I. How to set up a group if you have never done so before!

A covenant group makes an agreement, or covenant, to come together, be accountable to each other in a grace-filled way, and to do the shared work of the group (which may include doing the readings, helping to lead a discussion, bringing some needed resources, or helping with setup). A facilitator may take initial responsibilities for gathering and structuring the group’s opening meetings, but their primary task is to step back, once these things are done, to allow the group’s members to take responsibility for its ongoing needs and to contribute their insights and ideas over time.

If you’ve led groups before, you may not need to read the following section—or it may offer ideas you will want to re-consider or learn anew.

If this is new to you, perhaps some of these ideas will help you in your tasks. LDA Board members are also willing to help: write us at with questions or ideas!

Notes to assist new covenant group facilitators:  

  • People like food. Plan a fun, easy, tasty snack or light meal (soup/bread), always keeping dietary needs cheerfully in mind.
  • Send out postcards, or emails, then follow up with phone calls, to invite them to the first gathering. Confirm two days ahead.
  • Let the first gathering be an open conversation in which you suggest what you have in mind, then listen.
    • When can people come? What are their interests? Some of the topics here can serve as foci, or you may discover others.
    • Have someone (not you) serve as scribe, so you can listen, not write. Provide large paper and markers in advance.
  • If you will need to book a meeting room in advance, have that information when you meet (i.e., call the person who does that).
  • Get the newcomers’ list from your congregation’s staff assistant or parish ministry coordinator. Reach out to them in particular.
  • Have a few formats in mind and discuss them all (the three we offer here might be a starting point, or figure out your own!)
  • Once you have a working plan, check it out with others in your congregation (whoever does the calendar, books rooms, etc.)
    • Is it feasible? Are there issues you haven’t foreseen? (listen and work positively, don’t grouse, about them).
    • Have others tried things like this before? How did they work? Find out and see if you need to build on those experiences.
  • For your first meeting, have handouts, Bibles, other books (concordances, study guides, the books you’ll be studying) on hand.
    • Ask everyone to bring their own Bibles, notepaper, folders, study books (if you’re having them buy them) to each class
    • Have a few (2-3) on hand for those who forget/can’t go home after work, etc. so everyone can read and contribute.
  • Ask different members to contribute light snacks/food; have another member coordinate this so you aren’t doing it as well!
  • Always remind a group 2/3 into the process that they’ll be ending soon, and ask what they want to be sure to cover before then.
  • Be willing to re-set timing and priorities if there are clear reasons for doing so; if one or two folks have issues, work them out.
  • Be sure to clear and clean any space, tables, floors, white/blackboards, or other room areas you use before you leave.
    • Ask someone else to coordinate this, ask people to each move their own chair back if needed, etc. Don’t do it all yourself.
  • Before the last meeting, do an evaluative summary of hopes, dreams, intentions, and findings.
    • What have you each learned? How will you behave/think/act differently as a result of these conversations?
    • Do you want to repeat this for others? Would the group like to work together again, using the same or another format?
  • Report your findings/plans to your parish ministry coordinator, congregational minister, or staff liaison: seek their input, too!

Each group study option is explained on its respective page: explore them all, then decide!

A: Sabbath/Sunday in the Arts and Worship: Church Building and Private Prayer Based on Scripture Study and the Arts: This structure is suggested for those who wish to bring people together who want to explore Sabbath principles and practices further, using the arts in their discussions and expressions of experience. It suggests ways in which to organize and set up groups, with a fair degree of flexibility in some dimensions.

B: Bible Study Groups: Sabbath/Sunday in the Decalogue, Community Building, and Social Justice Concerns: This offering is subdivided into two separate series.

You may study connections among the Ten Commandments and the central significance of Sabbath/Sunday observance (Commandment 3 or 4 in various traditions), or follow Sunday themes with a focus on Bible Study techniques, including the use of a Concordance, how to do word studies, and the comparison and contrast of concepts.

C: Great Books Approach to Sabbath/Sunday: Personal Formation and Spiritual Growth: This structure is for those interested in a small group book study centered on Sabbath/Sunday thinking and practice.  The purpose of the study group is to expand the number of individuals who have a greater knowledge of the Biblical concepts of the gift of the Sabbath and to affirm a corporate and personal commitment to the benefits of regular practice of Sabbath/Sunday observance in their contemporary lives.

These offerings include summaries of insights discussed in the Lord’s Day Alliance 2009 Sabbath Symposium; the 2014 Emery conference; the 2016 Boston Conference (link to Globe article, already on website) and the 2019 BU conference on “The Decalogue, Sabbath, Freedom, and the Roots of W. Jurisprudence.”