Thank you for your willingness to lead your group through Captivating. This film series, featuring the teaching of Stasi Eldredge, reveals every woman's longing to be loved, play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and bring life and beauty to the world. We're excited for you to take the women in your community through this life-changing journey. The rewards of leading are different from the rewards of participating, and we hope you find your own walk with Jesus deepened by this experience. This leader's guide will give you some tips on how to prepare for your time together and facilitate a meaningful experience for your group members.
What Does It Take to Lead This Study?
Get together and watch God show up. Seriously, that's the basics of how a small group works. Gather several people together who have a hunger for God, want to learn more about what is available for them in the here and now, and are willing to be open and honest with God and themselves. The Lord will honor this every time and show up in the group. You don't have to be a pastor, priest, theologian, or counselor to lead a group through this study. Just invite people over, watch the video, and talk about it. All you need is a willing heart, a little courage, and God will do the rest. Really.
How This Study Works
As the group leader, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your group has a copy of the Captivating Study Guide, and the book Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul if they are doing the recommended readings for each session. It works best if you can get books and guides to your group before the first meeting. That way, everyone can read the first chapter ahead of time, which will prepare them for your first video session together. The Study Guide is written in such a way that participants do not have to read the book to participate; however, their experience will be much richer if they do. In the Study Guide, there is a section for the group to do together and there is a section to help participants go deeper into the material on their own, during the following week. To do that, it is helpful that they read the corresponding chapters in the book as well.
This series is presented in six video sessions, with each session approximately fifteen to twenty minutes in length. Each week, you'll meet together to watch the video and discuss the session. This series can also be used in classroom settings, such as Sunday school classes, though you may need to modify the discussion time depending on the size of the class. You could even use the video as sessions for a special retreat. Basically, each week you and your group will:
1) Watch the video session together
2) Talk about it with provided discussion questions
3) Reflect on what you have learned, and go deeper, by completing the between-session activities and reading the corresponding chapter(s) in Captivating.
A Few Tips for Leading a Group
The setting really matters. If you can choose to meet in a living room over a conference room in a church, do it. Pick an environment that's conducive to people relaxing and getting real. Remember, the enemy likes to distract us when it comes to prayer and seeking God, so do what you can to remove these obstacles from your group (silence cell phones, limit background noise, no texting). Set the chairs or couches in a circle to prevent having a "classroom" feel.
Consider having some refreshments! Coffee and water will do; cookies and snacks are even better. People tend to be nervous when they join a new group, so if you can give them something to hold onto (like a warm mug of coffee), they will relax a lot more. It's human nature.
Good equipment is important. Meet where you can watch the video sessions on a screen big enough for everyone to see and enjoy. Get or borrow the best gear you can. Also, be sure to test your media equipment ahead of time to make sure everything is in working condition. This way, if something isn't working, you can fix it or make other arrangements before the meeting begins. (You'll be amazed at how the enemy will try to mess things up for you!)
Be honest. Remember that your honesty will set the tone for your time together. Be willing to answer questions personally, as this will set the pace for the length of your group members' responses and will make others more comfortable in sharing.
Stick to the schedule. Strive to begin and end at the same time each week. The people in your group are busy, and if they can trust you to be a good steward of their time, they will be more willing to come back each week. Of course, you want to be open to the work God is doing in the group members as they are challenged to reconsider some of their preconceived ideas about the availability of the kingdom of God to bring them joy in their everyday lives, and at times you may want to linger in prayer or discussion. Remember the clock serves you; your group doesn't serve the clock. But work to respect the group's time, especially when it comes to limiting the discussion times.
Don't be afraid of silence or emotion. Welcome awkward moments. The material presented during this study will likely bring to the surface areas of pain and suffering. Don't be afraid to ease into the material with the group to allow space for honoring one another's stories and personal questions.
Don't dominate the conversation. Even though you are the leader, you are also a member of this small group. So don't steamroll over others in an attempt to lead-and don't let anyone else in the group do so either.
Prepare for your meeting. Watch the video for the meeting ahead of time. Though it may feel a bit like cheating because you'll know what's coming, you'll be better prepared for what the session might stir in the hearts of your group members. Also, review the material in this guide and be sure to spend time in prayer. In fact, the most important thing you can do is simply pray ahead of time each week:
Lord Jesus, come and rule this time. Let Your Spirit fill this place. Bring Your kingdom here. Take us right to the things we really need to talk about and rescue us from every distraction. Show us the heart of the Father. Meet each person here. Give us Your grace and love for one another. In Your Name I pray.
We understand people are busy, but we encourage your group members to also prepare. Before the first meeting, secure enough copies of the study guide and the Captivating book for each member. Have these ready and on hand for the first meeting, or make sure the participants have purchased these resources for themselves. Send out a reminder email or a text a couple of days before the meeting to make sure folks don't forget about it.
As You Gather
You will find the following counsel to be especially helpful when you meet for the first time as a group. I offer these comments in the spirit of "here is what I would do if I were leading a group through this study."
First, as the group gathers, start your time with introductions if people don't know each other. Begin with yourself and share your name, how long you've been a follower of Christ, if you have a spouse and/or children, and what you hope for during this time together. Going first will put the group more at ease.
After each person has introduced herself, share-in no more than five minutes-what your hopes are for the group. Then jump right into watching the video session, as this will help get things started on a strong note. In the following weeks you will then want to start by allowing folks to catch up a little-say, fifteen minutes or so-with some "hey, so how are you?" kind of banter. Too much of this burns up your meeting time, but you have to allow some room for it because it helps build relationships among the group members.
Note that each group will have its own personality and dynamics. Typically, people will hold back the first week or two until they feel the group is "safe." Then they will begin to share. Again, don't let it throw you if your group seems a bit awkward at first. Of course, some people never want to talk, so you'll need to coax them out as time goes on. But let it go the first week.
Insight for Discussion
If the group members are in any way open to talking about their lives as it relates to this material, you will not have enough time for every question suggested in this study guide. That's okay! Pick the questions ahead of time that you know you want to cover, just in case you end up only having time to discuss a few of them.
You set the tone for the group. Your honesty and vulnerability during discussion times will tell them what they can share. How long you talk will give them an example of how long they should. So give some thought to what stories or insights from your own work in the study guide you want to highlight.
WARNING: The greatest temptation for most small group leaders is to add to the video teaching with a little "teaching session" of their own. This is unhelpful for three reasons:
1) The discussion time will be the richest time during your meeting. The video sessions have been intentionally kept short so you can have plenty of time for discussion. If you add to the teaching, you sacrifice this precious time.
2) You don't want your group members teaching, lecturing, or correcting one another. Every person is at a different place in her spiritual journey—and that's good. But if you set a tone by teaching, the group will feel like they have the freedom to teach one another. That can be disastrous for group dynamics.
3) The participants will have watched the video teaching and possibly read the corresponding chapters in Captivating. They don't need more content! They want a chance to talk and process their own lives in light of all they have taken in.
A Strong Close
Some of the best learning times will take place after the group time as God brings new insights to the participants during the week. Encourage group members to write down any questions they have as they read through Captivating and do the preparation work. Make sure they know you are available for them as they explore what God has to say about any of the concepts that might be new or challenging to them. Finally, make sure you close your time by praying together. Perhaps ask two or three people to pray, inviting God to fill your group and lead each person during this study. (A closing prayer is included in the Study Guide, should you want to use it instead of or in addition to extemporaneous prayer.)
Thank you again for taking the time to lead your group. May God reward your efforts and dedication and make your time together in Captivating fruitful for His kingdom.