Most of us know that Jesus was called the Master Teacher. He showed His followers how to guide others in being kingdom children. Jesus involved those He was guiding in hands-on actions and experiences. He accepted the call of God to serve, knowing there was a price to pay. He prayed that His work would be effective, and Jesus knew how to lead His followers.
Leading adults to grow in their faith through discipleship groups is a blessing. Much like the Master Teacher, we are given the opportunity to invest ourselves in others and watch them as they blossom into kingdom leaders. Leading a discipleship group is a big responsibility, but the long-term blessings will be wonderful. Leading fellow Christians requires something from us:
- a sense of being called
- knowledge and skills related to the group process
Groups are intentionally formed
An effective leader needs to understand the importance of groups in the church. A discipleship group - whether a short-term group that meets to study a specific topic or an ongoing discipleship group - must be seen as more than a gathering of people. Discipleship groups are governed by certain basic guidelines: purpose, membership requirements, length and frequency of meetings, curriculum material and leadership. Discipleship groups are important to the church as well as the kingdom.
Groups increase learning potential
The group itself will influence how people in the group learn. Most people learn better in groups than individually because the learning is faster and we remember more. We get our attitudes, beliefs and feelings in large part from groups in which we participate. Our individual goals are affected by group goals because we want to be accepted and a part of the group. Decision-making is greatly influenced by group thinking too. From a supportive group we get affirmation and help in making individual decisions.
Groups meet personal needs
Why do people become a part of a group? Although some may get together to study a particular subject, most join because they have an underlying need they hope will be met by the group experience. This then is often why groups form: to have needs met. People join groups that satisfy their needs and help them achieve compelling personal goals.
For example, a new Christian may feel a deep need to bond with other Christians. Statistics tell us that a new believer must feel connection with other Christians soon after accepting Christ. Unless this takes place the new Christian is far more likely to drop out. Others may sense the need to learn more about their faith or develop discipleship skills. Such persons may feel that a group of fellow Christians is the best place for this learning and skill development.
Groups help people connect
Groups sometimes form to meet social and emotional needs. Each person wants to feel accepted and secure. They want to be a part of a group that provides acceptance and security. This is especially true when people are going through times of difficulty and change such as divorce, job or career change, retirement, relocation bereavement or any of the other predictable life experiences all adults face. Individuals also like to be involved in groups whose participants share common traits and experiences. There is a comfort in being with those who have similar backgrounds, lifestyles, values and goals.
No doubt there are countless reasons that prompt adults to become part of a group, but the bottom line is this: Groups meet needs. A group that meets needs will attract people and keep them coming. How can you form new groups? Consider some reasons for starting new short-term groups:
- New members
- Professions of faith
- People facing major life transitions, such as new parents, displaced workers, new retirees, people with financial problems and divorce
- Inadequate leaders for church ministries
- People with common interests for which there are no studies and groups currently available
How can you get people interested and involved special study groups? It's pretty simple really: Plan the event and then invite people. If you've identified the need, you're almost there. We seldom have to twist arms of people who are offered something that meets a need they already have expressed.