Here’s last night’s breakdown, reflection and discussion questions follow.

I started us by asking everyone if they had learned something about God during the week that they’d like to share. Usually the first time I ask this to a new group, I get nothing because they are caught off guard. Surprisingly, a few people shared, and it was great.

This week’s passage was Mark 4:1-20, commonly called the parable of the sower, sometimes called the parable of the four soils (which I prefer). I kept verses 9-12 out of the study, and encouraged everyone to read them on their own and post their conclusions and questions to our Facebook page. Normally I’m not a big fan of hacking a passage like this, but it was too much to handle in one night.

In my opinion, this is one of the more nuanced parables, and I needed to remember that last night. Skipping over verses 9-12 wasn’t enough. To make more time for small groups, we planned on keeping the discussion to 45 minutes. We didn’t move through the passage like I wanted.

We have four leaders for our 30+ students (freshmen), and having team (Doug Fields and I) was a huge blessing last night during our guys small group. Here’s what happened:

We break for small group, and I begin right away with application. “What’s your take away? how did this impact you? how could your life be different? Were you encouraged in some way? Which soil do you identify with right now?” I asked that many questions in about 20 minutes because our group was getting no where. Total block. Giggles and wiggles a plenty. I felt like quitting. Felt like I had no right to ever think I could lead a Bible study with teenagers. So, I started asking questions about the text again. I figured they weren’t ready to be personal, so let’s talk about the details of the passage, and see if we can dive back into the personal stuff.

Then Doug comes back (He had to leave before small group started to pick up his daughter from practice). I was frustrated, and asked Doug if he had something to ask. He went back to where I started, with a question about personal application. After a few false starts, the conversation got going, a few really opened up. It was great.

Until a few others started laughing, making jokes. This got Fields and I upset. Interrupting me is one thing, interrupting a student who’s sharing is off limits. So we came down hard. It wasn’t fun., but it was necessary. Teamwork was great last night: I wasn’t “enough” on my own. This is inevitable: I’ve never known a small group leader who’s had 8 straight weeks of feeling like everything is “on.” Last night God used a second leader to bring things around–SO GREAT. This won’t always happen, and that’s great too, because God is still working even when we don’t feel like it.

Refection and Discussion Questions

  • What is confusing or difficult to understand? Are there any words that don’t make sense?
  • RETELL the first part (3-8) in your own words.
  • RETELL the second (13-20) part in your own words.
  • How are all the soils the same?
  • If you were to give this parable a title, what would it be?
  • Explain the meaning of this parable in a single sentence.
  • How do the two audiences, the large crowds and the disciples, impact the meaning of this parable?
  • In your opinion, why are there four soils? Couldn’t the point be made with just one soil (“hear and accept the word to produce a crop”)?
  • Explain the characteristics of each soil.
  • Specifically in just this text, what does this passage teach us about Satan?
  • If Satan is involved, are we then still responsible for not hearing, are we accountable? Why or why not?
  • Why isn’t joy enough to endure persecution? According to this passage, what grows “roots?”
  • Does this passage tell us how to produce a crop? If so, how?
  • At this point in your life, which soil do you identify with the most?
  • In the past, what has been something that has kept your heart from being the good soil?
  • The third soil was plagued with weeds of worry, the deceit of wealth, and wanting things. In your opinion, how does each of these things keep us from accepting God’s word and producing a crop? Are any of these weeds in your life? If so, what do they look like?

A few last notes:

I like “retell” questions. After I get a few responses, I explain how doing this on your own makes for good personal Bible study. When you explain something from memory, and then compare that with the text, you can discover the things you felt were important and see your blind spots. Both of these help reveal personal assumptions. All this being said, I should have skipped this question.

I also like “title” questions, although they can be really similar to “explain the meaning in a sentence.” I think it’s good to point out that the headings in our Bibles are helpful, but not always the best, and can get in the way of understanding a passage. I should have also skipped this question.

Make this better:

What questions are missing? How would you lead a discussion about this parable? Post a comment and improve this post.