The following are items to consider when conducting a "Faith-Sharing" group.
- The environment should be conducive to faith-sharing. Each week set up a prayer table with the necessary items for the closing rituals. Arrange seating to allow for everyone to see and hear. Adequate lighting is essential.
- In order to keep with the allotted time, it may be helpful to assign a timekeeper.
- Set a definite beginning time and an ending time. (The hosting person has a life, too!)
- The group may wish to consider rotating host sites.
- Ask for volunteers to read aloud each of the Scripture readings.
- Have a missalette or Bible at hand for the Scripture readings.
- The Psalm may be read as at Mass (with multiple repeatings of the antiphon, straight through (without the antiphon), or with the antiphon spoken only at the beginning and end of the Psalm.
- Make sure that no one dominates the sharing time.
- A timekeeper can be authorized by the group to discourage one person monopolizing the sharing. You may wish to decide in advance and as a group the maximum amount of time that can reasonably be allotted for each person’s sharing, in order to allow time for each person to share (if they choose to do so.)
- Use the faith-sharing questions to keep the sharing on track. If someone drifts off onto a tangent (such as a “life philosopher” or a “spokesperson for world issues”), ask the question again or ask, “Now, how were you connecting that to the original question?” Or, “Could you summarize that into a sentence or two?”
- Be as concrete as possible in your responses to the faith-sharing questions. Avoid “I always …,” “I never …,” “My folks always taught me to ….” Encourage specifics by asking “Has there ever been a time when you …?” or “Could you give us a (small) example of that?”
- The faith-sharing time is not a time for group therapy or group problem solving. It is also not a time to focus on personal problems unrelated to the faith sharing questions. Rather than respond to another’s sharing, simply silently reflect on it and then share for yourself. Encourage the use of “I” statements and not “We,” “You,” “Our,” etc.
- Share your own personal experiences as they related to your faith relationship with God and the gospel. This material is not intended as a Bible study or theological debate. The Commentary gives one interpretation; there may validly be others. Trust this material and avoid correcting the authors or debating the questions.
- Usually each person responds only once to each question so that others have an opportunity to share.
- Do not interrupt or cross talk (person A is speaking, and person B starts speaking to person C) while sharing is taking place.
- Silence is a vital part of faith-sharing. Be comfortable with it.
- Encourage sharing by everyone but do not insist that they share.
The leader may address each group member with an invitation to share, even if the response is only to say “I pass.” As the group gets better acquainted, this may not be necessary.
- It is not necessary to use all questions during faith-sharing; what is important is that faith sharing occurs.
- You may ask participants to take turns each week to bring refreshments.
- Consider having refreshments available at the beginning of the gathering or midway through the group time (perhaps just before beginning to answer the faith-sharing questions.) This may cultivate a more comfortable, informal tone to the sharing. By not delaying refreshments until the end, participants are more likely to go home at a respectable hour.
- Your group may wish to dispense entirely with refreshments.
- Before your weekly faith-sharing session, prepare by reading the Scriptures, Commentary, Faith-Sharing Questions, Living as Disciples, Closing Prayer Ritual, and Reflecting with Jeanne Chezard de Matel. (Jeanne Chezard de Matel (d. 1670) was the French mystic who founded the Order of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.)
It may not be necessary to read the entire Commentary at the group gathering. Hopefully everyone has already read the commentary before the group is meeting. Instead, a few people might be invited to highlight a word, phrase, or sentence that struck them.
- Become familiar with all parts/components of Disciples on the Journey.
Additional materials for families and teens are available online at www.disciplesonthejourney.org.
- Bring your Bible and DJ booklet to each session.
- Observe confidentiality. What is said in the group stays in the group.
If, outside the group, you make reference to something said in the group, you may talk about what difference the sharing made to yourself. Example: “We were talking about this the other night in our faith sharing group, and it made me think about myself and how I ….” (It is this type of conversation outside the group that may hold the potential for evangelization.)
- You may wish to review all or part of these guidelines with the group at the first meeting.
If there is a particular group sharing difficulty that emerges, you may wish to reiterate a point or two from these guidelines at the beginning of a subsequent meeting.