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Using We Make the Road by Walking in 2014-2015

We're just wrapping up a "boot camp" for people who plan to lead groups using We Make the Road by Walking. It has been a delightful time.

My strong recommendation for groups using the book is to keep it super simple and super participatory. Here's how:

1. Have the group seated in a circle or gathered around a table. (If the group is too large, invite 6 or 8 people to the front and they'll model participation for the larger group.)
2. Identify someone to begin reading the first Scripture reading. It's best if they read a paragraph or so of the text (about 3 to 5 verses). It helps to be sure everyone has the same translation - whether NRSV, CEV, or whatever.
3. Then someone continues with the next paragraph, and so on, through the Scripture readings. It's good to keep things moving at a good pace.
4. The same pattern continues for the chapter, with each person reading a paragraph. If people don't want to read aloud, of course they can just pass. If kids are present, I encourage you to include them in the readings and Engage questions.
5. When the chapter is complete, the next person can read the first Engage question, and so on.
The group really runs itself. The leader doesn't need to do any preparation; the hour is really self-contained.

A few observations from our time together:

1. By involving everyone with reading, attention levels stay high.
2. By everyone having a Bible and copy of the book, they can follow along as others read, thus taking in the content both orally and visually.
3. The experience of listening to others read aloud may seem unfamiliar at first, but it quickly becomes natural and very enjoyable.
4. When you move from the chapter to discussion, it's important to let people know that it is perfectly acceptable to express disagreement or discomfort with the readings, which the first Engage question invites people to do. Differences of viewpoint don't need to be resolved - simply respectfully expressed, listened to, and understood. (See #8)
5. If there is a large group, it's easy to break into groups of four. Four people can engage deeply with a chapter in an hour.
6. Engaging with the material over a meal works really well too.
7. If you want to add liturgical elements from Appendix 1, of course you can do so before and after the readings, chapter, and engagement questions.
8. At your first gathering, the leader/host should read the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). It's good to get everyone to verbally agree to assist in following these guidelines (like sitting on an exit row in a plane). The leader/host should promise to remind the group of the guidelines if problems come up, and review them from time to time.
9. If problems do come up - someone is argumentative or over-participates, for example - remind everyone of the 5 guidelines (Appendix II). Because the approach I'm recommending is so highly participatory, I think groups will get in the groove quickly and problems will be rare.

If you want to begin using the book now so that you get on schedule for the 2014-2015 year, you would begin as follows:

June 22 - Chapter 43
June 29 - Chapter 44
July 6 - Chapter 45
July 13 - Chapter 46
July 20 - Chapter 47
July 27 - Chapter 48
August 3 - Chapter 49
August 10 - Chapter 50
August 17 - Chapter 51
August 24 - Chapter 52

To sync up with Advent 2014, you would begin with Chapter 1 on August 31. If you need to begin on September 7 or 14, you would need to skip a chapter or two, or combine a few, so you'll schedule Chapter 14 on November 30, the beginning of Advent.

Because Easter's date changes each year, in 2015 you'll need to drop one chapter (or combine 2) from Part II. I'd probably recommend combining 22-23, 24-25, and/or 25-26.
Jan 4 would coincide with Chapter 19.
Lent and Part III of the book begin on February 22, 2015.
Pentecost and Part IV of the book begin on May 24, 2015.

For long-term planners, in 2015-2016, you'll begin Chapter 1 on August 30, 2015, and you'll need to drop or combine 2 chapter from Part II to coincide with Easter.

If that sounds confusing, don't worry. Once you get the group going, you'll be surprised how easily things flow, how quickly community begins to happen, how refreshing the whole experience is, and how effectively it can contribute to spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation.