I wrote on Monday on some of my observations about going through a reading plan, memory plan, and preaching plan as a church. I forgot to mention another area where we aligned: our small group discussion. Our groups that meet throughout the week do not have to do a discussion guide that is synced up with the sermon text, but it is provided for them should they want to.
But that isn’t why I’m writing today. Today I wanted to write about a follow-up thought that shows another angle of this aligned approach. This whole plan has been a great discipline for me in how I think about preaching, and I believe it has been good for our church, but there is another side to pursuing corporate disciplines like this and then how to apply it pastorally:
It is easy to get behind . . .
Genesis isn’t a huge church. Sunday to Sunday there are about 130 souls on board. Fewer do the reading plan. There are a few groups that meet weekly to go over what they’ve read, but a theme that I will hear is that people get behind. A dear, dear friend of mine always seems to stay like 7-10 days behind in the reading. (Personally, I think that is funny because if you are consistently behind in the same way then you are at least keeping pace—just 7-10 days later—but more power to my friend. )
There are certainly those who stick with the work day in and day out, week in and week out, but even through April I run across folks who started well and then struggled to keep up with it, folks who missed chunks of reading and are trying to get back on the horse, and folks who really struggle with their memory work.
You know, all of that makes me grateful. I’m grateful as a pastor to see what comes easily to my church and what doesn’t. I’m grateful to know how well we can engage in disciplines of reading together. I’m grateful to know that there are people who are attempting things this year that they haven’t attempted in years (or perhaps ever). Those are all good things to be glad about.
Whatever the corporate discipline may be (and by “corporate discipline” I mean something that a congregation does together, even if that thing has individual components to it), I think the benefit for a pastor is that it gives you glimpses into ways to better care for your church. It shows you aspects of your flock that you would not generally see.
The aligned reading absolutely creates conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We can discuss Psalm 23 together. We can discuss what we read last week or this morning—those are great to be able to do. However, I’ve found a greater value is seeing how in doing this together we can see where people struggle and need help. It shows where people need encouragement. It shows *some* of what they might be good at and some of where they might struggle. It shows areas of the Bible where there are gaps in understanding and areas where there are legitimate questions (it does this in me, too).
For those reasons alone, this year has already been worth it. Above all the good things I wrote about earlier this week, the greatest benefit might be simply that this process gets you a little more aligned with the hearts and needs of your people.