning the Sunday-morning teaching with their small groups ministry through sermon-based small group curriculum. This gives people an opportunity to dig into your teaching, allowing for a depth of engagement that can’t happen on Sunday morning. It also creates unity across the church, as everyone is wrestling with and applying your teaching during the week. The question becomes how, then, to create a curriculum around your sermon series? Here are 4 easy steps for how to get started:
Start with the scripture.
While you might be tempted to start with the takeaway points from the sermon, creating your small group questions straight from the scripture opens up opportunities for discussion that might not have been addressed directly in your sermon. For the first question, have groups read the central text and answer a few questions about the main ideas within it. Keep these open ended, allowing for reactions and questions that will take your groups deeper into contemplation, rather than leading them along. Remember, not everyone in your congregation will be intimately familiar with the Bible. Do your best to craft these questions in an approachable way that won’t alienate those new to the faith.
Dial in on life application questions.
In small groups, it can be easy for people to discuss from a head level without venturing into a heart level. Guide participants to engage at a heart level by using questions that center life application. For example, ask questions like:
1. Out of the action items, which one will be easiest for you to apply to your life? The hardest?
2. What can you do about it this week?
3. How has this shown up in your life previously?
These questions encourage people to think about how your teaching can and will influence their day to day lives. This takes your sermon and scripture from an intellectual experiment to something that can shape their lives and relationships for the long term.
Provide a menu of questions for small group leaders.
A great way to set your small group leaders up for success is to provide many questions that they can select from as a menu. This will empower them to choose the questions that will support the discussion already happening in their group and give them back up fodder if conversation is dwindling.
Give a call to action each week.
Provide your small group leaders with an overarching call to action to challenge their group. This can be the same call to action in the sermon, or taking it a step further with something more specific. This gives congregants an opportunity to apply these teachings throughout the week and something to which they can hold themselves and each other accountable. As you are building your sermons and, therefore, this small group curriculum week after week, see if you can have the calls to action build upon each other as well.
Teaching pastors, thank you for the care you put into your sermons and guiding us week in and week out. We hope that the Holy Spirit inspires you as you are crafting questions for your small groups and that you begin to experience unity and growth through these efforts.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.