Making Disciples Through Groups: Before we discuss the role of a group in disciple making, we must first examine the beginning of the journey. In order for a person to grow as a disciple of Jesus, that person must first be a follower of Jesus. To begin the journey of faith, a person must surrender their life to the Lord Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life. When a person becomes a Christian, they must have and keep the desire to grow as a follower of Jesus. Too many church members want the benefits of membership, but are unwilling or simply don’t want to pay the price of commitment. It is extremely important to have the desire to mature spiritually, and even when life becomes difficult the “want to” must still be there for a Christian to grow.
Every living thing needs nourishment and the same is true of a growing follower of Jesus. The things we feed our minds will determine our spiritual health but equally important are the activities in which we are engaged. In order to grow, we must be committed to daily Bible study and prayer. We must also avoid those things that could become a substitute for our relationship with God.
Those we spend our time with and what we do with them is vital to our growth as Christians. As a believer in Jesus we must be developing friendships with non-Christians. We should be seeking to influence them instead of them influencing us. We need to be a faithful witness in proclaiming what Jesus has done for us and we must be willing to serve others. We also are connected with other Christians and we should seek to build relationships with them. The influence of other Christians is where we begin to discuss the importance of groups. Every believer needs to be connected to a small group that has for its goal to make disciples.
So what is the process for making disciples through groups? This is not the perfect list but the following seven ideas are my thoughts, observations and practices when it comes to making disciples through groups.
1. The church leaders and group leaders must know “why” for groups to exist. If the leaders don’t have a grasp on the mission, purpose and goals of the class/group, then nothing positive will be gained. According to Jesus, the goal of every Sunday School class and small group Bible study is to make disciples!
2. In order to make an impact the class/group must gather consistently. This is why a weekly gathering is best. The structured class or group time is important, but the group members must also be connected with outside group experiences. There must be the experience of doing life together.
3. The structured gathering class/group time and the members of the group must create an environment that is a safe place and a place where trust can be developed. Every person, no matter what, must be valued and respected. The sharing of ideas and the freedom to ask any question is needed in classes/groups that are making disciples.
4. During the weekly structured class/group time, the study of the Bible must be given center stage and the majority of the time allowed. There must be a major emphasis on application, not just studying the Bible like a history book or literature book. We don’t come to Sunday School or small group Bible study to gain knowledge so that we can win the Bible trivia game! We’ve got to let God change us through His Word.
5. People learn better when they are engaged. We remember almost 70% of what we discuss, so let’s make sure that our class/group experiences are designed for engagement and discussion. We’ve got to have teachers and leaders who are willing to teach using styles that are different from their preferred method of learning, and teach with a variety of methods so that all members are engaged.
6. We don’t like this word – accountability – but it is a must in any disciple making relationship. There is no spiritual growth outside the realm of accountability. In order for me to grow spiritually, I must allow my group leader/members the freedom to speak the truth to me. I must be open and honest with them. The person that hides their sin and shortcomings does not grow spiritually.
7. If we are really serious about making disciples then we will start new classes/groups. The best way to grow spiritually is to be a leader. The class/group must be producing new leaders and new classes/groups! If the class/group fails to produce a new leader and/or a new group within sixteen months, it doesn’t understand making disciples. Could the reason that your church is not growing, your Sunday School class is stalled or your small group is stuck be because your church, class or group is not focused on making disciples?