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Should Your Small Groups Use “Extra Credit”?

Should Your Small Groups Use

I couldn’t make it to class. My job required me to be on travel the night of an important class. I would miss the teaching, discussions and in-class exercises during the three-hour Visionary Leadership class that evening. Fortunately, my professor gave me an extra credit assignment that I could do to make up for my absence.

The extra credit assignment was to write a paper on the topic of credibility. It took me many more hours to do the research and writing than I would have spent participating in the class (and I still had to do the class work). It was worth it.

That was several years ago as I was earning my MBA degree. But even though several years have passed, I still remember and use that paper I wrote on credibility. The extra credit assignment also had me going deeper with the topic I missed.

Homework Assignments

It does require extra time and energy to complete homework assignments. But it is work that aids a person in going deeper on the topic of interest.

There is power in homework assignments.

Going Deeper

I discovered that when optional assignments are given to members for personal meditation and reflection between meetings, the participants who did the assignments show the biggest positive change.

One of the questions I am asked is “How do I develop questions for discussions to go deep?” Trying to force deep discussions at small group meetings usually doesn’t work. But you can write questions for homework that support your members going deeper on the topic.

If you want to take your small group to the next level, consider writing and handing out a devotional or worksheet that your small group members can work on after the group discussion.

Tips for Using Extra Credit

Here are some tips to use when you include extra credit assignments for your small group:

1. Create a Devotional or Worksheet

Put the assignment in writing. It can be an assignment they can work on at their own pace between meetings or it can be divided up into daily exercises. Include applicable scriptures, instruction and thought-provoking questions.

2. Require No More Than 10 or 15 Minutes a Day

The object is not to create a significant burden on your members. Change and transformation occurs with a focus on God’s word and reflection of how they change because of it. Write the assignment so it can be completed in no more than 10 or 15 minutes per day. Anything over this is likely to either be a time burden to some of your members or will not hold their attention. Of course, they can reflect on the exercise throughout the day.

3. Include Easy Access to Verses

Write out the verses or provide links to the Bible verses where they can either be read or listened to online. Make the personal study as easy as possible for your members.

Note: If you write out the verses, be sure to abide by the copyright associated with the version of Bible you use.

4. Create an Audio Version

Some of your members may be able to listen to the information while they’re doing chores at home or commuting to work. Consider recording an audio version. This would give them an opportunity to hear God’s Word through the week and also give them an opportunity to meditate on it and reflect how they might change what they do in their own lives to be more like Christ.

5. Encourage Members to Share

Members should encourage each other through sharing questions and insights via email or in an online group private online group (if that is something your group is doing). Not only will it continue the conversation among your members, but also encourage other members to do the assignments as they see others getting something significant from the exercise.

6. Make the Study Optional

There are several people in your group who will find it difficult to put in the time to do the study. If they feel it is required, you may lose those members from your group. This obviously is not the purpose for creating these assignments. So make sure that your members do not fall in the trap of feeling guilty if they are not able to do the exercises or do them in their entirety.

7. Avoid “Homework”

Unfortunately, mentioning homework prompts people to complain or run away as fast as they can. It is not viewed in a positive way by most people.

If homework or extra credit are terms that discourage your small group members from participating, name it something that gets them excited about jumping into it. Consider using terms such as:

  • Deep Dive
  • Investigation
  • Exercise
  • Study
  • Research
  • Application
  • Devotional

Question: What other methods have you used to encourage small group members going deeper on a topic

This article originally appeared here.