A Question of Balance

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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
June 2018

A Personal Recipe for Small Groups

A Personal Recipe for Small Groups

Lilly Hess

The small group experience is the HEART of Little Rock Scripture Study (LRSS). Why is that? What are the ingredients that blend together resulting in a delightful and enriching experience?

Now I was a participant in the first study offered in Little Rock in September of 1974 and have been on the staff of LRSS since 1978, so I know the value of the small group. In the early years I helped start it in my parish with Jeannie Moore, who I met in that first small group. We’ve become lifelong friends. In fact we’re together again in our current parish program.

In 1985 I joined a different parish where they had an established program. I found it was a great way to meet others. So I participated for several years and even started a group that met on Sunday mornings. Then my life changed. I enrolled in college in the fall of 1987 and attended classes in the evenings; my daughter and grandchildren moved in with me for a few years, so I can understand when people would like to participate but find it challenging to find the time! Here I was talking with people about LRSS while I was not active in a group.

Fast forward to 2015. Cackie Upchurch and I are members of Our Lady of the Holy Souls parish in Little Rock and we decided to reintroduce the parish to LRSS. To our amazement over 50 people signed up to study Spirituality of the Gospels so we were off to a good start.

The following spring, we offered the Gospel of Mark on Tuesday evenings and added Friday mornings. Mary Beth Gramlich and I assumed leadership. But in August of 2016 I found out that she had moved to another parish. That meant that I had to assume leadership for our study of Exodus – something I really didn’t want to do. I had become comfortable being part of a team but not being the team leader! But you know – the Holy Spirit knows you better than you know yourself. It was time for me to take the reins. So with lots of prayer and confidence in the Holy Spirit I’ve coordinated the program since and it has been a challenge and a blessing in so many different ways.

In the beginning, I led both groups but discovered a great facilitator in Clark Wilkinson who coordinates the evening group, and I still participate in that group. When you share your prayers and life with others, they become family!

The evening group is very special. They are challenged by the Scriptures and are sharing how they have seen God working in their lives. One of the past participants led an interesting life before turning back to the Lord. Being a cyclist, he is always ready to talk about Jesus to those he meets. He had lots to share about his life. Another is active in AA and has shared how that organization has been of immense help to her life and recovery.

After Exodus, the evening group studied Revelation while the morning group studied Genesis. Both groups got acquainted with Paul studying Letters from Prison and followed that with Panorama of the Old Testament. Clark is interested in studying some of the prophets so the Panorama study was great preparation for learning more about the prophets, the conscience of Israel.

What has been most rewarding is to see how the participants have grown through our studies and our time together. Many in the morning group were new to Scripture study and struggled to understand the Scriptures and the questions and the commentary. Through praying and sharing with the group they stuck with it and are now speaking up with confidence. They have built a foundation and are now open to the ways they see how God worked in the lives of our ancestors in faith and works in our lives today.

While we were discussing the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones (in Panorama of the OT) and how they had come to life, someone said that was the strangest thing she had ever read and wondered if it actually happened. The lady next to her said, “It was a vision.” That immediately made sense to her and she was so grateful for the clarification. And then we discussed what the vision meant.

We so loved Panorama of the Old Testament that we are going to study Panorama of the New Testament in the fall – but we decided we will take two weeks for each lesson. We found there was so much information that we hated having to rush through it in four lessons. We’ll view the lecture every other week.

What are the ingredients that make a small group successful? Prayer, preparation, a willingness to share, and, of course, the Holy Spirit.


Lilly Hess is the Associate Director of Little Rock Scripture Study. You see her handiwork and skill in the video productions that she helps to produce – creating the graphics, finding the art and photography, and working with local film companies. What you don’t see is all the detail of helping to run the office, file for copyrights, generate new ideas, track inventory and sales, etc.


If you were unable to attend this year’s Bible Institute in Little Rock, or are already ready to return, mark your calendars for June 21-23, 2019 so you can make plans to join us. Fr. George Smiga will be presenting: Surprise, Shock, and Gospel: The Parables of Jesus. Visit Fr. Smiga’s website, www.buildingontheword.org to sample his style and appreciate the wealth of experiences he brings to his teaching. We hope to see you here in Little Rock in 2019.

Little Rock Scripture Study

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Phone: 1.800.858.5434 or 320.363.2213
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