Clean Slate: Week 2 Discussion Guide

CoreGroup Guide | Clean Slate - Week Two
Written by Sherrill Wall and Jenny Huffman


This is the second week in our series Clean Slate, which offers an opportunity for change.  Last week in the series opener, Pastor Matt suggested that less is better – that change in our lives requires subtraction first. We need to pare down to what is essential and focus on what is most important. Hopefully you took some time this week to consider how you would define your essentials – in the way you use your time and in the values you hold as most important.

Perhaps you settled on some ideas of what you want to change in the new year, and even have some big ideas of what it should look like. This week we will extend the notion of less is better in the process of change as we focus on the wisdom of starting small.

Opening Prayer

God we thank you for this day, for these friends gathered here today, and for the blessing of sharing our thoughts with one another. Give us hearts that long for the right relationship with you and with those around us. Move us toward kindness, respect, and self control in our daily business. Use this time together to stimulate us in our change. Amen.

Ice Breaker

The advice often given when trying to give up something, or changing a habit, is to avoid either the situation or the possibility of coming into contact with that item. For example, refusing to have cookies and/or chocolate in the house if you are trying to give up sweets. What is one thing that is irresistible to you? It doesn’t have to be something you actually want to avoid, but something that once you have seen it, you feel the need to have it.  

The Head

In keeping with his purpose to proclaim the message, Jesus used parables to teach his disciples and the crowd at large. Even those who don’t have a relationship with the Bible are likely to be familiar with the idea of parables. We often hear people refer to the “Good Samaritan” or the “Prodigal Son,” which are two of the most well known parables of Jesus.  Today we look into Matthew 13:31-33 at two of the less familiar parables that Jesus used in describing the kingdom of heaven.  

(31) He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. (32) It's the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
(33) He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through the dough.”

  • The first parable speaks of a mustard tree. What do you know about mustard seeds and mustard trees? Feel free to do some googling during the group to learn more. 
  • Has anyone baked bread? How would you describe the process of dough rising?
  • In each of these parables something big grows out of something small. In your own words, how does this explain the kingdom of God?

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus refers to the mustard seed again when he encourages his disciples in their faith. He says, “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there, and it will go.’ There will be nothing you can’t do.”

  • What does it mean to have faith the size of a mustard seed?
  • Can you think of other references Jesus made to seeds or harvest? How might they be related to this parable?

The Heart

Jesus used these examples of small things yielding large results to help them understand that God’s kingdom begins small. Israel had been waiting for a Messiah for centuries with the expectation that he would come as a king to rescue them, either from their political oppressors or from the toil of life. Instead, he came as a baby in a manger. He was not what they were expecting, but his life has had a major impact in the world throughout history – and not only for Israel.    

  • What goal or project have you been a part of that held great expectations for the fulfillment before any first step was taken? Describe the feelings associated with that goal or project (e.g. excitement, fear, anxiety).
  • Why do the beginning steps of doing something new sometimes feel so disquieting – paralyzing for some while perhaps inconsequential to others?
  • What techniques or strategies have you tried in making changes in your life? 
  • How does your faith journey impact the way in which you seek to grow?  
  • How do small everyday acts of kindness and service build a greater kingdom?

The Hands

Beyond biblical sources, small beginnings have been recognized as a source of encouragement from many teachers and influencers. Which of the following quotes do you find the most relatable? Why?

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” 
- Laozi, Ancient Chinese Philosopher

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”  
- Confucius, Chinese Sage

“If you plan to excel in big things, you have to develop the habit of small ones.” 
- LeCrae, American Rapper and Singer 

“There is safety in small beginnings and there is unlimited capital in the experience gained by growing.”  
- Henry Ford, American Inventor and Manufacturer 

These quotes differ from the parables Jesus told of the mustard seed and the yeast in at least one important way - The work of the Holy Spirit. The focus is how a small step can lead to an achievable goal, but the kingdom of God is not an achievable goal apart from the Holy Spirit working in and through believers.

This week, take some time to meditate on these parables and the wisdom of starting small.  

  • What do you dream of or wish for the kingdom of God? Pray about what your small step could be toward the realization of that dream.
  • Design your own quote based on your hopes or dreams and the first small step you will take. Share it with your group next week.

Closing Prayer

Thank you, God, that you have created us as dynamic and changing people. As we go from this place, give us boldness to step into the changes that further our lives for good.  Amen.

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