Here is a possible procedure to follow with your group:
Have someone pray for the group that you would all be open and receptive to God.
Ask everyone to be silent for one or two minutes as people individually prepare their hearts to come to God’s Word.
Have someone read the passage slowly out loud. Have a couple minutes of silence after the reading, instructing the participants to reflect on the passage.
Have a second person read the passage again slowly out loud and again give time for your group to silently meditate on the passage.
Read the passage a third time, but this time ask everyone to read the passage to themselves.
Encourage participants to pick out a word, idea, or phrase that strikes them in a personal way, something that jumped out to them—like a particular play on words or an interesting metaphor. Once they have chosen something, they should not continue reading the rest of the passage.
Tell participants that once they’ve found a word or phrase that catches their eye or moves their heart, they should slowly repeat it and linger over it, giving it their full attention. Ask your group members to think about this question: “Where does the content of this reading touch my life today?”
Be silent for a few minutes for group members to be able to reflect on whatever word or phrase connects to their lives. Tell participants that if their minds start to wander, just repeat the word or phrase as a means of regaining their focus.
Invite the group members to state out loud to the rest of the group (or to one other in pairs), in just a few sentences, the connection between the word or phrase and their lives.
Tell the other person(s) where you stopped in the passage.
Share briefly the story of why you stopped where you did (there is always a story)!
Do not elaborate too long.
You can always “pass.”
Tell your group members to take any thoughts, feelings, actions, fears, convictions, and questions they meditated on and offer them to the Lord in prayer. These prayers could happen either silently, in pairs, or with the whole group. For instance, they could:
Praise God for who he is.
If they feel convicted about a poor relationship, simply make plans to apologize, request forgiveness, and ask for guidance on restoring the relationship.
If they feel thankful for something that God has done for them, then they should pour out those feelings of thanksgiving to God.
If they feel a specific anxiety about something in their life, they could present it to the Lord and pray for the guidance and peace to be able to submit to God’s will.
Instruct your group members that in this stage you are going to invite them to all be silent for an extended period of time, asking them to be aware of the reality that God is with them. The goal is to be still, to be receptive to God, to not be talking to God but simply enjoying the reality of his presence for a brief time—to just be with him.
Tell your group members that part of Contemplation is to commit yourself, with the help of God, to do the truth that he has planted in your heart. God is calling us to submit to his Word, to live it out (e.g., James 1:22-25; Matthew 7:15-27; Romans 2:12-16). Living out your faith is a following of Jesus that happens naturally as we know Christ, love him more, and become more like him. Have the participants commit themselves, through prayer, to following Christ wherever he is leading them.
You could alternatively provide time for each person to pray for their partner (or the person to their left or right) that they will be able to respond appropriately to God.
Close your group time in prayer.
Misc. Information on Group Contemplation
Doing the Contemplateprocess on a Scripture passage that group members know already is a better choice than choosing a passage they are unfamiliar with. Contemplate is not for discovering the meaning of a passage; it is for soaking in God’s Word, letting it become a part of our lives.
The amount of time you should spend on each stage of the Contemplate process should be roughly the same, but you will find a natural rhythm as you gain experience leading.
Using the Contemplate method of Scripture engagement in a group is different from doing it individually. In a group, members can share what they mediate upon and pray for one another.
Doing the Contemplate process together is helpful because hearing from others will often expand your own insights, and sharing with others will gently strengthen your resolve to follow through on personal response plans. The prayers we offer for one another are invaluable.
It is possible for group members to prepare for a Contemplatesmall group session by doing the individual Contemplate process on the same passage during the week. Then, when you meet you can pick up at the end of Step Three (above) where group members share with one another the insights they gained.
It might be helpful to establish group rules for your small group. For example:
Confidentiality—Everything said in the group stays in the group.
Honesty—Group members need to be honest when they talk but are always free to “pass.” There should never be any pressure to share or pray publicly. People will usually share and pray as their level of trust increases.
This is not a discussion group or counseling session and should not become one. The purpose is to meet the Lord and hear him.