study group techniques
Some helpful hints on hosting a study group
The early leaders of the Urantia movement were asked to form thousands of study groups. Perhaps this was because the study group environment is considered to be the most effective place for The Urantia Book teachings to take root in the hearts and minds of the participants while developing a social bonding of friendship among readers. Ideally, participation in study groups allows a natural growth of understanding to develop in a friendly, family style atmosphere.
Study group hosts embark on a journey that is filled with many rewards as well as some difficulties. Many study groups flounder while others thrive. Successful study group hosts have found that the basic keys to success are consistency, dedication, patience, understanding, love, and effort.
This section is designed to assist readers who are Urantia Book study group hosts or would like to become a study group host. It is a significant decision to make a commitment to lead a study group as you must be prepared to share these papers, that are so near and dear to your heart, with people you hardly know.
ANZURA does not have a set of guidelines for the formation or conduct of a study group. However, we can share what we have learned from fellow readers who have participated in various types of study groups. Over time, each group develops its own character and particular style of studying the book, one that best fits the collective needs of each of its members.
If you are interested in having your group listed in ANZURA's Study Group contact list so that it can be referred to new readers in your area, you may call us to request a study group referral form. For ANZURA to refer readers to your study group, we ask only that the groups be nonpolitical and focus their study only on The Urantia Book.
Suggestions for Beginning Your Study Group
1. Establish a consistent day, time and location for the study group. It is important to decide on a dependable schedule so the members can
easily reserve time for the meeting.
2. Provide a comfortable place to gather with good lighting. Coffee, tea and light refreshments add a friendly atmosphere.
3. Do not be easily discouraged: Groups ebb and flow as time goes by, but if a place to gather is consistently provided, people do respond.
Although ANZURA can help by referring new readers to a group, many groups grow through word-of-mouth referrals in their area.
One does not need complete mastery of the book to lead a group. It is helpful for someone in the group to have read the entire book at least once. A leader does not need to be an expert on the book. The trick is to be a good facilitator of the group process as they discover truth among themselves. No individual can know all the answers. Each person should be encouraged to share his or her opinions and experiences in the discovery process. Readers are often anxious to jump in and help with the discovery process, and this is what makes a good group. Every member should have the opportunity to speak and share opinions. A person who exerts too much control over the group can become a problem for others. Study of the book is a shared adventure, not a class lecture. Discovery in a study group setting is a team effort.
While it is certainly in our best interest to come together as a group to study and perform tasks, we must also be aware that there is no advantage to achieving consistent philosophical uniformity. It is diversity of viewpoint and experience that makes a study group so interesting and challenging. Study groups can facilitate growth and socialisation, but they may also present new and surprising conflicts in interpretations of the message of the book. Members of the group are presented with new and unexpected growth opportunities as they learn together. Conflict is not necessarily negative. Resolving conflicts and turning them into higher meanings and values is a skill that can be gained through effort, patience and kindness.
“New religious insights arise out of conflicts which initiate the choosing of new and better reaction habits in the place of older and inferior reaction patterns. New meanings only emerge amid conflict; and conflict persists only in the face of refusal to espouse the higher values connoted in superior meanings.” [p.1097, par. 5]
Making Contact With Potential Group Members
ANZURA keeps a database of readers who are interested in making contact with other readers. You may contact the office for information on your area.
Personal friends and acquaintances interested in the book usually fit easily within a study group. Referrals from other members of your group can work as well. A note of caution: if you are a single female hosting meetings in your home, you may want to meet referrals in a public place before inviting them into your home. We urge you to use all your powers of discretion and knowledge of safety matters in considering how you will handle such situations.
Setting Up A Time And Place For Meetings
An essential ingredient for success appears to be a core group of readers who are committed to meeting at a routine time and place, thereby giving the group consistency and coherence. If meetings change place, day, or time frequently, you may see a drop in participation because members will find it difficult to remember and plan for the meeting. If consistency is not an option, a calendar of the meetings can be of help in keeping things on track. You should also set a time for beginning and ending your group.
Providing Comfortable Surroundings
Meetings are usually held in the host’s home, but libraries or community centers sometimes provide meeting rooms for the public. The meeting place should be comfortable with good lighting for reading. It’s a good idea to have everyone seated so that they can see one another. A table can be helpful for writing notes and spreading out materials. It is a good idea (but not essential) to have The Urantia Book Concordance (or a computer with the electronic version of The Urantia Book installed,) a dictionary, a Bible, a Key Word Index, and a Pronunciation Guide available for reference purposes. It may also prove helpful to have additional copies of The Urantia Book for new comers who may not own one.
Balancing Study and Socialising
It is helpful to strike a balance between socialising and study in meetings. Except for celebrations, potluck dinners, and gatherings for purely social reasons, you may wish to guide how the group time is spent. Generally speaking, groups spend more time on study than socialisation in regular meetings. Some groups begin or end with a brief prayer or a moment of silence, but this should be a group decision. Some groups rotate bringing dessert for a social period following the meeting. Others have snacks available during the meeting.
We hope this information has been helpful and we wish you well in your study group. Please do not hesitate to call us if we may be of further assistance.
References in The Urantia Book that may be of some help are:
Paper 159, p.1762
The Decapolis Tour
Introduction for Teachers and Believers
Paper 100. P.1094
Religion in Human Experience
Problems of Growth
The Acme of Religious Living