When you're starting a Q Place, it's important to meet group members where they are and choose material for discussion that fits their background and interests. Karen, an initiator who is a friend of mine, started her group using the Bible study guide called Lenten Studies, which is now republished as The Passion of Jesus: How One Week Changed the World. For her, it was a great way to start a group. I hope something in her story will help you get started, too!
Q Place Blog Editor
After we moved into our neighborhood, I found that many people around us were not only affiliated with a church, they were also fairly faithful churchgoers. In so many ways their lives were exemplary, but their personal experience in the Bible seemed to be limited and I couldn’t tell where they really stood with Jesus. For some time I had been praying about starting a group with neighbors that I walked with each morning and with moms I had met through carpools and orchestra events, but the timing was finally right one year in February.
Why February? Well, I knew that most of these women went to churches that observed Lent. So, my invitation to the first few I asked sounded like this, “You know, I was thinking it would be cool to start a group that could meet for the six weeks of Lent and study the Bible together.”
One of the women responded right away that the idea intrigued her. “I don’t know anything about how to do that though,” she said.
I let her know that I knew of a printed discussion guide that would help us go through a study that is really meaningful during Lent. “We could start with just one meeting to let everyone get a feel for what it would be like to study the Bible and then ask who would like to continue.” We agreed that she would invite a few people and that I would invite some too.
Over the next week I prayed specifically for whom to ask about this, and then started inviting people who came to mind—some in person and others over the phone. Almost everyone said they would come!
When the day came for our first meeting, there were nine women in my kitchen getting coffee and refreshments. I was thrilled when one of them said, “When we get started, can we each tell why we’re here, because I really want to tell my story!” Then, not waiting for everyone to sit down, she rushed on, “I felt so honored that Karen would invite me to come. We just knew each other from our kids’ soccer games, but when she invited me, I felt so impressed that she wanted me to come be in a discussion group with her!”
Lenten Studies turned out to be a perfect starting place. Most of these women were used to giving up something for Lent, and everyone liked the idea of taking on an activity that was particularly meaningful during the season leading up to Good Friday and Easter. Then, when the six weeks were up, they were all saying, “What’s next?”
That was ten years ago. Since then people have gone and others have come into our group, including people of other religious backgrounds, and we have experienced much of the Old and New Testaments together. A number of times one of them has said something like this: “Last Sunday at Mass, the section of the Bible was read that we had just talked about last week, and instead of just going over my head, I knew what it was really about!”
As these friends continue to evaluate what they are reading in the Bible alongside spiritual matters that they may have taken for granted, I can see that the unique message of Jesus is becoming more and more clear and personal to them. I’m getting better at asking follow-up questions to get to the heart of believing in Jesus, but often I find that the rest of the group members are asking follow-up questions that are better than mine! And lately, they have taken initiative to study questions that interest them on their own and share what they find with our group.
I’m still amazed that I get to dig into the Bible each week with these women and watch God working in their hearts—and mine. Without this group I think I would never have been able to get into meaningful Bible discussions with individuals who have different core beliefs from mine. And it all started with asking a few neighbors if they’d be interested in doing a Bible study for Lent!
Karen, a Q Place initiator in Illinois
Editor’s Note: Groups have found it works fine to start the study The Passion of Jesus (formerly Lenten Studies) any time during the weeks leading up to Good Friday. You can finish any remaining studies in the weeks right after Easter.