A few suggestions…
Individual study guide
As you finish each chapter, use the queries below for reflection.
Pondering the chapter and its queries, write or draw whatever comes to you. Let it flow if you can.
Group study guide
One-session book group
For a book group that will discuss the whole book in a single session, pick four or five of the queries suggested below to seed discussion.
The session guide below might be useful, too.
Group programme – how best to divide up the book
For a five-week discussion series, ask participants to read just up to the end of chapter two before the first week, then take two chapters at a time for the next three weeks and finally the epilogue for the last week. You can use the questions suggested below for each chapter.
For a three-week discussion series, ask participants to read to the end of chapter three before the first week, then to the end of chapter six for the second, and before the last week finish with the rest of the book to the end of the epilogue. To seed the sharing in the group, select one or two questions from each chapter.
For either length of group, the session guide below might be useful.
Group study session suggestions
For a group of any size, set aside at least an hour or an hour-and-a-half per session if you can.
If the group is new, establish a few simple ground rules before you start. These typically include confidentiality (in case participants share personal information), respect in communication, participants taking responsibility for what is appropriate to share, and arriving and finishing on time.
- First part, preparation: Depending on where you meet, begin with some quiet time, perhaps five minutes.
- Second part, discussion: Invite members of the group to share their impressions of the text so far. What has it meant for them? What inspires them? What don’t they like and why? If the group is more than about five people, you could do this in pairs first, then invite participants back to the whole group to share whatever’s coming up for them. Perhaps half an hour in all.
- Third part, reflection: Return to some quiet time. During the quiet, a facilitator can drop in the questions suggested below for each chapter (or group of chapters, depending on how you divide the book up). In the quiet, allow good time between each question for participants to reflect. Then bring the group back to share again whatever’s coming up for them. The purpose here is to dig a little deeper and speak from what participants feel, rather than only what they think. Perhaps half an hour in all.
If you have experience of facilitation – or are just feeling inventive – you might want to add some more interactive/experiential exercises.
I’d love to hear how you get on – please let me know! If your group is online and you’d like me to join for the last session, please ask.
Queries for each chapter
These queries are adapted from Tim Stead’s perfectly-pitched questions for our week-by-week study group in Oxford.
1. LOVE: Hope as commitment
Beyond the people closest to you, what is something or someone you love, and why?
Would you die for this? If so, can you live for it?
What kind of commitment would you like to make, even if it’s too difficult to make right now?
2. PROMISE: Hope chosen
What in the world makes you feel glad to be a part of it? What’s so special about it?
The feeling that the world may be a promising place – is this part of your experience?
What does it inspire in you? How?
3. FREEDOM: Hope woken
Can you relate to a social norm or ‘script’ luring you away from the person you mean to be?
How does it feel to fall into step with it?
What happens, good and bad, when you (try to) step out of it?
4. DISILLUSION: Hope threshed
What hopes has experience led you to shed as too flimsy or simply false?
Have you let them go? Can you?
What true hopes are you left with?
5. FELLOWSHIP: Hope shared
How does your sense of belonging with people, the earth, or a God animate hope in you?
Who or what do you feel is ‘with you’ in your hope?
What does ‘fellowship of hope’ mean to you? Or what would you like it to mean?
6. FAITH: Hope tested
What troubles your hopes?
If all life everywhere is worthy of love, what lives does your hope sometimes forget?
Which of the words sumud, satyagraha, firmeza permanente, ubuntu mean something to you, and why?
7. STEALTH: Hope as history
Can you think of a story of true progress that has taken a long time against the odds?
Do you feel drawn to any stories of change happening right now?
How do you need to sustain you in your hope when the outcome you long for is uncertain?
8. TURNING UP: Hope as repentance
Repentance means ‘turning’: what turn do you hope to make in your own life?
Turning up: is there a story of hope you feel drawn to join?
What do you need to take care of yourself when trying to face the world as it really is?
EPILOGUE: Burning hearts
Among the many stories we tell about our world as a whole, is there room for an honest story of hope – one that arcs from history through the present and into the future?
How ready do you feel to ‘enter the city’ again, as the disciples in the story do?
Do you have a sense of what is your own share of hope’s work to hold? What does this mean in practice, for you?