wear, clothes

What Not to Wear: Mass Edition

Growing up I loved the show What Not to Wear on TLC. I loved seeing people get an updated more modern and sophisticated look.

In my own life, I like to dress up. I am not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t go out of the house in sweat pants. I always dress up for Mass.

Although I must confess that I’ve worn jeans to mass before.

I didn’t think what I wore to Mass was such a contentious topic until I saw this tweet.

Dear Catholic men: Why are you wearing cargo shorts and flip-flops for Sunday Mass? You wouldn’t wear anything close to beachwear for a) a job interview, b) a wedding, or c) dinner with the Queen of England, and you know it.

Patrick Coffin’s point is that we should show respect because the king of the universe is present. Does God actually care what we wear? What does the Bible say about our clothing?

Old Testament Clothes

So the first mention of clothes occurs in Genesis chapter 3.

then the eyes of both were open and they knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7

So in the garden, they were naked.

This represents innocence.

Yet when sin entered they wanted to cover up. They felt shame and guilt. This translated into being embarrassed about our bodies.

Yet our bodies are not shameful. Your body was created by God. In fact, God gives us clothes.

and the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

God clothes Adam and Eve with garments of skin. The plants were not sufficient because their sin required a blood sacrifice. Thus, clothes function to hide our shame and guilt. God already knows what I have done. He knows our bodies. Thus clothes are for us. It is to protect us from being vulnerable.

So how does this affect the New Testament community?

The writings of St. Paul

After the gospels and book of Acts, there are the letters of St. Paul. Letters can be tricky. When I read the letter, I am reading the answer without knowing the context or question. Nevertheless, we know that the letter authors were writing to churches. They were correcting problems.

St. Paul had problems with the church of Corinth. Things were getting out of hand. Here’s what St Paul said about women’s attire in the church.

For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.

Don’t grab your hair veil just yet!

Paul is recognizing the fact that women are subordinate to men.

Now feminist, hear me out.

Paul absolutely believes that man and women are equal under God.

Yet he recognizes that women have a unique role and purpose. Our job is to be a helpmate to men. In Paul’s time, both men and women wore veils. Yet in the house of God, women should veil to show their unique relationship. Likewise in Paul’s time, having short hair associated you with a less honorable class of women such as prostitutes and lesbians.

Hence women should dress in accordance with their God-given role.

Paul elaborates on this in his letter to Timothy.

Similarly, too, women should adorn themselves with proper conduct, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hairstyles and gold ornaments, or pearls, or expensive clothes, but rather, as befits women who profess reverence for God, with good deeds. 1 Timothy 2:9

Paul does advise against braided hairstyles, gold ornaments, and expensive clothes. Yet his main goal is to emphasize modesty. Our reverence to God is shown not by being flashy, but by good works.

Take away

So the point is not so we can have an excuse to dress however we want. Our clothes do reflect our hearts. If we are respectful and reverent, we will put more effort into our appearance.

Yet this issue can’t fit in a 280 character tweet.

A person’s holiness is not measured by what they wear, but rather by what they do.

I think I’ll keep wearing my nice dark jeans and a nice modest top.

Behold Your Mother

Everyone has a mother. Maybe you don’t know your mother. Maybe she wasn’t a very good mother. Maybe, like me, you had the best mother in the world. Regardless, you had a mother.

Motherhood deserves recognition because you would not exist otherwise. They for whatever reason decided to have you.

In honor of this special day, I would like to take a moment to showcase mothers in the Bible.

Biblical Mothers

There are a lot of good mother figures in the Bible. Samson’s mother and Hannah stand out to me.

In Judges 13, we learn that Samson’s mother was barren. God told her that she would bear a son, who would deliver the Israelites from Philistines. God instructs her to not drink wine or strong drink and to not eat anything unclean.

Hannah’s story is similar. She was also barren. Hannah prayed in the temple. She vowed that if God looked on her affections and gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God. (1st Samuel 1:11)

I think the actions of these Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

John 19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home

In Luke chapter 1:28, the angel greets Mary as being full of grace. In Luke 1:42, Elizabeth exclaims that Mary is blessed among women. Last Jesus in John tells us to honor her as a mother.

Death Just Got Weird: Reviving Pigs Brains

cemetery with grave stones reminding people of death

“Bioethics is a fascinating field of philosophy because we don’t have to make this shit up”

Professor Arras said that countless times in my many lectures on bioethical issues. I have never felt that more clear than when I read the headline:

Scientists- We kept pig brains alive 10 hours after death. Bioethicists- “Holy shit.”

Explanation of the Experiment

Basically, the scientist decided to test the hypothesis that brain death is irreversible. They took 32 pig’s brains from slaughtered pigs. They waited for four hours. Then the pig’s brains where plugged into BrainEx for six hours. (if you want a detailed description on how the system works please see here). The study concludes that certain brain cells were alive. The cells were not communicative with each other. Yet, they were performing basic functions. Thus, the scientist created all sorts of problems for ethicists.

Death

I spent most of my undergrad philosophy career studying death and dying issues. When we die is a fascinating question. One that has implications for us spiritually.

Life After Death

Catholics define death as a separation of the soul from the body. So do we have a soul? Certain people are blessed to have an experience of what life is beyond the grave. For the rest of us, we have this inner longing for something more than biological. It is this inner longing that points to the Catholic understanding of the soul. There are 7 reasons to
“believe in a soul.
One is the philosophical idea that the existence of one thing necessitates the existence of another. For example, the existence of a male dog necessitates the existence of a female dog. The desire for something more than our biological self necessitates an actual immortal existence.

What is the Soul

Ok, so we have proven that an immortal soul exists in humans. My question has always been where and what is it? I always assumed consciousness was the location of the soul.

I was wrong

The soul according to Catholic thought is the life force of the body. It does not just reside in one part but animates the whole. For this reason, the soul is unquantifiable. Thus, science has had to resort to other philosophical meaning about death.

Scientific Death

There are 3 different views on when we die. The views are whole-brain death, the essence of the human person, and circulatory-respiratory standard. All three fail to pinpoint when you die.

Whole Brain

Death occurs when either circulatory and respiratory functions stop working. Death also comes when the whole brain including brain stem has stopped working. Two problems with this definition. First, the brain is not responsible for the integration of bodily functions. A brain dead patient can still perform the functions of life. This includes healing wounds and digesting food. Second certain individuals with lock-in syndrome are considered brain dead. Yet these individuals actually are aware. Thus it appears one can be alive even when brain dead.

Essence of a Human Person

For these people, it matters not that an organism performs biological functions. What matters is what makes us human. If we lose what makes us human, we are dead. Proponents argue that what makes us human is the capacity for consciousness.

The problem with this view is that it ignores humanity’s biological nature. We are more than mere minds. Common sense tells us that we still exist even if we lose our mental capacity.

Circulatory-respiratory Standard

Death occurs when circulatory-respiratory functions stop working. It explains the difficult cases such as locked-in syndrome and prenatal humans. Yet it fails to account for the importance of mental life. Humans are more than body’s that can pump blood and breathe. Second, it creates problems for organ donation. The dead-donor rule only allows organs to be donated from dead persons. If respiratory function still exists then under the Circulatory-respiratory standard the person is still alive. It is better to get organs from a patient on a ventilator. Yet this would be illegal under the dead donor rule.

What About the Pigs

The revival of the pigs begs two philosophical questions. First, was the experiment to revive an animal ethical? Second, What does this imply for those undergoing brain death? If cells in the brain can be revived, can we really say a person with no brain functioning is dead? If such a person is not dead, can we ethically procure organs from them? It calls for a new standard of death. One that recognizes that death is a gradual progression. We are not minds trapped in an organic body. Nor are we mere organic bodies, but we are both.

The Rosary Speaks: Are you listening?

I prayed the Rosary more as a non-catholic than as a Catholic.

As a non-catholic, I became fascinated by the rosary. I thought I could never recite 150 plus prayers. I also wondered how it was possible to memorize and recite at the same time.

Yet I decided to try.

Over time I really got into the mysteries. The Joyful and sorrowful stood out to me.

In the sorrowful mysteries, I felt that Christ understood my pain. As I meditated on Christ’s last days, I realized that Christ’s suffering was beyond anything I can comprehend. Yet not only did he have the patience to undergo those trials, but so did his mother.

Christ falls three times

When I imagine this scene, I imagine it from the perspective of Mary, Jesus’ mother.

I am not a mother.

Yet I have been an ill child in and out of hospitals. I have watched my mother, how she fought and cared for me. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to do anything but watch.

Yet as Jesus falls, all Mary can do is watch in horror. What patience and faith Mary must have had to endure seeing her child in agony.

Thus the sorrowful mysteries help me be more patient when I face trials and I am in pain.

Finding Jesus in the Temple

I am a Catholic convert.

Thus, when I imagine Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus, I put it in the context of my own life.

I imagine Mary and Joseph looking everywhere for Jesus. They visit family members. They consult their friends. Finally, they go back. Into the temple, they enter to find Jesus. He wasn’t with family or friends, but he was found in the Fathers house.’

So many times I’ve looked for truth in other people’s opinions. Yet I couldn’t truly find truth or Jesus until I came back to the Church. Just like he was with Mary and Joseph in the temple, he is present in the tabernacle for us. If we want Jesus to speak to us, we need to go back to church, in front of the tabernacle, and listen to him teach us.

The mysteries speak to us. They speak to me. Only if I take my time and intentionally pray them.

Adoration with monstrance

Adoration is my favorite devotion, why?

Imagine a date with Jesus.

You get dress up because you want to look nice for the king. You arrive early because you don’t want to keep the king waiting. Sitting across from Jesus, you wonder what to say to the creator of the universe. All of a sudden, he speaks. He asks you, how are you doing? At first, you try to give a generic answer, but Jesus is having none of it. He wants the truth.

Through Eucharistic adoration, I’ve been on that date.

What is Adoration?

I began adoration at the 24-hour chapel. Admittedly I was nervous. Despite being an introvert, staying one hour in silence did not sound appealing. Yet I had wanted to challenge myself. In Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Catholicism, he challenges the reader to devote one hour to adoration.

Thus, it began as a challenge

Radical Encounter

It turned into a radical encounter with the Lord

And he came to his disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “So could you not watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is indeed weak” Matthew 26:40-41

I have been tempted. I have heard the lies whispered in the shadows of the night.

Satan tells me that I am:

  • unworthy
  • unlovable
  • should be anxious about my future

Yet for the one hour in front of the blessed sacrament, I get to lay all of that down in front of the king of the universe. Jesus, who loves me, wants desperately to hear me and spend time with me. He tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Jesus came so that you can have an abundant life. He doesn’t want you to fall into the lies of the evil one. I challenge you to spend one hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament weekly. Your life will be forever changed.

Easter Vigil: Why You Should Attend!

Imagine entering a pitch black sanctuary. The only light to guide you is the soft glow of a candle. Up ahead is the light of the Paschal candle. As you file into the sanctuary looking for your seat, you hear the priest chanting the Exulet:

This is the Easter Vigil.

It gives me goosebumps.

I love the setting and atmosphere. Thus, the Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgical service. I have other reasons for liking it too.

Old Testament References

The Easter vigil starts with The Exulet, which has the following line:

This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,

from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea

Jesus’ death and resurrection did not happen in isolation. Rather God has always rescued his people. The references to the Old Testament continue throughout the night. It starts with the creation story in Genesis and ends with the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus.

Thus, I am reminded that God can rescue me.

Symbolism is on Point

For starters, the paschal candle represents the light of Christ. We all receive this at baptism. When I carry my own candle into the sanctuary, I remember that the light of Christ is always with me.

One of my favorite moments is when the lights are turned on for the first time. I am reminded of how Christ can take away the darkness in my life. Christ’s resurrection offers hope.

Music

Music impacts my life and is a passion of mine. You can read what I’ve written about music here

In my apartment, there is an assortment of posters from all the concerts I have been to over the years. I’m always discovering new bands and artist. When I began to explore Christianity, it wasn’t well-reasoned arguments, but rather music that moved my soul.

The music of the Easter vigil moves my soul.

Not only is most of it beautiful, but it is also joyous.

I like to sing.

After every reading, there is an optional psalm to be sung. Hence, there is a lot more opportunity to sing.

Baptizing Adults

I am a convert to the Catholic faith. The struggles convert face is close to my heart. Thus, I like to support those entering into the Catholic faith. Seeing people receive baptism fills me with joy, It gives me hope for the Catholic Church.

Conclusion

I believe every Catholic should attend the Easter vigil at least once. It is a beautiful liturgy filled with meaning, symbolism, and great music. Yes, it is three hours long. Yes, it is late in the evening. Yet if you attend it will move your soul!

Lent- Transformation or diet plan?

Desert with sand dunes reminds me of Lent

As a young person, I gave up T.V. for Lent.

Yes, you read that correctly. As a twelve-year-old, I wanted to give up T.V. As a young person I believed wrongly that Lent was about giving up something. My twelve-year-old self thought that we earned God’s love through our Lenten sacrifice. My parents supported me. In fact, they liked it so much, the no T.V watching became the household norm.

I grew up.

As I re-entered the Catholic Church and matured in my faith, I began to see the real beauty of Lent. I have learned that Lent is much more than a diet plan. When approached correctly, it can radically change your life. I know that it has changed mine.

Purpose of Lent

Lent has a three-fold purpose: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These practices help us empty ourselves so that we can be filled with God’s presence.

Prayer

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is week Mathew 26:41

Every morning is a battle. The alarm goes off and I am faced with a choice: to snooze or not to snooze. My tired eyes beckon me to sleep for five more minutes. Yet my soul knows that those five minutes I could be spending with God. Jesus tells us that prayer protects us from temptation. In my life, I am tempted to fall into despair. In those moments I turn to the Divine Mercy prayer.

Eternal Father, whose mercy is endless and whose treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly on us and increase in us Your mercy, that in difficult moments, we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your most holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

Prayer has helped me fight my inner demons. Nowhere has this become more clear than during Lent. I discovered the Litany of Trust during the fourth week of Lent. I decided to pray it every day during Lent. Since then I have seen my confidence grow and God doing impossible things.

Fasting

I like food.

I am the worse when it comes to fasting. It seems like every Friday I get a craving for fried chicken. One time I had left my Friday holy hour hungry. I decided to go through KFC drive through because I could not wait. As soon as I had the food in my hands, I remembered that it was a day of absence from meat. I reluctantly ate it as to not waste food.

In my moments of weakness I recall Jesus’ example:

And he fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “if you are the son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “it is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:2-4

I know that if I was Jesus, I would have given into the devil’s demands. By forcing us to fast, Lent reminds us of our human weakness. Every time I’m tempted to snack on some crackers or gorge on fried chicken, I realize how much I need God’s grace.

Alms Giving

I am frugal with money.

I struggle with Works of Mercy because I keep to myself and help myself. God decided to shake me up. One Saturday after confession, the priest told me to do a random act of kindness as part of my penance. As someone, who keeps to themselves, this was completely out of my comfort zone. I agonized over the decision. Ultimately, I ended up buying a cup of coffee for someone in line behind me. God must have a sense of humor. It turns out that the people in line behind me were buying together. When the cashier asked me if I wanted to pay for both, I awkwardly said yes.

I’ll admit that it did feel good to buy them coffee. Ever since I have looked for ways to do random acts. I hope to one day get to the point where my Lenten sacrifice involves doing an act of kindness every day. Until then God has a lot of work to do.

Lent reimagined

Lent was never intended to be a self-improvement plan or a diet regimen. It transforms us by making us walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Like Jesus, we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the desert. We can be tempted by hunger, greed, or business, but we will not give in. Instead, we will find that we need God.

Nature is Ensouled: A Response

Nature: blue sky, grass, rocks

that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time. Romans 8:22

I love Twitter.

Catholic twitter is regular twitter except for all the people you follow are Catholic. It is a happy place mostly. Occasionally you will get people riled up about something. I still have not forgotten the dancing priest outrage. Last month, an article, Nature Is Ensouled written by the Center for Action and Contemplation had people talking.

People were accusing Father Rohr of being heretical. Intrigued, I took a look. Skimming the article, my eyes fell on this statement,

I’m not saying God is all things (pantheism), but that each living thing reveals some aspect of God. God is both greater than the whole of our universe, and as Creator inter-penetrates all created things (panentheism). No exceptions.

Father Rohr seems to be suggesting Panentheism is compatible with Christianity. Now to the average person, what Father Rohr is saying may sound appealing even correct. I wasn’t so sure. Not satisfied I sought to research.

In my research, I learned that New Age focuses on harmony and communication with nature1. This sounds good on paper. Even I can understand the appeal. I have always felt that nature had a deep inner beauty.

I value knowledge.

Thus I understand the appeal of a lounging to discover some inner connectiveness. Yet there are three problems with this.

1. Relationships

The Christian God is relational. God wants a relationship. If Father Rohr is correct then I need to “discover the soul in other things to live in union with the source of all being.” 2 Yet discovering some hidden soul is completely opposite of Christian values. I don’t need to become one with nature, rather, I need a relationship with Jesus Christ.

2. Searching in vain

The Bible is just one big love letter from God. The stories in the Old and New Testament show how God is pursuing humanity. I typically don’t give into romantic sentiment. Yet I love the idea of being pursued by the Divine creator. I don’t get that with new age religion. Rather New Age teaches that I have to search for the divine.

3. Who is God?

I am made in God’s Image.

I have a rational soul.

God is my creator.

Ultimately. New Age Mysticism challenges me to define these three fundamental truths. Yes, both New Age and Christianity believe animals do have souls. The difference is a matter of degree. In Christianity, animals have material souls. These souls decay and die. Yet New Age insists that animals and God are intertwined 3.

It is so easy to fall into error. It is easy to be taken in by the longing for interconnectedness. I understand the appeal of wanting a deeper connection with the divine. Yet I would not trade in a relational deity for an impersonal essence. I am sad that an institution with Catholic roots would fall far from the truth. The earth’s redemption may come (Romans 8:22), but let us focus on growing deeper with Christ.

  1. https://www.allaboutspirituality.org/new-age.htm
  2. https://cac.org/nature-is-ensouled-2018-03-11/
  3. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html#1.4.%20The%20New%20Age%20and%20Catholic%20Faith
forest and two paths

Relativism: is it self-refuting

Section I: Introduction

So I stumbled on a Q & A video from Lizzieanswers. One of the questions asked Lizzie to share her thoughts on Relativism. She was asked at 5:15 of the video, why she did not believe in relativism and what was philosophically wrong with it? She answers that relativism is self-refuting. Is she correct? Perhaps relativism is not a truth claim at all, but rather a critique of how humanity comes to know the truth.

In the media and in society, you hear people say all the time, you do you or who am I to judge another’s belief. In fact, I used to be the same way. I embraced moral relativism in my undergrad philosophy courses. My chief reason was that different societies accepted different practices. Most people argue that murder is universally wrong. Yet there are tribes that practice ritualistic cannibalism. I had assumed that differences in morals across cultures meant that there was no objective moral truth. In those same courses, I wrestled with philosophers, who stood for objective truth.

Section II: What is Relativism?

Before I can explain whether Moral Relativism is true or false, I have to break down what relativism is. It turns out that relativism is much more nuanced then it first appears.

A. Global relativism

Global relativism is captured by the oft-repeated slogan “all is relative”. The claim is that all beliefs, regardless of their subject matter, are true only relative to a framework or parameter. This type of relativism first appeared in Plato. Greek philosophers liked to write as if they were having a debate with someone else. They create a pseudonym to represent an argument that they don’t agree with. Plato created this guy named Protagoras. He argued that all truth depended on the belief of individuals. Plato, being the smart individual that he is, pointed out that if all truth is relative to the individual then nothing is true. Protagoras cannot establish the truth of his claim. (Baghramian, Maria and Carter, J. Adam, "Relativism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/relativism/.)

B: Local relativism

Relativists have attempted to avoid Plato’s critique by still holding on to objective truth in certain areas. For example, they may wish to say that claims based on sensory information are still objectively true. Modern relativists typically target a self-contained area. For example, a modern relativist might say that the area of morals is relative to the individual. Being relativist about a certain area makes you a local relativist. As a local relativist, your arguments are not logically inconsistent. For example, the statement, all moral claims are relative to an individual, is not itself a moral claim. Thus it is not self-refuting. This statement can be defended objectively.

Section III: Arguments in favor

So why might someone want to be a relativist? I know for myself I was guided by the principle of tolerance. As the world gets smaller, you get to connect with some pretty awesome people. Yet these people may have a different belief system or a different set of values from you. Out of respect for them, you may be reluctant to think that their viewpoint is wrong. Thus out of respect, you may think, hey, maybe we are both correct. We just have a different framework.

Yet, does tolerance require us to accept all people’s opinions as correct? Perhaps we can respect each other without acknowledging all views as correct. Otherwise, why bother having disagreements at all.

Section IV Arguments against

A. Self refuting

Anytime relativism is brought up, the self-refuting argument is always mentioned. In fact, Lizzy makes the same argument in her video. The idea is that if all truth is relative, then the claim is not objective, but is also relative. If it is relative, then I don’t need to accept it. If it is absolute, then there are claims that are objective and not all truth is relative. Thus relativism is false. This argument works against global relativism.

In some cases, Local relativism may also fall into the trap of being self-refuting. Local relativism relies on frameworks. If local relativism tries to justify one framework over another, it runs into the same problem. So If you are a local relativist, you must either conclude that relativism is false or conclude that no framework is absolutely right.

B. The Other Problem with Local Relativism

Now, maybe you are fine with concluding that no framework is morally superior. Yet such a conclusion has philosophical implications. One of my favorite questions to study is why do we believe what we believe or what justification do we have for our beliefs. Yet if relativism is true, there would be no reason to ask these questions. The ability to provide good reasons depends on conceptual ties to a higher truth.

Disagreements are a part of human nature. When you and I disagree, we usually believe that the other is incorrect. We use assertions to persuade the other of our viewpoint. Relativism ignores this fundamental truth.

Relativism attempts to be tolerant of other cultures. Yet, what would happen if I was from two very different cultural backgrounds? I would have to choose the one I thought was correct. Relativism offers me no guiding principle. I will have to make an arbitrary choice.

Conclusion

If you know anything about me, you know that I love deep philosophical conversations. I love debating moral theology. Connecting with people different from you gives you a chance to rearticulate what you believe. It does not require you to abandon the pursuit of truth and declare everything is arbitrary. Yet, relativism requires exactly that. Otherwise, relativism becomes self-refuting.

How to lead a small group

How to lead a small group

Introduction

Small groups are a relatively recent phenomenon in Catholic parishes. Yet in Protestant churches gathering in small groups are a normal occurrence. Parish renewal groups such as Rebuilt and Forming Intentional Disciplesemphasize small groups. They see small groups a way of establishing a community. I served on the board in charge of discussing small groups. This made me realize that Catholics don’t understand the point of small groups.

What are small groups

A small group consists of 6-10 people, who hold each other accountable. Here’s what a small group is not:

  • a bible study
  • a book club
  • a place to go deeper in theology

While I love all those activities, none of those actives by themselves make a small group. Rather, a small group shares life together. They usually began with a meal and prayer. After that, they have no real agenda. The group might do Lectio divina, or watch a video. You should get to the point where you do not need a program. A program should be a jumping off point for relational ministry. Getting through all the questions is not the goal of a small group.

I have been a small group leader for youth, young adults, and adults. I know a thing or two about leading small groups. Below are 5 tips for being a good small group leader.

Tips To Be A Small Group Leader

1. Same page

You want to make sure your leader and co-leader are on the same page. This means you need to talk about expectations. Questions that need to be discussed include:

  • will there be food and who’s bringing it
  • how often will we meet
  • what will we be discussing
  • will attendance be required

If the leaders are not on the same page, then the members will not know what to expect. Likewise, this makes members confused and less likely to come back.

2. Introduce People

Your job as facilitator is to help people enter into a relationship with each other. Thus, you need to facilitate interaction. The first couple of times you meet, you want to have a good ice breaker. Later on, you may want to collect birthdays and contact info. You can send encouragement and prayer to those you think might need it. You can encourage others to do the same.

3. Spiritual Introduction

We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life. Some people in the group may have an active prayer life. Others still struggle with accepting Jesus as the son of God. St Paul talks about this in 1st Corinthians 3:1-3a

”But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. 1st Corinthians 3:1-3a (RSV Second Catholic edition)

Until everyone agrees to be on the same page spiritually, the group dynamics will not work. Thus as a facilitator, you must make sure that everyone is ready to go deeper. It is better to start too basic and then get complex.

4. Delegate Responsibility

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is a failure to delegate responsibility. Yet the group will die if nobody takes responsibility and the leader ends up leaving. I had this happen to one of my young adult groups. I had given roles, which people had reluctantly taken, but I failed to invest in those roles. When I moved to Connecticut for three months, the group died. People contribute to groups that matter to them and when they feel the can contribute.

5 . Plan with other groups

One thing I miss about Protestant churches is how small groups became large. Currently, I am a leader of a young adult small group at a local parish. At the introductory meeting, the young adult leader shared his vision. He envisioned having multiple groups throughout Hampton Roads. This was last year. Our group still meets bi-monthly. Yet we have never interacted with another group. It makes us feel disconnected and unsupported. In my Protestant church, we would meet weekly in a small group. Yet once a month all the small groups would get together. We would grab wings or go bowling. It helped remind us that we were a part of a much larger community.

I would like to see the local parish eventually figure this whole small group thing out. The relationships I have formed in those small groups have been valuable to my spiritual formation.