When I served in the United States Marines, we often had evaluations and exams. We constantly had to pass fitness tests, rifle tests, swim tests, and whatever our occupation was, it had its share of regular ongoing testing. All of these tests meant we needed to be ready at all times to pass. This constant need to be ready created a culture of question asking. And the most frequent question was, “how”?
It’s not all that different when it comes to ministry. We often spend a lot of time on “how.” How do you guys do groups ministry? How are you seeing people connect with the church? How do you get groups to multiply? And, of course, the standard, how many people does your church run? Have you ever stopped to think why we ask “how” so much?
The “how” provides the quickest path to replication. Think about it, asking “why” doesn’t tell us how. Watching and observing will eventually provide the answers to our questions, but it takes much longer than just asking. We ask “how” because we want to be able to implement it ourselves, or at least compare it to what we have done to dismiss it. A good leader will always ask “how,” but his or her motives are just as important as the question. Is the leader seeking a solution or a quick fix? Is he or she looking for an excuse or a weakness to poke a hole in a process with which they do not agree? We must evaluate our motives when asking questions to maximize our effectiveness. This is often one of the greatest hallmarks of leadership.
The two questions we will address this week in our Q&A series can be easily dismissed, but I implore you to evaluate them and determine if they will help you.
Question 8: Why does the d-group need to be 12 to 18 months long?
The Discipleship Group or “D-group” time-frame we recommend is 12 to 18 months. While we would never say that they “need” to last this long, our experience shows that they are most effective at this length of time. First of all, real discipling takes time. Sure, we could spend years with the same group, but then we would miss the multiplication so critical to discipleship. Less than a year doesn’t provide enough time to experience a season of life with those in your group. We have found that it may take 2 to 4 months just to open up and be honest with your group or share difficult issues them. Second, the cycle of ministry and work schedules lends itself to 12 to 18 months. This allows people to thrive and succeed in the groups while simultaneously connecting them into the life of the church. Third, and finally, we see that Jesus, once officially calling the disciples spent about 18 months with them. While this is not a doctrinal mandate for this timetable, it does let us emulate some of what Jesus did with our groups. One caveat to the timeframe is when you are working with students. We have found that nine months can be more conducive to those on a school schedule. Whether you lead college students or high school/junior high students, launching in Fall and wrapping up the group when summer break hits can be the best method for that demographic.
Question 7: How do you train your discipleship group leaders?
When it comes to training leaders for our discipleship groups, we suggest you reference your church context to determine what is best. Minimally, we would recommend three training times a year. One in January in which you explain what d-groups are and how to launch them. One in the Spring that helps provide help to group leaders as they are navigating the first few months of their groups. This one focuses on best practices and issues that have come up in groups. And one training in the Fall, 2 or 3 months prior to groups concluding. This one focuses on multiplication of the groups. One additional training could be offered around August if you plan to launch more groups than just at the first of the year. This one would be identical to the January training in every way, focused on new leaders launching new groups. In addition, you can provide online helps, resources, blogs, and tools for your leaders to have access to all year long. Much of that can be found at the replicate website replicate.org
Questions 8 and 9 are a bit more about the mechanics of discipleship, but they are no less important. Again, we need to know how to do certain things, and even though you will need to contextualize everything, hopefully, these answers can help you get started or tweak your process to make it better!
Next week we focus on questions 5 and 6:
- What is the difference between Sunday school/small groups and d-groups?
- How do I get my groups to multiply?