Discipleship Groups

Our focus in 2021 as we pursue our mission together to make disciples of Jesus is to see the vast majority of our church community join a Discipleship Group. These groups are intended, under God, to form the ‘backbone’ of a culture of discipleship and effective pastoral care amongst our church into the future.

Keen to be involved? Email one of the pastors!

matt @ chatswoodbaptist.com.auphilip @ chatswoodbaptist.com.au or mark @ chatswoodbaptist.com.au

 

Introduction to Discipleship Groups

Discipleship Groups are all about learning to follow Jesus together. The overall purpose of joining a Discipleship Group is to grow in maturity as a disciple of Jesus and to help others grow to maturity in Christ, through helping each other understand, apply and live by the Word of God in all of life. They are not ‘social groups’, nor ‘study groups’ – they are Discipleship Groups. Involvement in a Discipleship Group is not intended to replace regular participation in the main, Sunday gathering of God’s people for public worship and teaching. Nor should it prevent anyone from serving in a ministry team or participating in other forms of Christian education and/or fellowship.

What is a Discipleship Group?

A small, single-sex group of 3-5 people committed to helping each other follow Jesus, looking ultimately to multiply into 2 or more groups through inviting others to join them. The core aspect of group life is meeting regularly to encourage each other in personal discipleship of Jesus through sharing, Bible study and prayer, but it extends beyond this into other less structured social connection, practical and pastoral support, prayer and communication. The group is led by a Discipleship Group Leader, who is appointed, trained and supported by the pastoral team. There is a focus on interactive, mutual learning and encouragement, and the Leader ‘drives’ the group, helping it stay on track, rather than acting primarily as a teacher.

What does it mean to be involved in a Discipleship Group?

  • meet weekly (45min – 1:30 hours) with your group for sharing, study & application of the Bible (linked to Sunday sermon), & prayer for each other and for others
  • encourage each other in daily Bible reading, potentially through adopting common daily Bible reading plan / goals, and communicating regularly around Bible reading for mutual encouragement
  • socialising as a group, often including others in and outside of the church
  • turning to each other for pastoral care and relational support
  • being prayerful for the members of your group beyond the formal meeting

 

Expectations for Joining a Group

(1) Commitment & Communication around Meeting Regularly

The purpose of keeping the groups small is to encourage depth of relationship, commitment to meeting regularly, and flexibility in group life through active communication. Group members are expected to commit to meeting weekly through the majority of the year and communicating with the group when obstacles or issues arise.

(2) Open, Respectful and Loving Relationships

Group members need to be trusting, open and honest to help each other grow in obedience to Jesus. They therefore need to treat what is shared as confidential unless stated otherwise, and need to be gentle and respectful in how they relate. We must also be committed to loving and direct resolution of any conflict or perceived offence with other members, involving the help of the group leader where necessary.

(3) Welcoming to others and committed to Multiplying

Groups need some stability, but they are intended to grow and multiply over time (1-2 years). Members need to be open to inviting and welcoming in others and splitting or sending members off to form new groups. All invitations should be discussed with existing group members, particularly with the group leader.

 

Why Discipleship Groups? Why not stick with ‘Growth Groups’?

Our hope is to see 80% of regular attenders involved in relational, personal and proactive discipleship of Jesus.

Up till now we’ve relied on ‘Growth Groups’ as the official structure for facilitating greater relational connection and active discipleship. For those regularly involved, participation has been helpful and effective in promoting growth in understanding and applying the Bible. However, we’ve had low numbers of participation in growth groups for a number of years, with low numbers of groups available and lack of regularity for many members. We have a significant number of regular attenders, both newcomers and familiar faces, who are not really involved in any groups or structures that provide these opportunities beyond socialising on Sunday, a problem which has been exacerbated through COVID.

Whilst the overall problem is a cultural issue, we see the ‘Growth Group’ structure as contributing to the problem in a few key ways:

  • There is a limited number of groups, which have been primarily led by pastors or ‘experts’, who can be the ‘trusted teacher’. Many people feel too time poor, inexperienced or lack confidence to take on the role of Growth Group Leader. This means there are limited options for new and existing members to get involved in a Growth Group, and all groups are (on paper!) already larger than ideal for group discussion.
  • Whilst notionally people have ‘belonged’ to a Growth Group, the groups have in reality revolved around the ‘event’ of a Bible study at an advertised time. If the times of the available groups don’t suit someone, it is hard for them to get involved.

We see the size, flexibility and nature of Discipleship Groups as being more suitable for our current phase of church life for achieving the same aims as Growth Groups.