Every church plant needs a discipleship strategy. It is non-negotiable. Before you draw up a marketing plan, search for a venue, or dream about aesthetics and stage design, beg and plead for God to call and shape disciples. Discipleship is at the core of the Father’s will for us, the thrust of Jesus’ commission to us, and the heart of the Spirit’s work in us, for the glory of God and the sake of the world. It sparks mission and fosters community and becomes the catalyst for holiness of heart and life. To be and make disciples is our calling.
Crafting a sustainable and effective strategy for this can be overwhelming and intimidating. Thankfully, we don’t need to look far or labor to create something brand new. We just need to remember. As Wesleyans, a time tested strategy is encoded in our family DNA and embedded in our collective memory.
We have all heard the familiar refrain that John Wesley was not a systematic theologian. But he was a systematic disciple-maker, a ‘folk theologian’ whose best contribution was not in his analysis, but his application of theology in the real lives of real people. The following is what we call our Method, one of the elements of our strategy. It is taken directly from Love Chapel Hill’s small group leader’s field guide and is based on Wesley’s design for small groups.
We expect the following 5 things from every small group:
- Gather Together
- Share Together
- Grow Together
- Worship Together
- Serve Together
WHAT THAT MEANS:
1. GATHER TOGETHER. Choose a consistent time for meeting and make that time a protected priority in your week. Choose a time and place that best fits the members and mission of your group. If your group is designed for more intimate connection, choose an environment like a living room. If your group is built around discussions of engaging culture with the Gospel, choose a restaurant or coffee shop in the heart of the community. Make sure your time is consistent and your space is conducive.
2. SHARE TOGETHER. Small groups play a vital role in fostering community within our church. Each week, take intentional time to share and pray together. Share your joys and deep struggles. Be authentic. As the leader, pave the way and set the tone. Lead with vulnerable courage and let your group share in your burdens. Create a safe place for them to do the same. After you offer an opportunity to share honestly, spend time praying for the specific needs mentioned. Bind your group together through prayer.
3. GROW TOGETHER. Small groups are designed to spur us on toward growth in Christ in the context of community. Your group should do more than just hang out. Being together is important and meaningful. But be sure to orient your time together around the purpose of discipleship. We welcome and encourage diverse expressions of this goal—Bible studies, prayer groups, accountability groups, topic studies, discussion groups, service groups—but each one should be rooted in and directed by discipleship.
4. WORSHIP TOGETHER. Encourage your group members to stay connected to the larger church family. Come to church and worship together. We are on a journey with each other, walking in step with the Spirit. He is shaping us as the body of Jesus, a collective expression of the Kingdom in our community. Lead your group in joining that journey.
5. SERVE TOGETHER. Although discipleship is the central thrust of small groups, they will not be complete unless they fully integrate mission into their shared experience. This is who we are, it is a crucial part of active discipleship, and any expression of the church that does not integrate both is not whole. We envision our small groups as micro-movements– the dream tanks and creative incubators for furthering the mission. In these fertile settings, ideas and ingenuity will give birth to the next (and better) living stories of God’s love for the world. The potential here is unlimited. We want to mobilize our groups to serve the community for the sake of the Kingdom. And we require every group to design and carry out at least one love mission together each semester.