Life changes happen best while in a relationship. It is how we were built – we were made to be in community with one another.

For those of us looking to implement discipleship in our contexts, there are two types of groups we can use in order to make the broader goal of “discipleship” possible. 

If you want to have a thriving culture where believers become fully-formed followers of Christ, consider implementing both small groups and discipleship groups. Here’s why you need both of them.

Small Groups vs Discipleship Groups

For our purposes, let’s give small groups the following definition: a mixed-gender group of 12-20 individuals who meet regularly in order to foster community between one another.

This is the primary goal of a small group. In it, all are welcome: nonbelievers, new believers, seasoned believers, young and old people, men and women. You share a meal together and create an atmosphere where everyone, no matter who they are, feels welcomed and accepted.

You can also think of small groups like the evangelistic arm of your church’s discipleship process. How much more likely do you think an unbeliever is to come to your house for dinner than he or she might be to walk with you into a church service?

A discipleship group, on the other hand, is a closed group of three to five men or women whose purpose is to grow each other spiritually and then replicate into more discipleship groups.

Since discipleship groups can only work with believers who are actively pursuing Christlikeness, its audience is different from the small group’s. But this is by design, because the small group and the discipleship group work best when they work together.

How Small Groups and Discipleship Groups Work Together

Since a small group is a place where invitations are extended and where friendship is grown, it becomes the perfect “fishing pond” for discipleship groups. 

If you are a member of a small group, you’ll undoubtedly grow closer to a couple of people as you continually meet together. Eventually, you may even feel the Spirit calling you to invite a couple of these people into a deeper relationship.

The two groups complement each other in a few profound ways. As you are involved in small groups, you are steadily growing a biblical community. You can do it with your family and model what Christians meeting together looks like for your kids.

In a discipleship group, you are developing deeper accountability and growth. The two environments help you grow together with people, each in different ways.

Additionally, a small group, which is evangelistic in nature, gives you a place to invite and invest in non-believers. A discipleship group gives you a place to invite and invest in those who already believe.

The most important way these two groups work together, though, is in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If we want to make disciples of every nation, we will need both group environments: the invitational, open, and inviting small group and the intentional, in-depth discipleship group.

If you’d like to know more about how to start a Discipleship Group, download out our free D-Group Starter Guide, and if you’re a pastor wanting to start D-Groups in your church, we recommend you check out our Discipleship Blueprint training.

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