The aim of small group worship is to connect us with God. We need to move our focus off ourselves, where it has been for the welcome, and onto God. A variety of ways can be used but they all have a common key to make them successful, namely good communication about what you are asking the group to do in this part of your time together. People will not participate if they are in any way unsure of what they are supposed to be doing at any point. This in itself highlights a second key: involvement by everyone. With these two things in mind, here are some thoughts and ideas of different approaches.
For many people this is the main ingredient of worship. It enables us to connect with God and frees our emotions to engage in a way that other things may not. If you are planning to sing, bear in mind that the experience is likely to be different from a Sunday morning or any other larger gathering, owing to numbers. Therefore, choose songs that are not too complicated and are well known. Print out some words if you don’t have song books or ensure that everyone knows the words before you start. To enhance the experience you could sing along to a CD or find the song online where you can often find a video with words on the screen as well. Take your own CD player or laptop or check that the host has a system that you can use in the room you will be meeting in.
You can use music in a reflective way without the need to sing along. This can create an oasis in the lives of otherwise busy people. Choose a track that has a mood of calm and tranquillity. It is often good to read aloud a suitable passage of scripture that connects with the music in some way. This is particularly necessary if the music is instrumental, as it gives words for people to reflect on while they listen. It is important that you first explain what you are expecting people to do while the music is playing and what you are going to do afterwards. For instance: ‘As we listen to the music let’s reflect on God’s goodness towards us and lead each other in prayers of thanks when the music ends’.
Worshipping by using scripture alone has many benefits. You are not dependent on a group that can sing well, or on mastering someone’s over -technical hi-fi unit. Everyone has access to the words through their own Bible and you are focusing on something that is designed by God to connect us with Him. The Psalms are particularly good, as many of them were written solely for use in worship. Take some time looking at the passage you want to use and select an appropriate portion. You may want to stop short of slaying the Amorites or a long list of detailed instructions that follow the verses of praise! Often ten to fifteen verses are about right. You can read them and pause at suitable points, asking people to speak out a response as a prayer. Alternatively you can go round the group and read a verse each, leaving a pause for contributions. You can ask someone to read the whole passage and then simply reflect on it together, bringing your worship as you are prompted. It is sometimes good to pull out themes that the verses highlight and suggest the group worships around them to give some direction and structure. As with all these areas, have a clear idea of what you want to happen and communicate it to the group so they can participate.
Many of us connect with God through images rather than words alone. So why not use a visual form such as a picture or object to act as a vehicle for worship? Our cell had a time of worship that was stimulated by a poster. This had some words from John 10 on it and we used blank sheets of paper to write or draw our reflections on. We were then encouraged to share our thoughts in the form of prayers. Using everyday objects can also act as a stimulus, particularly when used with a passage of scripture or piece of music. A salt-shaker, pair of walking shoes, a bowl of water and a towel, all simple things that create a wealth of response in offerings of worship. The items you choose should be placed where everyone can see them and explanation given as to what you are going to do i.e. ‘ I am going to pray that God will stir our hearts to worship Him as we look at these objects, so let’s encourage one another as we speak out our praise’. Often having some music playing or reading some verses helps to set a context.
The most powerful objects we have to lead us in to worship are, of course, bread and wine. To lead the group in worship through celebrating the Lord’s Supper is always a powerful experience. It is helpful to remind ourselves why we do this and using the words in 1 Corinthians 11 acts as a good framework. You may want to read the relevant verses and then pause and do what they say.
1 Corinthians 11: 24-29
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”1 Corinthians 11:24
Ask someone to thank Jesus for his broken body
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”1 Corinthians 11:25
Ask someone to thank Jesus for his poured out blood
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.1 Corinthians 11:26-29
Spend some time in confession, sorting out anything that stands between us and God, or each other
Take the bread and break it and offer it around the group. You may like to encourage each person to say to their neighbour as they pass it on ‘the body of Jesus was broken for you’. Do the same with the wine ‘the blood of Jesus was poured out for you’.
You could close the time by praying prayers of thanks together or singing.
If you are in an Anglican church please talk to your Vicar about having bread and wine in your group.