Having been involved for many years in the development of study groups both internationally and in my sphere of local activities within the Urantia Association of Quebec, I realize that despite all the efforts of many committed readers, growth of study groups is proceeding very slowly.
I believe there are several causes for this slow growth, some necessary and others not so necessary—even harmful in some cases. For the mission of the revelation to flourish on our planet, we must put into place all the strategies and advice that the revelators offered us, and we must be wise and discerning in the application of these strategies. Successful study groups are an essential part of these strategies to integrate the teachings of The Urantia Book successfully throughout the world.
Possibly because study groups have been an integral part of the landscape since the Forum days at the beginning of the Urantia movement, it’s easy to become complacent about creating, maintaining, improving and participating in study groups. But this is certainly not the only cause of a weariness that many have developed in relation to study groups. The revelators have, in a way warned us about our ability or inability to deal with a revelation associated with human evolution where they said:
“(You) who have dedicated (your) lives to the service of the book and the Brotherhood can little realize the import of (your) doings. (You) will doubtless live and die without fully realizing that (you) are participating in the birth of a new age of religion on this world.” [The Publication Mandate]
They go further in their desire to guide us in how we should proceed with the mission of spreading the good news by telling us:
“The future is not open to (your) mortal comprehension, but (you) will do well to diligently study the order, plan, and methods of progression as they were enacted in the earth life of Michael when the Word was made flesh. You are becoming actors in an ensuing episode when the Word is made Book. Great is the difference in these dispensations of religion, but many are the lessons which can be learned from a study of the former age.” [The Publication Mandate]
What did Michael/Jesus do in his day that we can learn from and apply today? He first created a group of twelve apostles (students) whom he trained as educators. In fact, Jesus simply created a study group where each student was invited to learn and integrate new ideas, new concepts and, in turn, become teachers. Let us remember that these apostles were mostly ordinary people with normal education levels, very similar to many of us.
If we study and learn how Jesus organised and taught his apostles and disciples so they were well-prepared to take his message to the world, and compare it to what we do in our study groups today, can we see a resemblance? Are we helping students of the book become prepared for the spreading of the fifth epochal revelation? Are we allowing for plenty of room for discussion, answering questions and the sharing of diverse experiences? Or are we just intent on reading with an emphasis on completing the paper without allowing for the flexibility of exploring the deep meanings and values with each other? Jesus didn’t simply dictate his message and ask his followers to memorize his words; rather after an intense teaching session he sent them out to be of service to others to teach and to practice what he had taught them so that the lessons could be deeply integrated into their hearts and souls through first-hand personal experience.
How can we hope to make the study groups effective and attractive if our groups are only of an intellectual nature—if they have simply become just a kind of monotony of repetition of reading made without deep reflection? I’ve come across some groups whose sole purpose is to do a complete reading of the book every year. If that is the driving goal, how much time is there for discussion and exploration? How much effort is spent by group hosts in making their group inter-active, dynamic and attractive? These questions deserve honest examination if we truly wish to make our study groups a welcoming place that provide the necessary ground-work that meets the criteria needed to carry out the mission of the revelation.
We must focus our efforts on training teachers (not just any teachers—they must be among those who truly embody the teachings) and to train students who will also integrate the lessons of Jesus into their hearts, minds and souls. Let us not forget that when we teach the truth, it is Jesus who is with us, it is he whom we represent, so let us at least try to live up to his expectations.
Have a good study group.
Study Group Committee Chair
Urantia Association International