This session is the seventh in a series designed especially for all-age homegroups, those who meet intergenerationally with members from babes in arms to great grandparents included in the mix. The activities and discussion points are designed to include all members, as they feel able. The sessions are designed to work best in sequence, but you may prefer to dip in, or use the sessions out of sequence if that better meets the needs of your group.
This session explores some of the tricky issues and questions around the subject of suffering, looking honestly at what it means to follow God through the tough times, as well as those times when it may be easier or more straightforward. This session gives an opportunity for members to ask their own honest questions about some of the difficult situations they may be facing, and how they can still know God’s presence in those times.
Where possible, begin your time together with a shared meal, or some light refreshments. This is a general time of fellowship for all members of the group to share together and conversation should try to be inclusive of the whole group. As well as a social time of discussion, you could remind the group of some of the things you discussed last time you met, and how these things may have helped shape their every day since you were last together. If you are following this series in order, the previous session was ‘Being salt and light,’ you may want to talk about the times when members of the group have been most aware of this in the last week or so, when they were challenged by it perhaps, as well as stories of encouragement.
Spread out a large sheet of paper on the floor or attached to the wall and distribute a selection of marker pens. Explain that during this session, we are going to be looking at the question; where is God when life is tough? There are lots of questions people may have in relation to this, or simply comments that people may want to make. Explain that the sheet of paper is a graffiti wall, where we can all openly and honestly record some of our questions or comments, perhaps for us to return to later, or perhaps simply as a way of getting them off our chest! You may also wish to provide post it notes for people to use, if people find it easier to write their questions more anonymously, before sticking them up on the wall.
Encourage the members of the group to have access to their own Bibles and read Psalm 46 together, perhaps reading a few verses each in turn, or asking for a volunteer to read the Psalm aloud. You may want to begin by explaining that the Psalms were written as songs of praise to God, from different situations and circumstances. When we read the Psalms today, we often find words which reflect our own circumstances or emotions, words which we can relate to in our own journeys.
Provide a story basket with objects with different textures for very young children to touch and hold as you read the Psalm together; rough and smooth, soft and hard. These can be any, every day object you have around which would be safe for a young child to hold.
Invite the group to discuss some of the following questions are as most appropriate. Be intentional about including all ages in this time of discussion, so far as you are able, rather than expecting them to listen quietly while the adults talk. If the children should drift away as the discussion continues, gather them back together at the end to join together in the praise and prayer sessions.
Some groups may be ready to go deeper in their study, in which case you could take some time to discuss some of the comments or questions written up on your graffiti wall at the beginning of your time together in more depth. It is helpful to take some time to talk about the fact that sometimes there are no simple answers; being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be easy, but rather that God promises to always be with us, no matter what situations we may go through. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t share our questions or concerns, it can be helpful to discuss these together and it is healthy to raise them before God, calling for His help, when life is tough.
Some groups enjoy a time of shared sung praise together, whilst for others this is not helpful. Treat this time as optional, depending upon the needs of your group. For younger children, this can be a great time for joining together with the adults in praise, perhaps using percussion instruments, scarves or ribbons as you sing.
Some song suggestions for this session include:
Give each member of the group a strip of paper and a pen and invite them to write a one sentence prayer, encouraging them to be honest about where they are at right now. When you are finished, gather the strips of paper together (this can be done anonymously) in the centre of the group and spread them out one under the other, forming a group prayer or Psalm. Ask one member of the group to pray these words aloud, or perhaps pray it aloud together as your honest prayer to God.
Invite the group to take a look at the Psalm once again, and take out one line which really speaks to them right now. Encourage them to write this down, and take it home to display somewhere this week. You could do this more creatively, perhaps providing card and magnetic strips to use to create a fridge magnet, or pebbles and pens to write the verse onto. Encourage the group to display the verse somewhere where they will see it often.