Gashland Baptist Church Discipleship Groups (DGs) are intergenerational groups of 3-12 people who intentionally gather together for the purpose of encouraging and equipping one another to grow more mature in their faith and to share it with others. Time is typically spent in a mixture of focused prayer, bible study, and fellowship on a weekly basis in group members’ homes.
These groups are designed to be intergenerational, that is, attempting to cross generational age gaps as much as possible. 20-year-olds ought to be in the same group as 70-year-olds and everything in-between. Being intergenerational is a vital principle of discipleship groups. DGs seek to mimic the diversity of the church at large. God has designed his church to be full of regenerate Christians of every age and our small groups ought to reflect that. (Titus 2) In addition, there is many practical benefits. Older generations are able to provide wisdom and guidance from experience to the younger and younger are able to provide fresh perspectives and energy. There are immense benefits to gathering intergenerationally are DG’s. If God designed the natural family to be across generations, so should the church.
DGs provide a natural environment for the development of authentic relationships and community. DGs meet in the homes of each group’s members which provides a more relaxed environment in order to encourage vulnerability, authenticity, and the authentic sharing of life with one another. Meeting in homes, along with devoted prayer and fellowship times, allows each person to become comfortable with sharing their trials and joy in an organic setting which should lead to real friendships. The Church of God and Gashland Baptist Church is not just an organization of likeminded people but a true spiritual family. “So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” (Eph. 2:19)
Discipleship groups also provide a natural environment for personal and pastoral care for one another. From simple needs like a mowed lawn or lunch to bigger needs such as encouragement and practical help with the loss of a loved one, Christians living together in intentional community allows for the group to organically meet the needs that otherwise would likely never be brought to the attention of others. If we are truly family with one another, we must strive to develop that level of relationship with one another. DGs provide an opportunity to cultivate those relationships.
As the name “discipleship group” implies, DGs are small groups devoted to the purpose of discipleship and discipling. Discipling is the intentional process of encouraging and teaching other believers to grow in their faith, aka, become a disciple. This is achieved through the study, teaching, and mutual application of the Scriptures. The normal activity of a DG revolves around a time of intentional, Bible reading, study, and application. In addition, the goal is to be open and authentic in one own’s spiritual state in order to speak clearly to each other. This involves direct accountability in each other’s lives seeking holiness, devotion, and the killing of sin. It should not be uncommon to ask about each other’s personal readings, struggles with sins, and similar things.
In addition to Bible study, the final focus of discipleship groups is devoted prayer for one another. We are unable to change out spiritual or physical life on our own but only by the help of the Spirit, therefore, prayer for one another is essential and it is a biblical command. The sharing of personal prayer requests and prayer by each and every member for other members is a special and essential part of discipleship groups. This most typically looks like each member praying for the non-family member that is next to them after a time of sharing prayer requests. The sharing time is often a great way to bond and fellowship, but the emphasis is to spend actual time in prayer. A healthy balance would be at least a minute of prayer time for every minute of sharing requests.
When and where do groups meet?
DGs meet on a weekly basis in a member’s home at a time agreed to by the group. Sunday or Thursday evenings would typical but at the group’s discretion. Groups do not have to meet at the leader’s house, but any member’s and it can also rotate between members, whatever the group decides.
What do groups do?
DGs meet to intentionally disciple one another into more mature followers of Jesus. This takes place in a time of fellowship, prayer, and Bible study. A typical schedule might look like 6:30-8:00pm, 15 minutes of welcome, 30 minutes of study, 30 minutes of prayer, and 15 minutes of fellowship at the end. Sharing of meals and other times of friendship and fellowship are normal also. The goal is the intentional investment in other’s lives through sharing time in prayer and study.
What do groups study?
What each group chooses to study is at the discretion of the group with oversight by the pastoral team. Generally, most of the year is spent studying through various books of the Bible with one man leading a discussion-based lesson over the passage. Groups may also spend a portion of the year studying Christian books or biographies with pastoral advisement. Normal curriculum is not recommended in order to encourage natural and organic study of the Bible as a group and develop skill in personal study in place of premade lessons at the cost of a greater requirement from the leader.
Why not just go to Sunday School?
DGs are designed to coincide with Sunday School and normal services. Discipleship Groups allow for more natural and organic relationships and Bible study. Rather than focusing on coming and receiving training and information like Sunday School, DGs emphasize a come and give atmosphere while providing more opportunities to partake in Christian community. In addition, Scripture commands us to “meet all the more” considering Jesus’ return, so why not meet all the more?