A fruitful discipleship group includes a cross-section of women from your church – old and young, mature and infant in Christ, single and married.
But managing diverse discipleship groups can be challenging, particularly if you’re devoting the majority of your time to Bible study. Discipleship leaders must balance the depth needed to keep older Christians growing in their faith without leaving newer believers behind.
Here are a few ideas for keeping older Christians engaged and younger believers from becoming overwhelmed.
1. Cast a call for questions
Whether your discipleship group happens in real time or online, be intentional to create space for discussing the text. Ask open-ended questions or fill in the blanks to ensure better-quality feedback. To keep women from feeling “on the spot,” pass out index cards for women to write down their thoughts about a question and then ask a few to share their answers.
If you’re having trouble getting women to engage, appoint a mature believer in your group to help you by participating in each discussion. If your discussion happens online, ask another believer to act as cheerleader in the discussion. In this way, you add another voice to the conversation as well as big doses of wisdom and encouragement!
2. Keep prayer central
Prayer is one of the biggest community builders in women’s ministry. As women learn to pray for one another, spiritual fellowship is created in ways special events and ministry teas don’t match.
When a woman has a prayer request, pray for it right then in your group. If your prayer time happens outside of group meeting times, remember to tell the women you prayed for them in a text or Facebook message. Share a specific verse with them or exactly what you prayed. The more your group members know you are praying for them, the more they will open up and learn to pray for one another as well.
3. Personally connect with younger Christians outside the group
Newer Christians can easily feel overwhelmed if Bible study questions go over their heads. Many times I’ve seen women leave a group because they are confused, feel dumb, or that they have nothing to add to group discussions.
To keep younger believers from feeling discouraged, keep a personal connection going with them outside of group interactions. Encourage them to ask questions at a quieter time, over coffee with just you or another group member. Assure them that there are no dumb questions.
Learn to answer hard questions in simple terms, leaving out big words or too many Bible references. Enlist an older group member to tag team with you in this area so there’s increased encouragement and connections to this individual.
4. Enlist and activate mature believers
If your discipleship group never moves past the basics, mature believers will quickly disengage. To keep older Christians challenged, encourage them to go even deeper in their personal studies apart from the group. Give them specific assignments to research and then report back their findings.
To aid in the group dynamic, ask them to partner with you in bringing up newer believers. In this way, they learn to look outside of themselves in group settings and it sets the stage for them to step into the role of discipler. As discipleship leaders, we should always be looking to work ourselves out of a job, and the best way to do that is to consistently look for and activate new leaders in our groups.
How do you manage a discipleship or Bible study group comprised of different levels of spiritual maturity? What ideas have worked for you?
Want to know more about discipleship? Check out Discipleship is Not About Me.
Melissa’s motto as a Christian journalist and creative writer is to “tell of God’s marvelous works” (Ps. 9:1). And with almost 15 years experience in print and editorial services, God has embedded Melissa with passions gleaned from stories and experiences from the field. But helping women fall in love with the sweetness of God’s Word truly makes her heart sing. Two years ago, she launched HiveResources.com to help women sweeten their walk with Christ through Bible study, missions resources, and more. She recently published a 10-week Bible study, Daughters of the King, to help women find their place in the biblical story. Melissa has a M.Div. in Women’s Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M University. She and her husband, Jonathan, are currently part of a church plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They have five-year-old twin boys, Zacharias and Jonah, who are unwittingly and joyfully shaping them into the image of Christ.
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