Scroll Top

Dwelling in the Word

Dwelling in the Word is a 20-30-minute process for becoming aware of God’s presence and the Spirit’s movement by listening and reflecting on Scripture as a gathered community. Dwelling in the Word forms faith and trust within a group by sharing responses to three questions: what do I notice, what do I wonder, and where might God’s Spirit be nudging us?

The word “dwell” or “abide” is used frequently in Scripture, meaning to live or remain somewhere or with someone for a time. The practice of Dwelling in the Word invites communities to live together with a text for a period so that the reflections, wonderings, and promptings of God’s Word form and shape our faith and living. The purpose of Dwelling in the Word is not about answering questions or getting to particular results but rather allowing ourselves to be present with God’s living Word. Dwelling in the Word does not require a leader steeped in biblical scholarship.

All synod meetings begin with a time of Dwelling in the Word, and congregations are encouraged to engage in Dwelling in the Word at their council and committee meetings, Bible studies, and other gatherings.

Leading Dwelling in the Word

Use this resource to lead a group through Dwelling in the Word. Follow below to lead a session now, including the current Scripture reading, or download the complete guide and selected readings for the entire year.

Preparing for the Gathering

This practice is meant to be flexible, for use with smaller or larger groups; you are free to adapt the amount of time for sharing, as well as whether to spend time with partners or small groups or only sharing with the whole group. Dwelling in the Word can be done in person or through video conference. The “acting” section would be more applicable to council and committee meetings than a Bible study or quilting group.

Depending on your group, you may want to provide a handout or use a “screen share” with the Scripture passage and/or the reflection questions. It is helpful for everyone to hear and/or read along with the same translation. Typically, the same text is read twice by two different readers. A variation is to read a second translation.

If you are Dwelling in the Word on Zoom, make sure the host has enabled the share screen and breakout rooms options in settings.

Prepare to Listen

The leader provides a brief introduction to the practice of Dwelling in the Word – more if the practice is new to any member in the group; less if it is a developed practice. For example:

“Dwelling in the Word is a time of prayerful and communal reflection on a passage of Scripture. We will hear God’s Word read twice, allowing for silence between the readings. Are there two volunteers who would be our readers? I will let you know when to read. As we listen to the text, consider these questions; feel free to write down any reflections if you’d like.

  • What captures my attention?
  • What questions do I have? What do I wonder?
  • Where might God’s Spirit be nudging us?

After we hear God’s Word, you will have a few minutes to share our responses [with a partner]. These can be simply words or phrases that stand out for you, with or without explanation.”

Listening

The leader opens with a prayer asking God to open our hearts and speak to us. Ask participants to reflect on these questions while the first reader to reads the text slowly:

  • What captures my attention?
  • What questions do I have? What do I wonder?
  • Where might God’s Spirit be nudging us?
Reading Text
Matthew 10:24-31

“A disciple is not above the teacher nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Matthew 16:21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad, so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Mark 13:24-37

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels and gather the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight or at cockcrow or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Mark 1:21-28

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, with the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
John 20:26-31

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2 Corinthians 4:5-12

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’s sake. For it is the God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed, 10 always carrying around in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 11 For we who are living are always being handed over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us but life in you.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Allow for silence.

Invite the second reader to read the text again.

Allow for silence.

Reflecting

The leader instructs people to pair up and share responses – words or phrases, with or without explanation. “Listen carefully to your partner; after sharing with each other, you will be sharing some of your partner’s responses with the whole group (or a table group).” (On Zoom, host selects break out rooms and the amount of time desired (4 or 5 minutes); the number of rooms is your participants divided by two. The host will be able to join any room after activating the rooms. At the end of the allotted time, participants will return to the full group.)

After a few minutes, remind people to switch to let the other person share if they haven’t already.

After a few more minutes, have people gather with their partner at a table of 6-8, or in the large group. With their partner’s permission, let people share what their partner heard and wondered.

After a few more minutes, if not already gathered as the whole group, bring everyone together, ask for any other sharing. After hearing responses, ask “Where might God’s Spirit be nudging us?” (There may or may not be much response but allow time for people to process the question after everything they’ve heard.) The leader does not have to answer questions or respond directly to what is shared.

Acting

The leader invites participants to keep the Scripture in mind throughout the meeting and encourages participants to share reflections from the text throughout the time together. What does the text say in the midst of the meeting/gathering and making decisions?

You may decide to end your time together by reading the text one more time and invite reflections on how the passage influenced discussion and/or planning.

Close with a prayer, asking God to continue speaking to the group through the Scripture.

Bring the Scripture text to the group in the same manner at the next meeting or gathering.

Why Dwelling in the Word?

Dwelling in the Word opens us to the Spirit’s movement and direction in our lives.

Spending an extended time living with dwelling in a text (over weeks or months) deepens our involvement with God’s story and stirs our imagination about how God may be present in our own story.

Dwelling in the Word invites us into intentional listening.

We listen to Scripture twice, with two readers if possible and with one translation. Different voices offer different tones and inflections. While reading two translations or paraphrases can open us to differences in translation, those differences may also distract us from going deeper with a word or phrase and reflecting on why that has caught our attention. Consider using a second translation or paraphrase at the next session of dwelling.

We listen better to one another when we speak what someone else has said: Having people pair up in twos or threes to respond to the first two dwelling questions and then share the other’s person response in the larger group helps us pay closer attention to what someone else has said, but our own reflections may sound different when we hear them in someone else’s voice.

We listen more fully when all voices are heard. By reporting out what was heard in the pairs, every voice gets a hearing; the large group may more easily identify themes or directions that relate the passage to our own current story and context.