A discipleship band is neither a traditional small group nor a typical accountability group. The primary curriculum is the lives of its participants, joined together in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
1. Bands Read Together
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
We are a people of One Book. The Word of God is both our constitution and compass. Though a discipleship band is not a Bible study group, one of the ways we band together is through reading a common text. John Wesley once famously wrote this stinging admonition in a letter to a certain Mr. John Premboth.
Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.
There are many ways to go about reading together. What matters is finding a way to get on the same page of Scripture together. We encourage discipleship bands to subscribe to what we call the Daily Text. Each day we provide a Scripture text along with a short devotional commentary, a prayer, and a few probing questions for discipleship. We also offer a growing collection of resources written specifically for discipleship bands. These are accessible in a variety of formats, through email, print versions, or through our Discipleship Bands App. These aren’t required and a band can choose other reading plans per their shared interest. Remember, these are not studies around which groups meet for further discussion. Our common text does not function as the centerpiece of the band, rather it serves in a circumferential fashion to further band the group together.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17)
2. Bands Pray Together
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)
Our commitment is to watch over one another in love, to be for one another, and to encourage one another and build each other up. Our ongoing prayer life is a fundamental and foundational way we nurture these commitments. Band mates are prayer partners. They pray together whether they are actually together or not.
We pray together in our weekly meeting, but even when we lift one another up throughout the week, we are, in effect, praying together. Over time band mates will know one another in extraordinary ways and will develop the capacity to pray for each other like few others in our lives can.
Every week in the band meeting, each person will have an opportunity to pray for another and to be prayed for. These times of prayer, perhaps more than anything else, will serve to strengthen the bonds of the band in deeply meaningful ways.
3. Bands Meet Together
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23–25)
A discipleship band has not banded together until it is regularly meeting together. Meeting together is the most critical component of the discipleship band experience. In this distracted and over busy age, finding a time when everyone can consistently meet together can be challenging. In our experience, a consistent time each week works best. Try to make this time as sacrosanct as possible. From time to time something will come up and one of the band members will be unable to attend. As a rule, if half or more of the band cannot make a meeting, the meeting should be cancelled. Do not worry about rescheduling. Meet again at the set time the following week. Life happens. Aim for four meetings a month.
Settle for a minimum of three meetings per month. If it slips to two, the meeting time should be reconsidered. This highlights the problem with setting a meeting frequency of less than weekly. Meetings inevitably get cancelled, and when this happens within a biweekly or monthly approach it hurts the efficacy of the band. Meeting together can take on a variety of formats. Face-to-face is obviously the best option. A video conferencing service like Skype, Google Hangouts, or Zoom will work well for a band meeting. A voice-only conference call also works fine.
The point is to do whatever works and be open to varying the format as the need of the week demands. If only two people from the band can meet in the same place, allow the other members to Skype or call in. In our experience, a number of bands find themselves all living in different places, making a face-to-face meeting impossible. They successfully meet by conference call or video-chat and work toward an annual in-person retreat together. The point is to do what works and whatever it takes. The band meeting is the make or break point of the whole thing.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:19–20)
Are you interested in learning more about discipleship bands? Get the booklet, Discipleship Bands: A Practical Field Guide from our store here. It is a short guide that can help any group of Christians launch a band meeting. If you would like a more complete overview of this practice, including learning about its history, explore The Band Meeting: Rediscovering Relational Discipleship in Transforming Community by Kevin Watson and Scott Kisker from our store here.