As a youth group leader and children’s teacher, I have learned many methods for discipleship on various levels. Personally, I have also been discipled and I currently am today. Therefore, I have learned what worked well and what didn’t work on a personal level and on the level of fruit from my own ministry.
How do I lead a discipleship group? To disciple a group, you should first learn how to facilitate in an organized manner that is not dominating. Then, you can choose specific passages to study or use other books. You can set personal goals and goals with your group. Once your disciples are ready, you can allow them to lead a group. Lastly, you should continue discipleship outside of the setting of a group meeting.
Each of these methods are good on their own. Yet, if you add them all together, they are great. The more versatility and the more avenues you impact and interact with your group, the better. The leading of your group does not have to be limited to any of these methods. However, these methods are a great place to start and build upon. In addition to the explanation of these methods, I have also attached links to other resources that will help you in your discipleship.
1. Creating Order and Longevity
The first way to lead a discipleship group is through preparation. You should prepare yourself on numerous levels to lead. I recommend considering what type of leader you naturally are, and what type of leader you want to be. Write down good and bad qualities in leadership that you have either experienced or that you see in yourself.
After accessing yourself, see what you are confident in and what you need to change. Focus first on yourself to ensure that you are in a healthy and sustainable place to lead others. If you focus too heavily on ministry right off the bat, your ministry may not be as fruitful or lengthy. Search your heart through prayer and reflection.
Follow the model of Psalm 139:23-24. The psalmist declares, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” If there are any sin issues that you must address, do so before leading others. While you are leading others, consistently do this. The best way to prepare is to first prepare your heart. Spend a significant amount of time in prayer and worship before your first meeting.
After addressing any wrong motives, anxieties, fears, or stress, move onto the more administrative aspect of leadership. By this point, you should know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on using your strengths to lead the group. Then, as you continue the process, work on improving your weaknesses.
For extra help, refer to “3 Discipleship Models to Drive Your Ministry Forward”. This resource will help you find a fruitful model that will work for your group, area, circumstances, and level of spiritual development.
Facilitate, Don’t Dominate
Since no one is perfect and all struggle with sin, you must be honest with yourself and with your group. You are simply a facilitator of the work of God. Do not think of yourself too highly. Facilitate through vulnerability that is appropriate and edifying for your group. Be careful not to portray yourself in an intimidating way.
Intentionally access what type of body language you are using. Is your body language inviting? Are you creating space for others to join the conversation? For example, if you are standing with a group, form it like a horseshoe with a wide opening. This way, anyone can enter at any time. When groups stand in a complete circle, other people do not feel welcome and they physically do not have a way to join.
Additionally, use a warm tone of voice. You do not have to be fake, but remember that discipleship functions like a (healthy) family. Speak more like a loving friend, than a business person with an agenda. Do not be too short with your words. Instead, express your gratitude whenever someone speaks, even if their statement is incorrect.
You can bring correction when appropriate. If it is appropriate do so during the conversation, or wait until after the meeting to address the individual alone. You do not want your members to feel as though their input is always incorrect or that it is more of a hindrance than a benefit.
Be honest and real with your group so that they are willing to open up and share. Do not formulate the group around yourself. Rather, allow and encourage many opportunities for your group members to share their own experiences, interpretations, and thoughts.
2. Choose Specific Passages and Goals
The next step of great importance is choosing the content for your group. If you know the group relatively well before beginning the group, think of what would be most beneficial to that particular group. Do not pick a random passage or study. Instead, take time in prayer. Ask the Lord what He would have you choose.
Additionally, ask yourself what you needed to know at that stage and age of life. If you are discipling people your age, study topics that are relatable and practical for the group. If you have any insight on what passage to study, use that to the advantage of the group.
Studying the Bible is always fruitful. There are no wrong passages or studies. All can be beneficial. However, if you know that your group struggles mostly with understanding the concept of faith over works, choose to read the gospels, the book of Galatians, or the book of James.
You can do thematic studies that cover particular topics. Or, you can study the Bible from start to finish. There are a variety of additional ways to study the Bible. The best way to choose is based on your group, their prior understanding, and current circumstances. You want your group to be easy understood and applicable to your members.
Therefore, you wouldn’t want to study concepts of the end times if your group is full of new believers. Additionally, you wouldn’t want to study more basic concepts of the gospel if your group is filled with long term believers.
You can find 5 different Bible reading plans and how to follow them here. These include, the Bible in One Year, Accelerated Bible Reading Plan, Chronological Bible Reading Plan, Character Study of Bible Reading Plan, and Thematic / Topical Bible Reading Plan.
Setting goals is part of this process. If you set personal goals that you want your group to reach, it will influence what content you use. For example, if your goal is for your group to understand exactly who Jesus said He was, you would look to the four books of the gospel. You may also use Old Testament prophecies that explain Jesus.
If your goal is more practically how to study the Bible, you may want to take a smaller passage and use a hermeneutical approach. In short, this means that you teach your group how to interpret scripture through the cultural, circumstantial, historical, and literary lense.
The Bible was written for us, but it wasn’t written exactly to us. For this reason, we must access what the scriptures meant to the original audience, and the original reader, before we can apply what it means for us today.
During your first meeting, it is wise to ask your group what some of their specific goals are. That way, you can include their needs and desires into the study and meeting time. You want the group to be like a spiritual greenhouse that develops each individual in the greatest way possible.
3. Use a Book or Bible Study
If you are newer to discipleship, I recommend using a book or Bible study to help you lead the group. These resources can be ordered online or bought in store. You do not have to use the book the whole time, but it may be a beneficial start to the group. The benefit of using books is that they usually put concepts of the Bible in ways that are easy to understand.
They may include visuals, additional teachings, interactive worksheets, or a video series to use. I have personally used this model and I have enjoyed it. It takes much of the pressure off the person who is facilitating. It provides an environment where all people feel that they can equally participate since there isn’t one person dominating the whole conversation.
Books and Bible studies are also great to be used as complementary tools. This means the Bible is still the main focus. The group will read the Bible weekly, either as a group or personally. Then, the book or study is simply another tool to understand and discuss the scripture. The benefit of this format is that is can be done throughout the week, even when the disciples are apart from the group.
Additionally, it is beneficial because it does not detract from the word of God. Some books and resources can detract from the gospel or scriptures. I have known some studies to focus more on self-help or self-care, instead of God HImself. Therefore, be aware of this when you are choosing your resources. Choose resources that focus mainly on God and scripture. Other tools are helpful additives, but they cannot be the foundation.
Where to Find Resources
If you are looking for free or inexpensive discipleship resources you can find a list of 25 tools here. In this blog, I have listed and described various resources that are available to you online through download or printable options.
There are also 20 discipleship ideas that will help you and your disciples grow in spiritual maturity. That resource can be found here. You can also find additional resources through other book stores, and ministries.
If you like the content of this blog, we have over a hundred other articles that discuss practical and profound topics that cover worship, discipleship, evangelism, the local and global church, missions, theology, and personal discipleship and growth. There are also other resources and links that are attached that will lead you to additional and free resources. Find all of this and more here.
4. Allow Disciples to Lead Periodically
Once you have established your group, you can allow your disciples to lead a group. You can either give them part of the time that the group meets, or you can give them the whole time. This can either be open for anyone to choose to do it. Or, you could challenge your disciples by assigning them to lead.
Topics for leading can either be chosen by the group facilitator, or they can be chosen by the person who will be leading. I recommend that if you allow your disciple to choose their topic, that you have them run it by you first. This way, you can give any constructive criticism or correction.
You want them to have a firm grip on theology and Biblical principles before they lead others. That way, you can be proactive against confusion if scripture is being misinterpreted. You can also help your disciple gauge what is appropriate to share and what might not be as edifying.
If you are using a scripture, you can allow them to read the scripture out loud and then ask the interpretive questions. This way, the disciple can assimilate the role of the facilitator. If you are using a book or study, the disciple can follow the same model by leading the group through the book.
Another beneficial way to involve your disciples is by allowing and encouraging them to share their testimony. Remember that it may be difficult for some people to share their testimonies or to lead the group.
Therefore, don’t be demanding that all people must share. You do not want to pressure your disciples too early. The Lord may be working within their heart on many levels. It just might not be their time to share or lead.
5. Don’t Detain Discipleship to Your Regular Meetings
If you want your discipleship to be especially fruitful and productive, you cannot detain it to your weekly or monthly meetings. I recognize that people have other responsibilities, families, and ministries that may hinder this. But as much as possible, especially with young people, discipleship should continue outside of meetings.
If you are discipling middle school or high school age individuals, support them by attending their extracurriculars. If you are discipling college-age young adults, invite them to your home for dinner, or meet them for coffee. When your group is filled with people of the same age and stage of life, do your similar activities with them.
For example, if all the members in your group have children, meet together while your children play, or while your children are off doing their extracurricular activities. You can even go to the grocery store together. Or, you can invite one another over for meals and fellowship.
Meeting together more frequently is possible once you recognize that often times, you function within the same realm of daily life. You can even carpool together if you drive your children to school. There are many creative ways to meet and encourage one another. Many of these ways are also more cost-effective because they involve sharing one another’s resources, rather than using double the amount of something.
What to Do When You Can’t Meet More Often
When you cannot meet with your group throughout the week or month, connect with one another over social media, texting, or phone calls. You can set up a group chat that allows all the members to connect with one another. This can be a place where individuals tell and respond to prayer requests. Scripture and other encouragement can also be sent.
You could also start a Facebook page that keeps the members in contact. This can be a good way to send one another reminders. You could also notify them where there is a similar event taking place. Or, if someone is running an errand, they could invite whoever is available to attend with them.
It is also important to interact one-on-one with members of your group. If you have the time and ability, regularly message or call your disciples to see how they are doing and how you can encourage them. Remember what you told you last time so that you can follow up. Pray with them over the phone and help them in any way possible.
Additionally, connect your disciples with one another. This way they can encourage one another. They can pray with each other and meet with each other in addition to meeting with the group.
Again, remember that you want to be a facilitator. You do not want to dominate all things. You cannot handle it and you do not always want to be the middle man of every conversation. Mediate when necessary but give trust and responsibility to your disciples.