THE GROWTH OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES since its publication in 1976 has been phenomenal. The desire to become a serious student of this life-changing material has spawned the rapid growth of study groups of the Course worldwide. At this point in time, the Center knows of approximately 2,000 groups that are studying A Course in Miracles around the world.
Although the Course is defined as a self-study material, the group atmosphere for discussion and understanding seems to be a valuable tool of the student. Since study of the Course may often seem difficult and frustrating, a group environment seems to provide support and encouragement that fosters a deeper experience.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to facilitate a study group. However, some years ago, in response to many requests we had received, Miracle Distribution Center offered a format outline for study groups that we had found to be effective. The following are merely suggestions and should not be construed as “hard and fast rules,” only guidelines. In the end, only the Holy Spirit can truly guide you in what to do in your group and life.
If our experience in running study groups since 1978 has shown us anything, it is that all groups are not alike and that they shouldn’t be alike! Each group grows and flourishes according to the individuals who are involved. This is why no one can tell you how to do a study group! A study group and its format will develop as the group develops. It is a process of “trial and error,” except in this case there is no “error!”
The primary aspect that is needed in a group is commitment. As A Course in Miracles was born out of a commitment between two people to find a better way to live in this world, so does a study group grow out of a commitment to be an unconditional, non-judgmental place of sharing, joining, and learning, where everyone is welcome.
Goal of a Study Group
–To enhance learning and study of A Course in Miracles
–To provide a “safe” place for sharing feelings
–To serve as a contact point for people of common interest
–To be enjoyable!
A study group should be a place where anyone can come without fear of being judged, a place where feelings can be shared in a loving, accepting atmosphere. (“Accepting” does not mean that you have to agree with a person; it means only that you will allow them to have their opinions, as you have yours, without judging them right or wrong, relevant or not.) It should stimulate a desire for people to share their feelings (if they want to) and show them they are not alone in their experiences and feelings–there are others just like them! But, above all, a study group should be fun and inspire a sense of joy and laughter!
Goal of a Facilitator
–To stimulate conversation
–To be a good listener
–To serve as a non-judgmental “guide,” “helper,” and student
A facilitator is a listener who serves as a “gentle guide” to keep the meeting progressing. They are a teacher only in the sense that we are all teachers and students. They have made a commitment to facilitate a meeting (or in other words, to be there) on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule, and that is where their responsibility ends. They are students of the material as much as any individual who attends the group, and they should not be looked at as a “guru” or “master,” but as a part of the experience of the group.
“A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interest as apart from some one else’s.” (Manual p. 3)
Goal of a Participant
–A commitment to find a better way to live in the world
–A willingness to be non-judgmental
–A willingness to be both student and teacher
A participant is one who is looking for a better way; and, to find that better way, a desire to look without judgment on others and oneself is a helpful quality. A participant should always remember that they are both student and teacher, and they are an integral part of the meeting. Listening and participating (either verbally or in spirit) are important aspects of the participant’s function.
“…to teach is to learn, so that teacher and learner are the same. It [A Course in Miracles] also emphasizes that teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day.” (Manual p. 1)
SUGGESTED MEETING FORMAT
–Welcome: Share purpose of meeting and any pertinent announcements.
–Opening meditation (perhaps using a Workbook Lesson from the Course). This is a time to dedicate and release the meeting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
–Introductions. This helps make people feel more at home and more a part of the meeting. If you want, you could ask each person to comment on why they are there or whatever they feel motivated to say–perhaps how or why they are involved in the Course (you may want to ask people to limit their comments to one minute or less). If groups are quite large, sharing each person’s name and where they are from may be sufficient to “break the ice”.
–Sharing of miracles. To stimulate openness and a feeling of joining, you might ask if anyone has a “miracle experience” they would like to share. This is a wonderful time for people to open up and interact, which can be fun and deeply moving. No one should ever be forced to share or interact; it should be a “free will” situation. To stimulate conversation the facilitator might go first as an example for others or perhaps share the Course’s definition of a miracle, i.e., a shift in our perception, which allows us to experience love in a situation where before perhaps we felt anger, fear, judgment, etc.
–Body of the meeting. You might take a section from the Text and read it aloud (the facilitator can either read, or the reading can be shared among the group). Perhaps a paragraph or two can be read followed by sharing about those sections. A key to a valuable meeting is to try to apply the material read to our daily experiences, i.e., “How does this help me today?”
You do not have to stick to just the Text, for the Manual for Teachers and Workbook for Students can be a wealth of sharing material. (It is difficult for a group to do the lessons together since everyone progresses through the lessons at a different rate. Lessons can be shared as meditations or discussion topics.)
–Closing. The meeting might end by using a Workbook Lesson from the Course as a closing meditation.
–A love offering may be accepted, if you feel so guided, to perhaps cover the expenses of the meeting and the facilities.
Again, this is just a suggested format for a meeting. All meetings should be dedicated to the Holy Spirit, so whatever occurs is a blessing. It is important to remember that there is never a “bad” meeting; everyone in attendance experiences exactly what they need. Also, don’t avoid the wonders of music during any study group meeting!
If you do begin a group, please add it to our worldwide listing by going to our Study Group Submission form.
There is a course for every teacher of God. The form of the course varies greatly. So do the particular teaching aids involved. But the content of the course never changes. Its central theme is always, “God’s Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation.” It can be taught by actions or thoughts; in words or soundlessly; in any language or in no language; in any place or time or manner. It does not matter who the teacher was before he heard the Call. He has become a savior by his answering. He has seen someone else as himself. He has therefore found his own salvation and the salvation of the world. In his rebirth is the world reborn.” (Manual p. 3)