Throughout each of the four chapters and the accompanying DVD for a small-group experience, Coleman captures the stories of formerly incarcerated men and women as they find work and opportunity through Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California. These men and women share their memories and experiences in light of the hope and new life they’ve experienced at Homeboy.
Additional components for this four-week study include a comprehensive Leader Guide and a DVD featuring author and pastor Justin Coleman.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
To the Leader
"Home for Christmas" is a phrase that evokes images of walking into a warm shelter or safe space, smells of cinnamon and evergreen, and love from family and friends. It evokes feelings of hope, love, joy, and peace. It reminds us of the birth of Jesus. Yet, in this Advent season there are those who do not experience such a home. Rather, there are families who are experiencing deep grief in the loss of a loved one or a vanishing dream; war or violence in their families and communities; the outcomes of systemic discrimination or racism; or poverty and the lack of basic human needs.
These next four weeks, the group will be introduced to Father Gregory Boyle with his wise insights and the transforming work at Homeboy Industries. More than 8,000 former gang members and formerly incarcerated men and women throughout Los Angeles come to Homeboy Industries each year. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship and provided a wide variety of services including tattoo removal, anger management classes, and parenting classes. Plus, 200 persons at a time qualify for an 18-month work program that not only hires them for full-time employment but also offers job training and helps them to re-identify themselves, and become contributing members of their community.
In this study, we will focus on the common Advent themes of hope, love, joy, and peace. However, we will explore these themes through the stories of men and women who are a part of Homeboy Industries. Through their relationships and work at Homeboy Industries, they have experienced the hope, love, joy, and peace that God offers through the birth of Jesus Christ. As we study these stories of transformation and the Scriptures, Justin Coleman leads us to a deeper understanding to experience that hope, love, joy, and peace — the new home that God offers all of us. Coleman says:
I pray you will see that that home is filled with a thrilling hope grounded in the certainty of new life God offers us in Christ. I want you to experience God's tender, steadfast love that always wins out over judgment, and will always offer us another chance, no matter how many times we've failed before. As you read, I hope you will experience the grateful joy of God's love for you, and carry that joy into your relationships with friends, family, and everyone in your community. And by the time you come to the end of this book, I hope that you will have found the full, all-encompassing peace we find in God, the peace that gives us the courage and strength to carry on with confidence, even when it seems nothing is going our way and nothing stays the same. And in all these things, my wish is that you share this home God offers us — especially with those who believe they have no home and no hope. My wish is that you make Advent and Christmas a time to practice this opening of hopeful doors with every person who comes your way — to do what Christ has done for us. May the hope, love, joy, and peace of Christ be with you. Welcome home!
How to Facilitate This Study
As a group leader, your role is to facilitate the four weekly sessions using
the book Home for Christmas by Justin Coleman
the Home for Christmas DVD
this Leader Guide
Use these resources to familiarize yourself with the content each week. Read through the corresponding chapter in the book, preview the DVD session, and read through the week's lesson in this Leader Guide.
This guide includes instructions on how to structure a sixty-minute session. Each session opens with a lesson aim, a few themes to develop, a key Scripture, a theological focus, and instructions to prepare for that particular session. Then there are three major movements for each session:
Building Community (5–10 minutes)
Going Deeper: DVD, Book, and Scripture (45 minutes)
Sending Forth Equipped to Serve (5–10 minutes)
Choose the elements from the Leader Guide that you will use each session, including the specific discussion questions. Be prepared, however, to adjust the session as group members interact and as questions arise. Prepare carefully, but allow space for the Holy Spirit to move in and through the group members and through you as facilitator.
Preparing for Each Session
Pray for wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit, for you and for each member of the group, as you prepare for the study.
Prepare the space where the group will meet so that the space will enhance the learning process. Ideally, group members should be seated around a table or in a circle so that all can see one another. Movable chairs are best, so that the group can easily form pairs or small groups for discussion, if your group is large.
Provide an Advent wreath to use as you close each session. You can purchase one or use a wreath from your home or church. If needed, you can make a simple wreath with a round Styrofoam ring, evergreens, and four purple candles. Plan to have a lighter available each week.
Ensure that the DVD equipment is set up and working properly.
Shaping the Learning Environment
Create a climate of openness, encouraging group members to participate as they feel comfortable.
Remember that some people will jump right in with answers and comments, while others need time to process what is being discussed.
If you notice that some group members seem never to be able to enter the conversation, ask them if they have thoughts to share. Give everyone a chance to talk, but keep the conversation moving. Moderate to prevent a few individuals from doing all the talking.
If no one answers at first during discussions, do not be afraid of silence. Count silently to ten; then say something such as, "Would anyone like to go first?" If no one responds, venture an answer yourself and ask for comments.
Model openness as you share with the group. Group members will follow your example.
Encourage multiple answers or responses before moving on.
Ask, "Why?" or "Why do you believe that?" or "Can you say more about that?" to help continue a discussion and give it greater depth.
Affirm others' responses with comments such as "Great" or "Thanks" or "Good insight" — especially if it's the first time someone has spoken during the group session.
Monitor your own contributions. If you are doing most of the talking, back off so that you do not train the group to listen rather than speak up.
Remember that you do not have all the answers. Your job is to keep the discussion going and encourage participation.
Managing the Session
Honor the time schedule. If a session is running longer than expected, get consensus from the group before continuing beyond the agreed-upon ending time.
Involve group members in various aspects of the group session, such as saying prayers or reading Scripture.
Note that the session guides sometimes call for breaking into smaller groups or pairs, if your group is large. This gives everyone a chance to speak and participate fully. Mix up the groups; don't let the same people pair up for every activity.
As always in discussions that may involve personal sharing, confidentiality is essential. Group members should never pass along stories that have been shared in the group. Remind the group members at each session: confidentiality is crucial to the success of this group.CHAPTER 2
Planning the Session
To gain a deeper understanding that our hope is grounded in the certainty that God offers us new life in Jesus Christ and to identify ways that we can support the hopes of others.
Through this session's discussion and activities, participants will be encouraged to
explore and articulate their understanding of hope;
explore how those who have experienced life in a gang or incarceration come to find hope through second chances and a new life of possibilities; and
identify and practice ways to support the hope of others.
Key ScriptureMy God, I trust you. Please don't let me be put to shame! Don't let my enemies rejoice over me! For that matter, don't let anyone who hopes in you be put to shame; instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.
Make your ways known to me, LORD; teach me your paths.
Reflect for a moment what it means to say that hope is thrilling. It may be thrilling to anticipate the celebration of Jesus' birth through the eyes of a child or grandchild. It may be thrilling to eagerly wait for the arrival of a family member or friend that you haven't seen lately. It may be thrilling to hope for that sense of calm after hectic days of shopping, decorating, baking, and Christmas gatherings. You may have a thrilling moment of awe at the Christmas Eve candlelight service when there is a hushed silence and wonder in the birth of Jesus Christ.
Our thrill of hope is grounded in the certainty of new life that God offers us in Christ. The men and women at Homeboy Industries have found new life in loving relationships and have been given the skills, resources, and encouragement to create a new life for themselves. This newness not only transforms them but also transforms their relationships with others. God through Jesus Christ creates us and claims us. When we trust and live into God's grace and love, we are given the hope of new life that is full of second chances to change and transform our circumstances.
Read and reflect on the Introduction and chapter 1 in Home for Christmas by Justin Coleman.
Preview session 1 on the Home for Christmas DVD.
Read through this session outline in its entirety to familiarize yourself with the material being covered. Be aware that there is a lot of material that can be covered within this session, and your conversations could easily take off and consume much of your group time. Choose the session elements you will use during the group session, including the specific discussion questions you plan to cover. Be prepared, however, to adjust the session as group members interact and as questions arise. Prepare carefully but allow space for the Holy Spirit to move in and through the group members and through you as facilitator.
Provide a recording of "O Holy Night" and "Come, Thou Long- Expected Jesus."
Read and reflect on the following Scripture: Psalm 25:1-10.
Be prepared to read or ask a member of the group to share the story of Jennifer found at the beginning of chapter 1.
Have an Advent wreath with four purple candles and a lighter.
Have a markerboard or large sheet of paper available for recording group members' ideas.
Have a Bible, paper for taking notes, and a pen or pencil available for every participant.
Building Community (5–10 Minutes)
As participants arrive, welcome them to this study. Depending on how familiar participants are with one another, you might want to spend a few minutes introducing yourselves and sharing why you were interested in doing this study.
In the first session, provide a basic overview of the study and the primary Advent themes of hope, love, joy, and peace. Share with the group that each session will include a conversation starter, a prayer, a video where you will hear from Justin Coleman and persons at Homeboy Industries, a closer look at the book, and an examination of Scripture in light of the week's theme. Tell the group that you will also look for ways to apply what you have learned and to challenge one another to live out the week's Advent theme.
Say: One of the lines in the hymn "O Holy Night" is "A thrill of hope — the weary world rejoices."
Ask participants to form pairs and answer the following question: During this Advent and Christmas season, what is the thrill of hope you long for?
Play a recording of "O Holy Night," inviting participants to silently reflect on the words, especially ways that Jesus Christ's birth is a thrill of hope.
Pray:Loving God, in this stillness, we expectantly wait for the birth of the Christ Child. In our weariness, in our brokenness, in our woundedness we wait in hope. We join with the weary world rejoicing in your thrill of hope.
Going Deeper: DVD, BOOK, and Scripture (45 minutes)
Note: This section allows approximately forty-five minutes for discussion of the DVD, the book, and Scripture. You will not have time to address every discussion question. Select questions in advance that you believe will be most helpful for your group and discuss those questions first. It may help to put a check mark by the questions you want to cover. If time allows, incorporate additional questions.
Say: In each week's video, Justin Coleman will share with us the transforming stories of men and women at Homeboy Industries and we will hear Father Gregory Boyle's wise insights. More than 8,000 former gang members and formerly incarcerated men and women throughout Los Angeles come to Homeboy Industries each year. They are welcomed into a community of mutual kinship and provided a wide variety of services including tattoo removal, anger management classes, and parenting classes. Plus, 200 persons at a time qualify for an 18-month work program that not only hires them for full-time employment but also offers job training and helps them to re-identify themselves and become contributing members of their community. Each week, we will explore the week's Advent theme through their stories. As you watch this week's video, consider how persons at Homeboy Industries experience a thrill of hope.
Play session 1 (running time approximately 10 minutes).
Ask: What insights did you gain from the DVD?
Personal Insights: Invite participants to share sentences or phrases from chapter 1 of Justin Coleman's book Home for Christmas that helped them understand hope.
Read aloud or summarize:
Justin Coleman grounds his understanding of hope in God's creation and the Advent of Christ with the possibility of second chances. He says:
Even when we move away from well-known stories of hope and reconciliation, out into the mess of the real world, my hope is grounded in this new life, this sense of creation and new creation from God. I feel hopeful when I see a child born, knowing it hasn't yet experienced any of the evils of this world, and that it has its whole life ahead of it, ready to grow in surprising ways. I feel hopeful when I see a sprout of new life from a garden, the creation of a beautiful new piece of art, or someone baptized. All new creation. All good. All just what God had in mind. During the Advent and Christmas season, it's not just that we hope Christ will save us or that we hope Christ will return, but that we enter into Christian community expecting new life. Some speak of Advent as a season of generic waiting, as if we were only waiting for Christmas presents or waiting to play Christmas music. But waiting in itself is not quite enough for me. Advent is about waiting with a sense of longing and expectation. We enter into Advent expectantly, trusting that Jesus will come again, and longing for the renewal that Christ brings.
How have you experienced this cycle of creation and new creation lately?
What is your hope grounded in?
What besides the love of God has backed up your hope?
Describe a time your hope was disappointed. What do you think went wrong?
Share a time when you were given a second chance and experienced a newness of life.
What renewal are you hoping that Christ will bring this Advent and Christmas?
Say: Coleman tells us that one of the taglines at Homeboy Industries is "hope has an address." Hear this story of Jennifer, who found hope at Homeboy Industries.
Read aloud or tell the story of Jennifer:
It was the beginning of December, and Jennifer was incarcerated. Separated from her two small children, she spent Christmas facing the possibility of up to thirty-eight years in prison. After agreeing to a plea deal and arranging to live with her mother, Jennifer began working at Homeboy Industries. At first, everything was great; she and her children were making a new life together. But then her mother kicked the entire family out of the house. After such a promising start, Jennifer and her two children were homeless, and she felt like giving up and returning to her past life, and to the drugs and alcohol that had been part of it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Home for Christmas Leader Guide"
Copyright © 2018 Abingdon Press.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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Table of Contents
To the Leader,