What Are We Fighting For? Leader Guide: Coming Together Around What Matters Most

What Are We Fighting For? Leader Guide: Coming Together Around What Matters Most

by Thomas J. Bickerton

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Overview

What Are We Fighting For? Leader Guide: Coming Together Around What Matters Most by Thomas J. Bickerton

With all the issues facing The United Methodist Church today, there are plenty of theories and opinions about what we should do. Frankly, many of us are weary of the relentless bickering associated with all the rhetoric. What are we fighting for? This question not only points us to the futility of our disunity but also compels us to consider what we are fighting for—what deserves our greatest intensity and effort as we seek to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton offers a way to move beyond all the discord to a hope-filled future by exploring how we can come together around what matters most so that the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes a vibrant part of our lives and witness. He says that fights, feuds, and uncertainties can distract us, leaving us ineffective and mired in mediocrity and decline; but focusing on what matters most causes our ministries to flourish and the church to become a relevant and vital presence in the community and world.With a warm and practical approach, he leads us on a journey of discernment, inviting us to explore:

  • the spiritual problem at the heart of the issues we’re facing,
  • three foundational reminders,
  • guidelines for determining the essentials necessary to make disciples,
  • a motto for working together in the midst of disagreement,
  • and thoughts about the ultimate essential, love.

This Leader Guide includes everything a group leader needs to plan and facilitate the six sessions, helping participants to explore what they have read, to view a video, and to discuss the reading and video with the group. The guide walks leaders through the study format and provides options for tailoring sessions to the time-frame and style of each group.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501815089
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 04/04/2016
Series: What Are We Fighting For?
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 562 KB

About the Author

Thomas J. Bickerton is a gifted storyteller and wise mentor who happens to be the Bishop of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is a native of West Virginia and the chief spokesperson for the denomination's "Imagine NO Malaria" campaign, which is reducing malaria-related death and illness in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to being an avid sports fan, he enjoys photography, movies, and travel. He and his wife, Sally, have four grown children.

Read an Excerpt

What Are We Fighting For? Leader Guide

Coming Together Around What Matters Most


By Thomas J. Bickerton, Barbara Dick

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-1508-9



CHAPTER 1

Session 1

GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Planning the Session


Session Goals

As a result of conversations and activities connected with this session, group members should begin to:

• Consider the eternal nature of our relationship with God.

• Understand the role of the five I's — inspiration, integration, isolation, independence, and invitation — in the vitality of the faith community.

• Explore the relationship of their individual stories with the larger story of faith.


Biblical Foundation

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 The Message)


Special Preparation

• In advance of the first session, ask participants to bring either a notebook or an electronic means of journaling, such as a tablet, to each group session. Provide writing paper and pens for those who may need them. Also have Bibles available for those who do not bring one.

• Make sure all participants have a copy of the book What Are We Fighting For? Invite them to read the Introduction and Chapter 1 in advance of the first session.

• Have available large sheets of blank paper (newsprint) or construction paper and colored markers for group activity.

• Make copies of Handout 1: The Roots of Our Faith for the group (see page 56 for a preview; for a printable PDF, see Abingdonpress.com/WhatAreWeFightingFor).

• As leader, go over the session in advance and select or adapt the activities you think will work best for your group in the time allotted. Consider your own responses to questions you will pose to the group.

• Make nametags available if desired.


Getting Started

Welcome and Opening Prayer (3 minutes)

As participants arrive, welcome them to the study and invite them to make use of one of the available Bibles, if they did not bring one. Offer the following prayer, pray one of your own, or invite a group member to pray.

Gracious and loving God, as we begin this study, open us to your presence and fill us — our time, our conversations, our reflections, our doubts, and our fears — with the joy of exploration and the wisdom of your love. We gather together in Jesus' name. Amen.


Connecting the Dots

Video (15 minutes)

Play the video for Session 1. This segment suggests that the problem in the church today is a spiritual issue. We have relied too much on our own solutions and not enough on the presence of God to inform, bless, and equip us for the journey that is before us. We are encouraged to push off and let go, which means finding the faith once again to trust in the power of God's presence to safely guide us back to solid ground. With God's help, a calming presence of assurance is possible.

Choose from the following for a brief discussion:

• Do you agree that the problem we face in the church today is largely a spiritual issue? Why or why not? If you agree, how would you describe this spiritual problem?

• In what ways are we, the church, stuck on the side of a cliff? What emotions and anxieties is this producing, and how is this affecting our public witness?

• What would it mean for us to "push off and let go," relying on God's direction rather than our own efforts? How willing are we to put our opinions aside for a while and put our lives into the hands of the One who can see us through?


Biblical Foundation (5 minutes)

The book's introduction ends with a quotation from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 as interpreted in The Message. Read the passage aloud and discuss:

• What does the passage teach about our relationship with God? About faith?


Book Study (20 minutes)

Chapter 1 of the book begins with a story about a bishop identifying an issue as a "spiritual problem" rather than a problem of "morale." Invite a volunteer to read the opening paragraphs of Chapter 1. Ask the group members to share the ways they see the difficulties facing the church — both the local congregation and the larger connection — as being rooted in a spiritual problem.

Explore the chapter's content together with the following exercise:

The Five I's

The author explores five aspects of community life — inspiration, integration, isolation, independence, invitation — that help us understand the root cause of our spiritual problem.

Break the group into five small groups (or pairs, depending on the size of the group) and assign one "I" to each group. Each group will explore these questions:

• How does the author define this "I"?

• In what ways does this "I" help us understand our relationship with God?

• Where do we see this "I" expressed in our faith community? In the larger connection?


Ask the groups to record their responses on newsprint and choose a reporter. When the groups have completed their work, ask the reporter from each group to post the newsprint and share their findings.

Invite the entire group to share the ways in which the five "I's" can help us focus attention on our eternal relationship with God, rather than the day-to-day issues of the faith community.


For Deeper Discernment (Additional 30 minutes — Extended Format Only)

Post the following questions on newsprint or whiteboard:

• When was the first time Jesus became more than just a name to you?

• When was the last time Jesus was more than just a name to you?


Invite participants into conversation in small groups of three or four. The questions are designed to help people think about how their relationship with God has evolved over time. This process helps us learn how to tell our faith stories and how to actively listen to and learn from the stories of others as all of our stories continue.

Give the small groups 15 minutes to share their responses with one another. Remind them that as each person shares, the task of the listeners is to attend to and receive the story in prayerful silence. Remind them that each person should have opportunity to share, and that persons may choose not to share.

At the end of the 15 minutes of small-group time, invite the groups back together. Ask them to share insights gained from hearing one another's stories and from sharing their own. How has their faith changed and grown over time? What do the variety of conversion stories tell us about the nature of God and our relationship with God and one another?


The Way Forward

Practical Exercises and Reflections for the Week (5 minutes)

Exercises in this section will build on one another as the sessions progress, much as a tree grows from the roots in the soil through the trunk, branches, and leaves. The practical exercises for this first session deal with the "heart of the matter," the roots of our faith.

Read this quotation from the book to the group: "I believe we are missing the one element key to the whole conversation: the need for confession and a renewed desire to seek the heart of God" (page 26). Invite group members to share their understanding of this statement and the ways it inspires and invites them to deeper faith.

Distribute copies of Handout 1: The Roots of Our Faith (see page 56 for a preview; for a printable PDF, see Abingdonpress.com/WhatAreWeFightingFor). Instruct group members to post the handout somewhere they will see it daily, using it as a springboard for reflection and action in the coming week. They may think about the five "I" words throughout the week as they encounter conversations and activities in their personal lives and the life of your church, or they may prefer to focus on a different word each day. Encourage them to record their thoughts and experiences in their journals. You also might consider texting one word per day to all group members and inviting a daily response. Tell participants to be sure to bring their journals with them next time, when they will have the opportunity to share highlights with the group.


Closing Prayer (2 minutes)

God of eternal love, fill us with your power as we leave this place, so that all we have shared and learned here helps us to be more faithful disciples. As your church in and for the world, we pray in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.

CHAPTER 2

Session 2

THREE REMINDERS FOR THE JOURNEY


Planning the Session

Session Goals

As a result of conversations and activities connected with this session, group members should begin to:

• Understand what it means to lighten up in difficult situations.

• Learn the value of collaboration.

• Explore empathy, opening to see the view of others as valuable and self as a work in progress.

• Practice healthy relationship skills in their homes, work, and at church.


Biblical Foundation

"Are you as committed to me as I am to you? ... If so, then give me your hand." (2 Kings 10:15 CEB)

"Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours? ... If it is, give me your hand." (2 Kings 10:15 NRSV)


Special Preparation

• Ask participants to bring either a notebook or an electronic means of journaling, such as a tablet. Provide writing paper and pens for those who may need them. Also have Bibles available for those who do not bring one.

• Invite participants to read Chapter 2 in advance of the session and remind them to bring their journals with them.

• Make copies of Handout 2: The Soil of Relationships for the group (see page 57 for a preview; for a printable PDF, see Abingdonpress.com/WhatAreWeFightingFor).

• Have available large sheets of blank paper (newsprint) or construction paper and colored markers for group activity.

• As leader, you'll want to go over the session in advance and select or adapt the activities you think will work best for your group in the time allotted. Consider your own responses to questions you will pose to the group.

• Make nametags available if desired.


Getting Started

Welcome and Opening Prayer (3 minutes)

As participants arrive, welcome them to the study and invite them to make use of one of the available Bibles, if they did not bring one. Offer the following prayer, pray one of your own, or invite a group member to pray.

Joyous and giving God, we gather to learn, share, laugh, and grow in faith and joy. Accompany us on the journey. Amen.


Connecting the Dots

Video (15 minutes)

Play the video for Session 2. This segment encourages us to lighten up, loosen up, and have a little fun in order to create the right posture for the Spirit to help us determine what matters most. We are all works in progress, so we should remain open to what God has in store for us next. And we are encouraged to have a posture of faith, confident that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine.

Choose from the following for a brief discussion:

• In what ways do you think we are too tight and stiff as a church? How might we reclaim the art of spontaneity and simplicity?

• How can we create the right posture for the Spirit to "get a hold of us"? Why is this critical to the process of determining what matters most?

• How can remembering that we are all works in progress help us keep ourselves open to what God has in store for us and also help us collaborate with others?


Biblical Foundation (5 minutes)

Read aloud 2 Kings 10:15 and discuss:

• What does the passage teach about human relationships? About our relationship with God?

• In what circumstances would it be difficult for you to offer this invitation? Why?


Book Study (20 minutes)

Invite group members to briefly share highlights in response to their focus on the five I's since the last session (Handout 1: The Roots of Our Faith). Remind the group that these I's are the roots of faith. Then point out that the three reminders of Chapter 2 — to loosen up, to collaborate, and to be open to change — are the soil or ecosystem in which healthy relationships are planted.

Explore the chapter content together with the following exercises:

Empathy and Active Listening

Divide the group into pairs. Have one person in the pair choose a role from the list below (post the roles on newsprint or a whiteboard). For one minute, the partner will assume that role and explain why he or she behaves in that way. Then the other partner will assume a role from the list and share for one minute. The job of the listener is simply to hear and receive.

• Someone who interrupts and cuts others off when they speak.

• Someone who complains about the style of worship.

• Someone who goes on and on during prayer concerns.

• Someone who dominates the conversation.

• Someone who is consistently late for appointments and meetings.


After the pairs have had time to share, invite the group to talk about the experience of trying to justify behaviors they might not admire — walking in another's shoes — and the experience of receiving another's self-justification in silence. This exercise often evokes laughter as people recognize themselves or others they know. Acknowledge this as a healthy sign of our ability to lighten up. (This exercise was inspired by the work of Jorge Cherbosque, Lee Gardenswartz, and Anita Rowe, of the Emotional Intelligence and Diversity Institute, http://www.eidi-results.org/.)


Together We Can

Through the chapter's three reminders — loosen up, collaborate, be open to the possibility of change — the author teaches us that life in community is not about agreeing on everything; it is about caring enough to listen, opening our hearts and minds to hear, and bringing grace and joy into each encounter. Break the group into three small groups and assign one of the three reminders to each group. Have each group explore one or more of these questions (post them on newsprint or a whiteboard):

• What does the author teach about this reminder?

• What does this reminder teach us about God? About human beings?

• Where do we see this reminder expressed in our faith community? In the larger connection?


Ask each group to choose a reporter. When the groups have completed work, have the reporter from each group share their findings.


For Deeper Discernment (Additional 30 minutes — Extended Format Only)

Post the following questions on newsprint or a whiteboard:

• What persons have been models or mentors in your life?

• How did they embody the three reminders?

• How might you become a mentor for someone else?


Invite participants to reflect on and perhaps write out responses to the questions. Then divide into small groups of three or four people to share responses and talk about the ways mentors and guides influence the way we live the life of faith. These conversations invite us to see the ways we learn from others about living with integrity, whether we are receiving or offering guidance.

Give the small groups 15 minutes to share their responses with one another. Remind them that as each person shares, the task of the listeners is to attend to and receive the story in prayerful silence. Remind them that each person should have an opportunity to share, and that persons may choose not to share.

At the end of the 15 minutes of small group time, invite the groups back together. Ask them to share insights gained from hearing one another's stories and from sharing their own. How have their faith and their relationships with God and others been influenced by the guides and mentors in their lives?


The Way Forward

Practical Exercises and Reflections for the Week (5 minutes)

Exercises in this section build on one another as the sessions progress, much as a tree grows from the roots in the soil through the trunk, branches, and leaves. This session's practical exercises deal with the quality of the soil in which we are planted — our relationships.

Distribute copies of Handout 2: The Soil of Healthy Relationships (see page 57 for a preview; for a printable PDF, see Abingdonpress.com/WhatAreWeFightingFor). Instruct group members to post the handout somewhere they will see it daily, using it as a springboard for reflection and action in the coming week. Invite participants to seek opportunities to listen with love and learn from others, and encourage them to record their thoughts and experiences in their journals. Tell them to be sure to bring their journals with them next time, when they will have the opportunity to share highlights with the group.


Closing Prayer (2 minutes)

God of transformation, God of joy, walk with us this week as we stretch to learn new skills in the ways we communicate and share with others. Amen.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from What Are We Fighting For? Leader Guide by Thomas J. Bickerton, Barbara Dick. Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

To the Leader,
Session 1: Getting to the Heart of the Matter,
Session 2: Three Reminders for the Journey,
Session 3: Discerning What Matters Most,
Session 4: Filling in the Blank with the Essentials,
Session 5: Paddling in the Same Canoe,
Session 6: Finishing with Love,
Handouts,

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