Transforming Congregations by Igniting the Spiritual Lives, Gifts
and Ministries of the Laity

Ron Farr Send E-mail to Ron Farr, Laity Empowerment Project
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Unwrapping Our Gifts

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Sample Session



All LEP curricula are laid out with helpful specifics on preparation and set up. Discussion exercises and Bible studies are designed to be easily and effectively facilitated by teams of lay leaders. Leader's notes woven through each session provide helpful guidelines on small group facilitation. Each LEP group session is designed to feel like a "little retreat," and all exercises and Bible studies follow mutual empowerment principles in which people empower one another through the sharing of the life stories, insights, struggles, inspiration, and prayers.

Unwrapping Our Gifts
Session 4 (excerpts)

Theme: "Discerning Our Gifts"Jesus says that we are the "light of the world." Unfortunately, many of us Christians do not believe we have much light to shed in our weekday world, and we put our light under a bowl. Jesus nurtures and encourages us to "let our light shine." One way to know the gifts God has givien us is to look at the activitieis we love to do, and then see what gifts we employ in those activities.


(5 Minutes)


(25 Minutes)


(25 Minutes)


(5 Minutes)


(45 Minutes)


(8 Minutes)


(2 Minutes)


(5 Minutes)


Advanced Planning:

  1. See 7:05 p.m. ALTAR OBJECT DISCUSSION - A CANDLE FLAME. Practice putting the bowl over the burning altar candle, making sure the bowl is large enough to go over your candle without touching it, and that the candle DOES get extinguished when the bowl is put over it! See "Materials" below.

  2. If you are planning to have your Saturday retreat at a site other than your regular meeting site, then prepare a paper with DATE, TIME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, and TRAVEL DIRECTIONS (if necessary), and make copies for each participant. OR, if everyone knows where the new meeting spot is, write the pertinent information up on the flipchart for everyone to copy down.


Bible, Leader's Manual, flipchart on flipchart stand, markers (one for each small group of three), copies of travel directions to meeting site and other pertinent information about upcoming Saturday retreat (if this is necessary), tape deck and tapes.

Refreshments for break. Altar table, altar cloth, pillar candle, matches, simple large ceramic or glass mixing or punch bowl (make sure the bowl has a flat, even edge and not a decorative wavering one, and is big enough to fit over the burning candle when turned upside down). Extra pencils and pens.

Set Up:

  1. Set up large group altar table and chairs as you did in previous session. Put the large bowl under the altar table in the upside down position.

  2. Set up chairs for your small groups in various rooms. Cue up needed music tapes. Set up refreshment table.

  3. Place a copy of travel directions to upcoming retreat site (if they are needed) on every chair, OR, write the pertinent information about the retreat on a hidden piece of flipchart for people to copy down later on.

  4. Set up flipchart stand. Write on the opening flipchart sheet this question:

    "Meditate on the candle burning on the
    alter. How does it speak to you tonight?

    How does it make you feel?"

    LEADER'S NOTE: Make sure you have done the homework assignment yourselves. The leader who does the 7:05 P.M. ALTER OBJECT DISCUSSION - A CANDLE FLAME, should have a pack of matches in his or her pocket!


6:55 P.M. (exactly!) GATHER IN SILENCE

Background Music: Put on some meditative-sounding instrumental music at this time, and ask people to settle down into the centering time.

Invite people to meditate on the following questions on the flipchart. READ THE QUESTIONS ALOUD.

"Meditate on the candle burning on the alter. How does it speak to you tonight?

How does it make you feel?"

As new arrivals come in, draw their attention to the questions written on the flipchart, again by reading them aloud.


Invite people into prayer. Begin by reading Matthew 5:14-16 WITHOUT referring to chapter and verse. Then, finish with your prayer.

Ideas for Prayer: "O God, help us to see tonight how you have planted your light in each one of us. Give us courage to stoop hiding the light and love we have within us for fear these things will not be recieved or appreciated by others.

"Help us to feel how you love us and believe in us. Help us to find new meaning in Jesus' words, 'Let your light shine!' Help us to believe in ourselves and in thee unique gifts that we have to offer others. Amen."


(Purpose: To help us explore Jesus' teaching that each of us is the "light of the world,"a teaching that we all have heard but generally do NOT apply seriously to ourselves.)

a. Meditation and Sharing on Candle Flame (10 minutes): "This candle burning on the altar has been our quiet companion throughout our sessions. Most all of us have candles at home and enjoy watching them burn. Look at this candle quietly burning for a moment..."

  • As your meditate on this candle flame, what thoughts or feelings does it stir? What strikes you about this candle flame?

  • What does the candle flame symbolize for you?

  • What Biblical images of light or flame can you think of?

  • Imagine that God is trying to say something to your right now through this little flame. What would that be?

b. Read Scripture and Place Bowl Over Candle: A team leader reads Matthew 5:14-16. Then, in silence, he or she goes up to the altar and puts the upside down bowl over the candle. Let there be a pause of silence for people to take in the image of the bowl covering the candle.

c. Discuss Reactions (10 minutes): After 20-30 seconds, a leader says, "Jesus said, 'Do not put your lamp under a bowl.'"

  • What do you feel about this bowl being put over the candle?

  • What has happened to the flame?

  • How do we Christians put our flames under a bowl?

  • What are some ways you personally put your own flame under a bowl in your daily life or work? (Get a few people to share personal experiences on this.)

d. Re-light Candle and Play Music (5 minutes): A team leader says, "Jesus said, 'We should not put our light UNDER a bowl, but up on a stand so that it gives light to the whole house.' If the bowl is upside down and the candle is on top of it, the bowl will serve as a stand for the light."

Take the bowl off the candle, and pull the candle out from underneath it. Put the bowl back down down on the table still upside down, and set the candle and its plate on top of the inverted bowl.

Re-light the candle, return to your seat, and then say something like, "Let us each meditate silently for a moment on what light we have to offer the world. Let us think we personally might put our own light MORE FULLY up on a stand for God's glory."

Play a short meditative piece of instrumental music.

Prayer: After the music is over, pray something short like, "O God, help us to value the light we each have to offer teh world, each in our own way. Amen." Let the prayerful silence linger for a moment.


Purpose: To reveal to us the joy of unwrapping our gifts, being a blessing to others, and discovering what God has built us to do with our lives.)

LEADER'S NOTE: This is a story of a person named Zacchaeus whose potential for good is suddenly unleashed because he meets Jesus. Zacchaeus is someone with a multitude of gifts, who has for years kept them wrapped up in selfish and abusive living.

He suddenly has the joyful and liberating experience of pulling his true light out from underneath a bowl and putting it up on a stand. The story of Zacchaeus puts us in touch with the great joy of ministry, the joy of opening up our inner treasure of gifts, being a blessing to others, and doing what God has built us to do with our lives!

a. Read Scripture: "Open your Bibles to Luke 19:1-10. Who would like to read this out loud? As you hear this story about Zacchaeus, put yourself in his shoes. Try to experience his thoughts and feelings."

After the scripture, ask the questions below:

b. General Questions:

  • Who was Zacchaeus, and what kind of man would you say he was before he met Jesus?

  • If you were Jewish and became the chief tax collector of your town willingly collecting taxes from your Jewish neighbors for the despised Roman enemy and for your own gain...

    • What would people think of you?

    • What would you think of others?

    • What would you think of yourself?

  • When Jesus first spotted Zacchaeus was feeling and thinking...

    • when he approached the crowd where Jesus was?

    • when Jesus addressed him in the tree and Zacchaeus came down and stood in front of Jesus?

  • What spurred Zacchaeus on to make his dramatic declaration about giving half of his goods to the poor? What did Jesus do exactly to encourage that to occur?

  • What do you imagine Zacchaeus was thinking and feeling that night when he crawled into bed? What else?

Personal Connections:

  • What about this story of Zacchaeus especially touches you or speaks to you? How does it invite you to grow?

  • When have you felt like Zacchaeus, experiencing your life opening up and becoming more spiritually alive?

Concluding Question (for people to ponder, not necessarily to respond to): "When Jesus looked at Zacchaeus, he saw hidden promise and gifts. When Jesus looks at you, what promise and light does he see in you that you do not see or that you choose to ignore?"

Let there be a short pause. Then, invite people to take a break.


Ask the people to stand and stretch. Call people to their seats in 4 minutes! Quickly select SMALL GROUPS OF THREE for the next exercise.

(...To read the rest of this session, order a copy of the UNWRAPPING OUR GIFTS Leader's Manual...

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