Have you ever had the feeling that the study group you are hosting or going to is getting a bit boring, or is not satisfying your need for progress in understanding the teachings you are studying together, nor helping your desire to progress spiritually?
Many study groups have come and gone since the time of the first publication of The Urantia Book and probably many others will also come and go for various reasons. One of those could be that they have failed in their goals to expand cosmic consciousness and enhance spiritual perception. Not only do some study groups fail in these two goals, but many have also failed in teaching others how to become better sowers of truths, how to be more involved in our spiritual emancipation through service to others, and how to better integrate The Urantia Book’s teachings in one’s life.
The world needs to see Jesus living again on earth in the experience of spirit-born mortals who effectively reveal the Master to all men. [Paper 195:10.1, page 2084.1]
I use this quote to highlight the importance of living life according to Jesus’s teachings, not to preach about him as so many believers are prone to do; to live the truth that Jesus so eloquently preached to the best of our ability not only in words but as living examples of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men.
“I declare that the kingdom of heaven is the realization and acknowledgment of God’s rule within the hearts of men.” [Paper 141:2.1, page 1588.4]
“The book is being given to those who are ready for it long before the day of its world- wide mission. Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence and the book must be translated into many tongues. Thus will the book be in readiness when the battle for man’s liberty is finally won and the world is once more made safe for the religion of Jesus and the freedom of mankind.” (from the Publication Mandate)
Why did the Revelators urge us to create thousands of study groups and train leaders and teachers? They had a plan in mind; a plan that looked so simple in its application that we have often failed to see its far-reaching mission to change the spiritual mindset of the world. To change that mindset, shouldn’t we transform ourselves to be the carriers of this change? Shouldn’t study groups be a place that provide the means where we can be helped, and help others to do just that?
How can we answer the call to create thousands of study groups and train leaders and teachers? Shouldn’t we first do everything we can to make our study groups more stimulating both intellectually and spiritually? How can we do that? Should we have a plan? A wise man by the name of Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” I believe he was right; if we fail to have a plan for our study groups, we probably will fail in the mission we were given.
How should we proceed if we want to make a plan?
A plan does not need to be complicated; it only needs a few basic things, such as goals, objectives and strategies. Make sure everyone in your group agrees to this plan and helps to build it, this way they will be more than willing to go along with it. Group consensus is very important if we want the study group to be interesting to every student. Remember, we are students, not just readers who go to a group to socialize; we have an important mission to accomplish.
How does that work?
A goal is to know where we want to go. Objectives give us landmarks to assist us on our way towards our goal. Strategies are actions to help us get where we want to go.
So let us say our goals would be:
Make our group more interesting intellectually and spiritually to readers young and old, male and female, while gently guiding them in becoming good teachers.
Objectives could be:
- We will study 10 papers together; five in the first three parts of the book and five in the fourth part; The Life and Teachings of Jesus.
- We will study three different topics.
- We will encourage everyone in the group to make a small presentation to the group on a topic of their choice.
Strategies could be:
- Allow the group to decide which papers they would like to study in the first year.
- Choose topics from articles published in Urantia Association’s Journal – they often provide very good source material while encouraging students to read more about what others understand of the teachings. This will help to expand cosmic consciousness.
- Take a course together in the study group from the Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS). This will provide everyone with a very effective pedagogic tool to enhance spiritual perception while enlightening readers in the values and effectiveness of integrating courses in their goal to progress intellectually and spiritually.
- Adopt a set of rules on how the group will study together.
- Revise your strategies regularly if need be.
- Use study aids available on many websites to increase the effectiveness of your studies.
- Invite students from other groups to make a presentation on different topics in your study group.
- Be innovative and creative; break out of your comfort zone!
Evaluate the progress made in the first year and readjust your objectives and strategies.
Having a set of policies in the group help to keep everybody happy and progressing in the right direction. Jeffrey Wattles, with the help of Antonio Schefer, has created a protocol for an online study group. Some of those rules could very well help many of us manage our study groups and ensure that everyone enjoys the experience of a study group.
I have copied this protocol here for your benefit. Please take from it what your group needs and use it. This protocol was developed for online study groups using the Zoom platform. If you would like to start an online study group using this platform, please contact me. I will be more than willing to help you start your group using this platform.
Protocol for Online Study Groups
- The host decides when it is time to begin, welcomes everyone, explains the protocol, makes any needed announcements and then puts the session in the hands of the facilitator.
- As an experiment for at least the first few weeks, we will pause in silence for several seconds after each reading and after each person speaks. The purpose is to allow the soul to listen and spirit to respond and to ease the video editing process.
- Mute yourself if you are not speaking, to avoid disturbing background noises and raise your hand and unmute yourself at any time if you can and want to speak.
- Please use the chat only for study session-related questions.
- Use headphones if you can to improve sound quality and to reduce echo background noises when speaking.
- Please do not type when your microphone is not muted.
- Turn off your camera and microphone if you have problems with your Internet connection to avoid sound or video quality loss.
- Some adaptation of the Jesus’s grievance procedure (159:1/1760-63) will be the method for resolving serious problems, if and when they arise with particular individuals.
- The sessions will be recorded for future study purpose use. Only active participants, future students, ISB, RC, Conference Committee and UYAI members have access to the private YouTube videos, and after getting the invitation from the host.
- Turn off your camera if you don’t like your image being used for records and ask to speak off record at any time when you do not want what you say to be part of the videotape. This way your part will be cut out of the video during editing.
I created a study aid for study groups a few years ago for the Study Group Symposium. It includes many useful articles aimed at improving the quality of our learning experience. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to receive a copy of it by email.
Enjoy your study group and be an active part of the group’s spiritual mission to the world.
Gaetan G. Charland
Study Group Committee Chair
Urantia Association International