Effective Study Groups

As a host of a study group have you ever wondered how effective your group is at promoting spiritual growth in its participants?

Have you ever questioned yourself about the value your group has in promoting the mission of The Urantia Book?

These are just two of the many legitimate questions we might ask ourselves as a host concerning the effectiveness of the study group we facilitate on a regular basis.

The pitfalls we may encounter in hosting study groups are many, especially if we are not cognizant or focused on the value study groups can have in promoting spiritual and intellectual growth, expanding cosmic consciousness and enhancing spiritual perception, contributing to the development of leaders and teachers, and encouraging participants to engage in service activities.

What are these pitfalls? In my opinion some can be:

  • Having ill-defined or no goals for our study group.
  • Always using the same format with no variation or experimentation of different approaches to study.
  • Being too familiar or cliquey as a close-knit group and not welcoming new participants.
  • Long intervals between each meeting.
  • Failing to publish the group in study group directories and on contact lists, making it difficult for people to find you.
  • Failing to share the responsibilities of hosting a group thus denying others the valuable experience of leadership development.
  • Lacking the wisdom and practicality to choose relevant topics that best suit the group dynamic.

What are some things we can do to overcome these pitfalls? We can:

  • Set goals for the group such as developing and promoting additional groups, encouraging participants to make presentations on designated topics, or organizing one-day conferences and social events that include other readers and groups from around the region.
  • Change the way you manage your group by exploring new techniques such as introducing different ways to share the teachings; engage the group in Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) courses, and allow the participants to share within the group their discoveries and life experiences.
  • Attract new readers and additional participants by opening up your group to new technologies such as Zoom conference calling or Skype so you can have a virtual study group at the same time as your face-to-face meeting.

If you feel you or your group are not progressing or are “too comfortable” and do not wish to be jolted out of your comfort zone, then maybe you should present yourselves with some more challenges where you need to struggle to reach higher goals. Try introducing different ways of studying and explore new methods of learning—many secondary works, study aids and Journal articles are filled with quality material that can be used to introduce new avenues of exploration and study.

If you don’t meet very often, you could try meeting on a more regular basis at shorter intervals like once a week. Think of it like physical exercise; if we don’t exercise regularly, when we do exercise it usually isn’t as effective. The mind and soul obey the same laws of the universe as does the physical body—they need to exercise regularly to stay in shape so we may grow and be strong and healthy. Meeting at close intervals regularly replenishes our zest and courage for living and growing.

List your group in as many contact places as possible so you can attract seekers of truth who are searching and keen to meet with others to discuss things with meaning and value. Use The Urantia Book Study Group Directory (http://urantiastudygroup.org/find.php) or your association’s website, a Facebook page or small adds in your local newspaper.

Sharing the hosting responsibilities with different members of your group can increase their self-confidence and leadership abilities. Share the management of the group and the decision-making process for things like choosing which paper or topic to study; moderating the discussions by making sure everyone gets a fair turn at reading and speaking and making sure attendees are listened to with respect while speaking; curtailing those who dominate the discussion too much; and attempting to stimulate lively discussion.

Be practical in your group by making sure the topic you study has real life values supported by the participants’ experiences of life. Nothing compares to the sharing of real-life experiences to enhance what we are studying; it truly opens the mind to new meanings and values.

These are a few goals study groups can achieve if we want to make them more effective. If you want to learn more at how to improve your study group, I recently presented via a webinar on the effectiveness of study groups. You can view it at Urantia Association’s YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLCKFD7kluw

It is very important to have effective study groups if we want to share in the task of elevating our planet spiritually while we participate in the mission of The Urantia Book.

In spirit of brotherhood,

Gaetan Charland
Study Group Chair
Urantia Association International