By Dick Kunnert

This past spring I was asked to facilitate a small group book study of Owen Phelps’ The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus: Introducing Sᶟ Leadership – Servant, Steward, Shepherd. The time frame would be four Tuesday nights in May. We would meet for 90 minutes in the church basement.

We publicized the small group gathering in our parish bulletin for a few weeks and 16 people responded. That turned out to be a good size group for what I was hoping to accomplish. Both the size of the group and the brevity of the book contributed to making the 4-week format work -- although in the evaluations several participants expressed a desire for a 6- or 8-week format.

Perhaps I’ll have a chance to experiment with those formats in the future. I have heard of one parish that has offered a 6-week format twice a year for the past couple of years and it has contributed significantly to surfacing volunteers for parish ministries.

People in my group were very loyal about their attendance, and their discussions were animated.

As the facilitator I prepared an outline for each chapter, outlining what I considered important points and then led discussion around the questions at the end of each chapter formed. I was really impressed with the personal stories the discussions generated. People were candid. Of course, I did ask folks to be respectful of what they heard.

Since this was the first time I had used the book-study format to cover the Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus material, I thought I would experiment by adding a couple of Lead Like Jesus videos to our last session. I thought the videos would add gravitas to several of the points I was making. People loved them, and expressed a wish that I had used them right along in the chapter discussions.

That might enhance the experience for participants, but I’m not sure any benefits would offset some liabilities. Specifically, I’m concerned that adding videos would move our small groups closer to our Encounter format, and any time devoted to showing videos would be time taken from discussion. There is also the matter of cost for using the proprietary videos.

From listening to the participants, it was clear to me that these were not beginners when it comes to spiritual development. All these folks had spiritual exercises in place in their lives, and I think the perspectives they brought to the experience made its focus Jesus-like leadership especially useful for them.

All in all it was a delightful experience for me and the participants, and I encourage others to consider using The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus to lead their own study groups in their own parishes.