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Wrapping up Two Reading Groups

During the fall of 2010, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsored two sets of book groups using two of our recent publications: Worship Words, by Debra Rienstra and Ron Rienstra and Shaped by God, edited by Robert Keeley.

During the fall of 2010, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsored two sets of book groups using two of our recent publications: Worship Words, by Debra Rienstra and Ron Rienstra and Shaped by God, edited by Robert Keeley.

We gathered the leaders of these book groups during summer to orient them to the books’ content and then sent them out to form groups in their worshiping communities. Those reading groups met over the fall months. All together we sponsored 30 leaders who in turned invited over 300 readers to meet and discuss these books!

Here are some reflections by the leaders both on the content as well as the reading group process:

  • Each time we met, one of the worship leaders would lead worship based on the chapter [from Worship Words]…..for about 20 minutes…and then we would debrief on the experience.  This was VERY helpful because they had to figure out how to implement the suggestions in the chapter.
  • I was happy to have members of our congregation talking about worship in a new way, critically and yet lovingly looking at what works and what doesn’t work in our services. 
  • One benefit is the “forced learning” that happened because of scheduled meetings. The group forced us to go beyond reading for work/class; it became another “support” group in ministry—a place where we gained insight, prayed for one another, and sought God’s will for our various worship settings.
  • Perhaps the most exciting facet of our discussions was the opportunity to open up a bit more about how the Holy Spirit has been and is still working faith development in us.  Our group members are at varying levels of faith development; and as those who are perhaps more aware of their connection with God shared, others listened intently, catching a glimpse of where the Spirit wants to take them as well. And we were all encouraged to be more open to the Spirit’s work in us.
  • In hindsight, I would have liked to schedule a follow-up/challenge meeting for approximately one month after we finished the book to recap our discussion and give some practical challenges for each teacher to take back into the classroom.
  • The reading group made us think. And our thinking in combination with the conversation with others gave shape to some possibilities and dreams for discipleship development.
  • Gathering around a book is a great idea. Focuses the conversations. Hearing from others experiences in their congregations also helped me to shape and re-shape my thinking about faith formation in my church context. 
  • The book groups have really helped us start the conversation. Instead of just doing things for our congregation because we feel like they need it, we are able to talk about how to work with each age and continue to help them grow in their faith.
  • It got people in our church talking together about these issues with those who care about them, but would not have had opportunity to interact and discuss them otherwise. 
  • For me, allowing for time to study this book was very easy since I meet with these students every day anyway. It allowed us to really dive into this book chapter by chapter. In the beginning I thought my biggest challenge would be getting these teens to share and discuss. At first, I made up questions for the chapters to facilitate discussion. However, after the first two chapters I realized that this was not necessary. After awhile, I would begin each session by simply saying, “What are your thoughts, comments, and reactions to this chapter?”  And the discussion would take off. Often times we would continue a discussion of a chapter the next day because 45 minutes was not enough time. 
  • Forming the group was the greatest challenge for me, but leading it was easy….Still, the overall experience was very positive for all of us because we normally don’t interact with much depth regarding our faith and life experiences. 
  • We  just hired a new children’s ministry director who was part of the reading group. The book was a helpful tool for us to dream about where God is leading our children’s ministry and what things can we do as a church to assist in the process of faith development in our children.
  • Because of the diversity of the group we did have a few moments where the discussions got lively and there were two views that were strongly opposed especially around the final chapter. But after the meeting the two involved had a friendly chat, so all seemed to turn out okay.
  • It was a great experience for our group.  I think it is good to challenge the groups to go outside of their circles and include a wide range of backgrounds.   It was a benefit to have someone in our group from outside of our church and from another Christian background. This challenged those of us from the same church and led to great discussion. If I did it again I would diversify the group even more and try to have more ethnic backgrounds represented.
  • Several of us work at the same church and we’ve kept the conversation going about some of the key areas we discussed. There others in the group that are colleagues from the area, and we’ve also had discussions about some of the topics since the group wrapped up.