There is no single formula for leading a discipleship group. But there are a few elements than can determine how successful a group can be.
Recently, I invited myself to a friend's discipleship group comprised of three younger women, and I observed several things "worked" for them. Not all these elements have to happen at each group meeting, but when they do appear, they ensure women are edified and equipped to make more disciples.
Here are 6 elements that make for a successful discipleship group:
As the leader of her group, my friend recognized women are over-scheduled and over-committed more than ever before. In order for women to add an activity to their schedule, it must be worth the investment of their time. And if a woman feels guilted into or obligated to attend a disicpleship group, she won't return.
So, when her group arrived, my friend poured encouragement into them. She opened her home and provided a simple spread of refreshments. No one was required to bring anything.
To make the women feel even more special, she gifted each one with what she called a "blessing basket" - a simple dollar store bucket filled with helpful things for winter like trial-size kleenex, hand sanitizer, and a packet of hot chocolate. In this way, not only did my friend encourage her group, but she also demonstrated how they can encourage others in simple & inexpensive ways.
All the women in my friend's group have small children. My friend knew that if she wanted to invest in her group, the children must be included in her agenda. So, when her group arrived, she had a strategic plan in place. Even though she has no children herself, my friend had a basket of toys ready and a movie prepped for when the littles arrived.
She gave the children a snack first and then funneled them to the main living area where moms could keep an eye on them while they dug into a short Bible study. The missions-activity she planned was simple enough for the children to participate if they grew curious about what mom was doing.
Over coffee and muffins, my friend opened her Bible to share God's Word. Her devotional was short and sweet but to the point. Here's what I liked: she picked a passage based on the previous Sunday sermon (John 15), giving women a chance to ask questions they might not have felt comfortable voicing to their pastor.
After reminding them of a few key thoughts, she added additional depth by looking up specific words and then related how the principles in passage related to everyday life - motherhood, finances, and trust.
My friend planned an easy hands-on activity the women could complete during the group meeting, teaching them to look for opportunities to live on-mission during the holidays. With Thanksgiving coming up, the ladies made a Thanksgiving Blessing Mix as an outreach activity.
My friend had tags printed out to save time. And while the group mixed and scooped their trail mix into plastic bags, they talked about how and to whom they could use this activity to bless those around them - neighbors, coworkers, teachers and more.
The best discipleship groups aren't just knowledge-based, where a teacher downloads information or doctrine into a student. A truly successful discipleship group will incorporate opportunities for life-on-life relationship building - fruitful conversations about the gospel and life and physical demonstrations of what faith looks like as it is lived out.
And even though those life-on-life discipleship moments are often unplanned, discipleship group leaders must be intentional to look for those moments when they arrive and seize them. While we worked mixing and scooiping our trail mix, my friend intentionally guided the conversation to ask questions and give us ideas for faithful, missional living.
It is easy to leave a group without ever having opened up. To ensure her group connected with others and with the Scriptures, my friend closed her group with prayer. This was a sweet time of sharing as each woman shared a request and encouraged one another in their daily struggles.
And noting that the children were getting restless, my friend took the lead in prayer without drawing prayer time out.
Many women are afraid of discipleship. They fear the don't know enough to lead a Bible study or doubt they are qualified to take someone under their wings to show them how to grow spiritually.
But special training is not required to make disciples; God can use any woman who is willing to open her home and heart to minister to the women around her in intentional ways.
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.