Over the next several weeks we will hear from various pastors who have taken part or are currently in the Replicate Cohort. We will hear stories from these pastors about how a disciplemaking strategy started and took root in their churches. For more information about the Replicate Cohort click here: – Tim
Vick Green serves as the Next Steps director at The Chapel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Chapel started out of a Billy Graham crusade in 1972. The church’s first building was located on the campus of LSU and now has an additional campus in the heart of the city of Baton Rouge. The Chapel has a strong value for making disciples in the family, on the campus of LSU, in the local community, and around the world. Currently, the church is in a season of growth as over 1,200 people worship weekly and over 55% of its members are involved in Community Groups and D-Groups.
The Chapel is a forty-five-year-oldchurch that, despite its rich history and rapid growth, has been in decline over the last decade. It continued to reach college students and internationals in amazing ways, but when it came to developing the adult body, there was a lack of discipleship. This problem was not due to a lack of conviction. It was commonlanguage from our elders, staff, and members. It was even includedin our mission statement. But outside of elders and staff, there were very few members who were being discipled, much less disciplingothers. Though our church knew that discipleship was important, our people didn’t know where to start. We needed a simple, effective approach that would bring our church’s conviction to life.
On July 14, 2016, our Group Life Department spent a full day together asking two questions. The first question was, “How effectively are our Community Groups connecting new people and growing them as disciples?” We concluded that our groups were connecting people well, but not fostering discipleship relationships. Our groups could do one well, but rarely two. Secondly, we defined discipleship as a small group atmosphere that included studying the Word, prayer, accountability, and intentional discipleship. We then asked,“How many people were currently in a group like this?” In a church of 1,200, we were disheartened only to find 28 people.
By the end of the day, our team sat in front of a full whiteboard disheartened because our problem seemed unsolvable. Our groups couldn’t find the perfect balance where both a seeker could find a place to belong and a believer could learn key disciplines and be accountable to others. As long as we relied on one group structure for both our evangelism and discipleship strategy, the group would accomplish neither well. On the other hand, how could we convince our people of the value of adding one more group to their already busy schedules?
Knowing that we needed a change, we spent the next six months strategizing about what a discipleship group could look like. It was inthis time that we met Replicate Ministries. As we attended their Blueprint Conference, we fell in love with how simple and lean their D-Group model was. The curriculum was the Word of God and the prep time was your personal devotional life. The simplicity of this model made it possible for our members to be involved in two groups and our staff to oversee each of those groups. With a newfound vision, we then spent the rest of the year taking the Replicate model and adapting it to fit The Chapel.
In January 2018, we unveiled D-Groups to key leaders in our church. Not knowing if anyone would come, we prayed for 100 people to attend. We were blown away when over 160 people came and were hanging on every word from Robby, Kandi, Tim, and our staff. The next month, over 120 people began meeting together in groups!
Since we introduced D-Groups, it has been a key part of The Chapel’s revitalization, andour team cannot imagine ministry without it. In just 15 months, we have grown from 28 people to nearly 280 people across 65 different groups! Our staff talks about the Bible with one another more than I ever remember as we meet weekly to share H.E.A.R. journals and Scripture memory. Now, our Community Groups are free to solely focus on connecting new people, which has led to our groups multiplying into neighborhoods to reach new people. We also have seenan increase in lay leadership because now they are no longer pulling from an empty well. And our Sunday morning attendance has changed from declining to growing.
Over the last two years, God has worked in amazing ways throughout our church, none bigger than through D-Groups. Nearly every week, I hear a different D-Group testimonial like, “How did I ever live without this?” or “I have never read the Bible like this before!” Even from our Community Groups,we hear, “This new vision is exactlywhat we needed!” What encourages me the most is to watch, in just two years, certain people move from the fringes of our church to being discipledand then to disciplingothers. Discipleship among our people has moved from a problem we could never solve to a wildfire that we can’t contain. We have switched from tirelessly pushing the ball uphill to just trying to keep up.