Sermon Based Small Groups

I’m writing my DMIN project on Sermon Based Small Groups (SBSGs). The Patriarch for the model is Pastor Larry Osborne. Northcoast church is a great church and Larry is a great leader. 

In the homiletical field, I’ve been studying Haddon Robinson for over 15 years. His book Biblical Preaching describes the Big Idea method to preaching and has been THE classic for preaching for the last 30 years. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with Haddon and his disciples/friends for the past four years at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Robinson’s model for preparation for preaching looks in part like this:

1. Study a passage (one literary unit) to the point of writing an exegetical idea (one sentence summary statement, stated in the past tense which is created by using a “subject” and “complement”)

2. Submit the exegetical idea to developmental questions: What needs to be explained, applied, or proved (Usually only one of these provides your outline angle)

3. Write your homiletical idea or Big Idea (one sentence in contemporary language)

4. Write the sermon purpose: most preachers ignore this. They may generally know it, but rarely can I tell where preachers have actually thought it through. The sermon purpose is at least one main, specific statement of what the preacher wants listeners to do as a result of the message. 

  • Sermon purpose brings intentionality to the sermon
  • Sermon purpose is the bridge to the listeners next week, real life
  • Sermon purpose takes the sermon from the pulpit to the living room
  • Sermon purpose takes the sermon to the workplace
  • Sermon purpose helps the church at all age groups know what to do after listening

An example: Let’s say the preacher spoke on “Vision.” His text was Prov. 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.” In this message the sermon purpose is this: “I want my listeners to understand and apply within small groups how biblical vision helps them and their world.”  In this message the preacher lays out the Hebrew meaning of this verse within the Old Testament context. He then applies the vision of the church to the text and shows the need for the vision.  Let’s say the message was motivating and the content was excellent. Let’s say the application is fresh because the preacher studied and prayed and God blessed. Each listener received a cool looking color copy of the vision and what it looks like. It fits neatly in a Bible so it’s portable. After all that….

What do you think will happen to the message by Wednesday of the next week? 

Can I say that it will be forgotten? Or maybe it will be swallowed up by a busy week? Might I insinuate it may be stolen by the enemy? It may get dismissed to stand with all the other messages listeners will here in a week. 

What if you designed small groups who met during the week. Those groups would not study another topic. They would apply your message by using discussion questions based on your sermon purpose, which is based on your passage and application. 

There’s more to this process, but what strengths and weaknesses to do see with this approach?

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Explore posts in the same categories: Assimilation, Leading, Mentoring, Preaching, Small Groups

One Comment on “Sermon Based Small Groups”

  1. Patti McTee Says:

    For the most part I think giving your small groups an opportunity to flesh out the message is great and encourages the group to be do-ers and not just hearers. But I would also recommend keeping the number of questions brief to allow time for discussion of other and related issues. I can see how some might feel inundated with the sermon message otherwise. I’m also a big fan of this Bible study time being outside of the traditional Sunday school role by having small groups meet when ever and where ever they want…and just coming together as a corporate body for worship and outreach events.


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