“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” —Ecclesiastes 4:12
Discipleship Relationships (DRs) at LHCC
PART I: Introduction to DRs
Jesus tells us that loving and following Him means loving others who follow Him (see John 13:35, Hebrews 3:12-14, Hebrews 12:15, 1 John 4:11-18). Therefore, growing as Christians involves giving ourselves to fellowship with other believers.
While the Bible gives no “one size fits all” method for fellowship, it is also true that sometimes opportunities lie dormant for lack of vision and planning. And so we’re encouraging this method of caring for and discipling each other that we call DRs for discipleship relationships.
DRs are small groups of two to four individuals (three recommended!) who commit to meet together regularly in person, virtually, or by phone for an agreed upon season and for the purpose of sharing three foundational aspects of fellowship: truth, life, and prayer.
- Truth – reflect on God’s word together
- Life – share struggles and joys with each other
- Prayer – petition the Lord on each other’s behalf
“Our desire at LHCC is to see everyone loving someone faithfully and everyone being loved by someone faithfully, all for the glory of Christ and the good of His church.”
Features of DRs
- Intimate. In smaller groups it is easier to share with a few committed friends than in a larger setting and it is harder to isolate or feel isolated in smaller groups.
- Frequent & Convenient. Meeting weekly or biweekly allows us to really get to know one another. Meeting length of 1.5 to 2 hours at agreed upon time and location (in person or electronically) for flexibility. Gender specific groups do not create burdens on home life or budget (for babysitting, etc.).
- Growth Spurring. Leadership sharing is encouraged; take turns as point person (see below). Multiplication by division is encouraged; prepares members to later form new groups.
- Simple and “Do-able”. Questions for meetings are provided weekly as desired. Minimal to no homework or outside preparation unless mutually agreed upon. Suggested six month commitment at maximum, making sure no one feels obligated beyond that period.
Starting a DR
- One of two approaches:
- Gather your group and start
- Ask an elder to help you find or start a group
- Meet together and decide:
- When and how/where you will meet
- What resource to use (sermon recap, book of the Bible, article, book, etc.)
- How long the group commitment will last
- Initial point person commits to:
- Remind members of the meeting time and location
- Have resources ready and accessible
- Facilitate the truth, life, and prayer format
- Guide members to stay on topic so all can participate
Some “Points” On the Point Person
- Does not have to be a pastor or leader or the most mature Christian in the group. But this role is crucial in order to keep the group going and focused.
- Encourage all group members to take turns being the point person with some regularity so that no one feels the burden alone and everyone grows in servant leadership. This will, of course, be somewhat of a function of the gifts, maturity, and willingness of the members.
- The point person should always feel encouraged to reach out to leaders in the church including the pastor for help in performing this function. The pastor’s door is always open to help DR members in need of instruction or guidance.
PART II: Format of a DR Meeting
DR meetings are meant to be loving and relaxed, while aiming for encouragement and growth in Christ. We encourage each DR to develop a simple format around discussing TRUTH, sharing LIFE, and offering PRAYER for one another.
- Discuss TRUTH
We won’t grow without the truth of God’s word. It is more important for our lives than food and drink (Matthew 4:4). Through it our Lord sanctifies us (John 17:17), equips us (2 Timothy 3:17), encourages and preserves us (Romans 15:5-6). And we’re called to let it dwell richly in us and to nourish each other with it (Colossians 3:16).
Start with a brief prayer for the Holy Spirit’s help as you reflect on and discuss the material.
You could use the Sunday recap questions provided on the Sunday sermon each week. (This is a great way to do a deeper dive with a resource that members are, hopefully, already familiar with.) Or you could use a passage of the Bible, an article, or any other biblically faithful and nourishing resource.
If using the Sunday recap questions, be sure to read the referenced passage and other cited passages. Consider focusing on one question (or two at the most) as often that will be plenty for a full discussion.
If you are reading a book or article together, consider taking turns reading sections together. For resources without provided questions, here are some suggested focuses/questions:
- HEART: What do you think the main idea is? What do you think the Lord (or author) is trying to communicate?
- INSIGHT: What jumps out at you? What do you find interesting, provoking, compelling, or motivating?
- QUESTIONS: What question might you have? What do you find hard to understand or troubling?
- APPLICATION: What do you think God would have you do with this? How might He call you to believe or do something differently?
NOTE: Whatever resource you use, the point person should seek to have a good understanding of the Biblical meaning of the material, so they can keep the discussion faithful to God’s word.
- Share Your LIFE
DRs should aim to become places where members can share their lives with one another in safety (1 Thessalonians 2:8). One aspect of “safety” means you agree to keep sensitive issues confidential unless you’re sure outside help is either agreed upon or is needed according to the principles in Matthew 18:15-20.
While there is no one perfect format, you want to make the group first about fundamental spiritual matters that are close to God’s heart and to help each other reflect in a healthy way on your relationships with God and others. Below are three areas we encourage you to share at each meeting and questions the point person might want to consider asking.
- Praises: Share how you have seen God at work that helps you rejoice in Him and His goodness, faithfulness, and love or walk closer with Him. (Psalm 22:22) Questions to consider asking: Where do you think you’ve seen God at work this week and how do you think He’s been meeting you? Are there ways you sense God is reminding you He is near you this week?
- Needs: Share burdens or discouragements you need help with. (Galatians 6:2) Questions to consider asking: What has been draining or discouraging for you lately? Where do you feel like anxiety is tempting you right now? Is there anything you feel like you need wisdom for?
- Confession: If you have sins that are heavy on your heart, bring them to one another as you feel you can – it will foster mutual dependence and humility. (James 5:16) Questions to consider asking: Is there any burden on your conscience this week you’d like to be free from? Is there anything you feel like God wants you to bring out into the light right now?
A few thoughts on discussing our lives with each other:
No one should ever feel forced to confess in a DR. It might be some time before members feel like they can be vulnerable enough with the group to open up about areas of struggle. But if heartfelt confession is brought, be sure that God’s forgiveness of the person through the blood of Jesus is affirmed first. Confession is always the right time to remind one another of the gospel (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9-2:1).
It’s important to remember that we are not here to “fix” one another, that’s the Holy Spirit’s role in our sanctification. Sometimes sharing a lot of advice – even good advice – can become just too much for a person to hear and process in one meeting. So be careful to not over advise or in other ways hijack the conversation. Rather, seek to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). As someone once said, “there is a reason God gave us one mouth and two ears.” Listening well to one another is one of the most important gifts we can give.
If giving spiritual counsel, aim to give advice rooted in the principles of God’s word and, most of all, that encourages dependence on God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power (Romans 8:12-15; Hebrews 4:14-16). People are often under aware of two crucial things: how much they need the Lord and how abundant and available is His grace for us through Jesus. If your fellowship time does nothing but refresh one another in a sense of our need for God and His abundant sufficiency for every situation we face, then it will have been a tremendous success!
- PRAY for One Another
After a time of sharing, pray in simple, straightforward ways for each other (James 5:16; Romans 12:12). If you’re not accustomed to praying out loud, that’s okay. Praying is talking to God. It does not have to be perfect or flowery. It should be real and honest and respectful and dependent on Jesus – not you. So just pray in the best way you know how.
Bring to God the things you talked about in the meeting. And especially be mindful of the spiritual needs of one another, so that material needs – though important – don’t overshadow the more important needs of our souls.
Also, consider allowing time to wait on the Holy Spirit to see if you sense His leading you to pray in a specific way, or to give prophetic words to encourage, strengthen, or console one another (1 Corinthians 14:1-5, 26; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). Of course, any prophetic words need to be considered in light of scripture on whether they line up with the character of God. Be expectant that God will build you up through one another in this way (1 Corinthians 12-14).
Important Note on the First Meetings:
When you are all set to go with your first DR meeting, it is important to give ample time to simply get to know one another. So we encourage every group’s first meeting be a time where each member can share their story in a relaxed way. For example, consider having each member share:
- Where they are from
- Where they are on their journey with Christ and how they got there
- What are their challenges in life right now
- What brought them to the DR
- And what they hope God will do through the time together
- Any particular hopes or fears about the group
PART III: DR Commitments and Considerations
The kind of consistent, loving, safe, and growth-spurring fellowship DRs are meant to foster will not happen without some commitment on the part of the participants. So, while no one should feel DRs are a huge burden, we do ask you to consider the below commitments seriously.
- Commit to Consistency
DRs are flexible in that they’re meant to work with the rhythms of your life. So once you find a time and place that works, make a firm commitment to one another that you will meet unless there’s some unavoidable conflict. Ideally, DRs will meet weekly, but try to commit to meet at least twice a month. Also we encourage a commitment to meeting for a period of three to six months before reevaluating or considering forming a new DR.
- Commit to Confidentiality
DRs are meant to be contexts where, as we build trust with each other, we can share burdens and struggles that we wouldn’t normally share in larger group. Relational depth and spiritual joy within the group will largely be a result of the vulnerability of its members, so take a risk and be honest with each other. This also means confidentiality is important. As long as Matthew 18:15-20 issues are not involved, and as long as issues of abuse or harm to self or others are not in view, we encourage the group to commit to confidentiality. This will build trust and encourage honesty.
- Commit to Charity
Scripture tells us we should bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), grow in grace and knowledge together (2 Peter 3:18), and love one another (Colossians 3:12-14). Each DR will have members of different ages, spiritual backgrounds, and personalities. Loving one another in the context of a DR will mean being patient, showing empathy, not condemning, encouraging, and at times challenging one another. The basic commitment to loving one another in humility is the fertile soil in which faith and genuine relationships will grow.
Other Important Considerations
- DRs can meet anywhere: online, restaurants, coffee shops, houses or apartments, workplaces, parks, etc. But each DR will want to consider what environment works best, especially for praying and sharing.
- DRs are great opportunities for intergenerational relationships (i.e., older folks connecting with younger folks) and for making new friendships. While it’s fine to form a DR with folks you already know and are close to, we encourage you to consider joining with others whom you may not know well and/or who may be outside of your peer group.
- When beginning to meet, especially with people you don’t know well, awkwardness is always a possibility. Be patient, embrace the awkwardness, and trust that with time conversation will flow and trust will be built.
- DRs are meant to be places where, with time and trust, we can be appropriately vulnerable about our sorrows and struggles and even seek accountability (i.e., invite others to ask us tough questions). Such vulnerability should never be forced, but each group should develop a spirit of trust and grace where transparency is encouraged. Again, this is why a biblical confidentiality is essential for DRs.
- A big part of a healthy experience in a DR is the right amount of listening and speaking from each member. All of us are different: some of us need to guard talking too much and others of us need to be careful we don’t share too little. Be willing to seek feedback from the others in your group on where you are on that spectrum and be willing to try to make adjustments.
- After the agreed upon term for meetings has ended, release one another with an attitude of grace and thankfulness. No one should feel pressure to continue formal meetings beyond the agreed upon term. We also recommended each DR consider including others to form two new DRs before committing to keep meeting for a new season together.
- If a group runs into an issue or has conflict, then a point person should reach out to either a godly mature man or woman in the church for help, including an elder.