To write a small group discussion/activity guide based on the Beatitudes is an ambitious and challenging thing. It seems like a great idea though, and after reading The Kingdom Experiment (HOUSE Studio) Bruce Nutter, Liz Perry, and Rachel McPherson I am convinced of just how good of an idea it is.
The book is part Biblical study, part activity guide, and part self-reflection, moving with enough white space to keep the creatives engaged and enough direct instruction to keep the detail-oriented folks happy.
The book consists of eight chapters, one for each of the Beatitudes, with a reading for the specific Beatitude that chapter deals with. The readings are brief, and some of them leave room for criticism only because they aren’t exhaustive Biblical studies. They are complete in so far as they engage the reader on the basic premise of Jesus’ teaching. The reading is followed by two discussion questions and then a list of practical activities and journaling exercises intended to help the group members engage more deeply with the material.
The material is definitely appropriate for a wide audience and if group members take on eight of the activities, as suggested in the introduction, for each chapter the book will create a significant level of challenge as the activities bring us face to face with the ways that our daily rhythms and habits are out of sync with the world Jesus is envisioning in the Beatitudes. I believe this guide is accessible enough to be used by any group, even those with varying demographics, but I do believe it appeals to a younger audience as much of it is geared toward engaging technology and speaking into rhythms and habits that suit those living south of Generation X.
The downside of this material is that the discussion questions may not be enough to provide enough discussion for an entire group time. Two questions, given the size and engagement of any particular group, could pass rather quickly and then the group is left to figure out how to interact with the material. However, the activities that span the time between meetings are so solid that a group starting this study will find themselves talking about their experiences from the previous week and skipping the discussion questions altogether.
Overall, this is a fantastically challenging study and any group going through it will find themselves confronted with the goodness and beauty that is, to quote Richard Rohr, “Jesus’ plan for a new world.”