Small groups are some of the best places for Christians to find support in their faith and work. From work-themed small groups to study ideas that get churchgoers thinking about work, these tested programs should give you some ideas to jump-start your own gatherings.
In workplace peer groups, small groups of people who share similar jobs (for example, a group of architects, or moms, or teachers, or CFOs) share what is happening in their work and seek guidance from a Christian perspective. The idea of peer groups is that members have enough in common to actually help improve their abilities on the job. Peer groups typically meet for 4-5 hours once a month, including dinner. Each month two people share a situation in their work, and other members ask clarifying questions. Then they ask: “Does this bring to mind anything from the Bible?” Churches who have developed such peer groups include C12 and Redeemer Presbyterian Church (NYC).
Lunchtime Prayer Triplets
People who work in the same organization meet in groups of three for just half an hour to pray for each other over breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They pray specifically for each others’ work, workplaces and co-workers.
At Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York there are at least 18 major professional groups, including Arts, Education, Entrepreneurs, Finance, Legal, IT, and Marketing. Each group meets once a month, usually around a meal and then in small groups, with the aim “to equip, connect, and mobilize professionals towards gospel-centered transformation for the common good.” For smaller churches it might make sense to work together, perhaps in partnership with a seminary or other organization, to form a larger pool of workers so that each occupation can have its own vocational group.
Faith at Work Breakfast
In Christchurch, New Zealand people gather once a month for a 7:00am faith at work breakfast. People pay $10.00 at the door for breakfast, and for the first 20 minutes there is a buzz of lively conversation. At 7:20 a person from the group (it is a different person each month) shares something of his or her faith and work story. The aim of the talk is an honest, down to earth glimpse of everyday discipleship. There is time for questions. Sometimes a case study is presented for discussion. Formalities are concluded by 8:00am. Many cities around the world have similar gatherings.
A Megachurch Approach to Workplace Groups
Saddleback Community Church provides resources every week for several hundred small groups that serve several thousand Christians meeting regularly to discuss biblical perspectives on faith and work issues. These workplace groups occur in addition to Saddleback’s hundreds of regular home groups. One church staff member is contracted part-time to prepare studies for these groups. Saddleback also runs a website and sends out weekly Workplace Wisdom emails for encouragement and to stimulate reflection.
Tell Your Work Story
At Ilam Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, several home groups decided to take the daily work of their people more seriously. They spent the first part of each small group meeting listening to one person’s work story. The speaker gave a history of their work and an explanation of the opportunities and challenges they now face. When possible, the small group visited that person’s workplace. They ended each session by praying for the person in their work and for the good of the enterprise and people they work with.
“Three Dwellings” Study Group Format
A God@Work group at Opawa Baptist Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, meets monthly and follows a set three-part format called “the three dwellings.” A different group member leads each of the three parts each meeting:
- Dwelling in the Word - Choose a Bible passage relevant to work. The group listens to the passage read and stops to think in silence about what it says to them. Then members of the group each share their responses before reflecting together on the passage.
- Dwelling in the Work - Choose a case study from one member’s work experience. The group listens to the experience described. Each person is then invited to reflect in silence and then share with the group their response. They concentrate particularly on answering two questions: What strikes you as standing out as important in this situation? What questions does this raise for you? Each group member offers their answers to these questions before there is any discussion.
- Dwelling in the Practice - Choose a particular practice that you have found helpful and/or that might be of help to the group. Group members discuss how they see the implications of this practice for themselves. The group time concludes with members sharing needs and offering support and prayer for each other.
Workplace Talks at Mid-Sized Community Gatherings
Small Boat Big Sea is a Christian group in Sydney that has adopted a pattern for its community life that includes talks about work. A worker such as a Christian lawyer is invited to talk about his job, what he enjoys, what he struggles with, and how his faith influences his approach to work. People ask him any other questions they find interesting. He is then asked what he would appreciate prayer for and the community gathers around to pray for him. A different person is invited to talk about their daily work each week.
Changing Priorities for Church Meetings
One British church leader described what is happening in his church this way: “This whole-life discipleship stuff is getting under the skin a bit – in our midweek prayer meeting one of our ladies prays for the prosperity of the city, then in the following morning leadership prayer meeting there it is again – we’re praying for businesses in Milton Keynes, for our unemployed to not just find jobs but know where they are called to serve God and fulfill that calling in his strength. Deloitte’s, Ernst and Young, Home, Milton Keynes Job Centre, Santander, Alanod, Accenture, MK Hospital, Bradwell School, BT, Keune & Nagel, Stowe School, Invensys PLC…Lights are on; salt is getting some taste to it!” (Quoted in Neil Hudson, Imagine Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2012), 40.)