Are you considering whether or not you should join a discipleship group? A good discipleship group is an incredible way to grow in your faith, but it does require a higher level of commitment compared to typical small groups or community groups (learn about the Key Differences of Discipleship Groups vs Small Groups).
We strongly believe in the value of discipleship groups, but we also know it is important for people to participate out of a desire to grow, as opposed to participate out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Like most things in life, you tend to get more out of things when you actually invest in them.
In this article, we’ll share the level of commitment we encourage participants to take when we train churches on starting discipleship movements in their churches. Then, we’ll share a few important questions you can prayerfully consider if you are trying to decide if you should join a discipleship group.
The Value of Being in a Discipleship Group
Life-on-life missional discipleship is the most effective means of progressing toward spiritual maturity. This is the model Jesus used with His disciples. He spent time with them. It was interactive, one-on-one, in small groups, and out in the field serving together.
He took them as they were, with no pre-qualification except that they wanted to follow Him. Through life-on-life discipleship you can come as you are, wherever you are in your spiritual journey, and become what God has designed you to be, with nothing more required than your simple desire to follow Christ.
In addition to this, there is tremendous value in belonging to a brotherhood or sisterhood of believers. The bonds that are developed through discipleship reach beyond the time in your group and can last for years.
The Commitment of Being in a Discipleship Group
We provide several recommended guidelines for the commitment required to join a discipleship group. Just like physical fitness, committing to consistency and a higher level of effort will lead to greater transformation. This list is not exhaustive, nor are the items in this list hard laws with no flexibility, but we have found that these basic principles help facilitate growth in their faith and encourage them with our new Journey Online Curriculum:
- Make a one-year commitment: Spiritual transformation takes time, which is why we encourage people to commit to a full-year of regular meetings. Many groups will meet together for multiple years, but we still recommend making the commitment one year at a time.
- Commit to attend regularly: We usually recommend groups meet on a weekly basis and to loosely follow the school calendar. This consistent attendance is vital to group morale and personal growth. We also recommend groups stay smaller (4-6 people), so when one person is frequently missing, the group feels it.
- Complete the homework outside of group meetings: Discipleship group requires study outside of the meeting time. We typically say that the Journey curriculum takes about two hours per week to complete (15-20 minutes per day). Coming to group prepared allows you to focus on the important issues in your group.
- To participate in group discussion and activities: Life-on-life Discipleship groups require you to actually share your life with others in the group.
- To protect the confidentiality of your group: Because the best groups happen when people are open and honest, it is vital that you commit to keeping discussions confidential.
Again, the level of commitment required may differ based on seasons of life or the group leader’s preference. For instance, a group of moms with young children may not be able to commit as much time and consistency as a group of singles in their twenties or a group of empty nesters.
Ultimately, it is up to the group leader to determine and clearly communicate expectations to potential participants before they join.
Should you Join a Discipleship Group?
Now that you understand the value and commitment involved with joining a discipleship group, you may still not be sure if you’re ready to take the plunge. That’s ok! It is normal to have reservations or concerns, especially if you’ve never joined a life-on-life discipleship group.
Here are 12 questions to prayerfully consider as you try to decide if joining a discipleship group is right for you.
1) Do you have a desire to grow in your faith?
Some people are intimidated to join a group because they think others in the group will know more about the Bible or be further along on their faith journey. Your level of knowledge is much less important, however, than your desire to grow closer to God. Whether you’ve been a believer for 50 years or 5 days, if you desire to grow in your faith then you should feel encouraged to join a discipleship group.
2) Do you want to build authentic relationships?
Many people today are lonely. In fact, the US Surgeon General recently published a report on the loneliness epidemic. While people today have many connections, the quality of those connections are poor. A life-on-life discipleship group provides a place where people can be open, honest, and safe. If you are looking to build a few high quality connections, then joining a discipleship group may be for you.
3) Do you want to learn Truth?
Discipleship groups place a heavy emphasis on truth, and you will learn a lot when you go through the Journey curriculum. Not only will you read the Word, but you will spend time reflecting on it, discussing it, and applying it. The Truth of God’s Word transforms lives!
4) Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone?
If you wanted to grow more physically fit, you might hire a personal trainer. Their job is to push you out of your comfort zone and help you stay disciplined. In the same way, if you want to grow spiritually, your discipleship group leader may push you out of your comfort zone – to pray and study God’s word more than normal. To get involved in missional activity and be light to the places you live, work, and play.
5) Are you willing to be transparent and open?
Life-on-life discipleship cannot work if you refuse to share what is really going on in your life. Again, discipleship groups are meant to be safe places where you feel like you can be open and honest, but it still takes your willingness and courage to share.
6) What are your reservations and concerns about joining a discipleship group?
If you are on the fence about joining, it’s always helpful to consider what you’re actually concerned about. Write those concerns down if it helps, and feel free to discuss these concerns with your potential group leader. He or she would be happy to listen and address your concerns – you may find that your concerns won’t be an issue in your group at all, or you may realize that maybe this isn’t the right time to join a group.
7) What do you hope to gain from joining a discipleship group?
On the flip side, it can also be helpful to consider what you actually want to get out of your discipleship group. Again, writing down your goals and hopes for the group can help you consider the potential benefits. You can compare these with your reservations and concerns, and you can also share them with your potential group leader to ensure your goals are realistic and aligned with the group’s goals.
8) What might you have to give up in order to join the group?
Many of us lead busy lives, and so committing to a group means we will have to give something up. Between homework and group meeting, your discipleship group will likely require at least 4 hours of time per week. Does this mean less time to go to the gym? Does it mean you have to wake up a little earlier? Does it mean being disciplined about when you stop working? Could it mean a night away from your spouse and/or children? We believe that discipleship groups are worth the time and effort, but it is important for you to consider these factors.
9) Do you trust your discipleship group leader?
We teach people that it is important for both leaders and disciples in the group to trust each other. We encourage potential leaders and members of a group to meet before the group starts so that the leader can share a vision and the member can consider if that vision is right for them. It’s also important that you trust and believe your leader can actually help fulfill that vision. If, for some reason, you don’t believe your potential leader can help you grow in your faith then you may need to find a different group.
10) Are you trying to earn God’s favor?
Does being involved in a discipleship group make God love you more? You may be tempted to think that God loves you and accepts you more because you’ve been memorizing verses, learning about the Bible, and even sharing your faith. But this is not the case!
We always want to be clear – discipleship does not earn you more of God’s favor. Instead, we want to remember that Christ has already earned God’s favor for you, and His love and grace motivates us to follow Him with freedom and joy.
11) Is the timing right?
Life frequently changes, and there may be seasons where you can commit to a discipleship group and others where it may be more challenging. For instance, maybe you’re starting a new job, maybe you are about to have a baby, or maybe you’ll be traveling a lot. For some people, joining a discipleship group in those seasons will be stressful and too much of a commitment. For others, it may be that a sense of strong and consistent community and accountability is essential during those seasons.
If you find yourself in a season where discipleship is too much, then that is ok! You can always check for other opportunities to get connected and get into the Word. Maybe your church hosts community groups, or maybe you can meet with a mentor once per month. Look for opportunities that fit the current season of your life.
12) Where is God’s Spirit leading you?
As you prayerfully consider all of these questions, it’s important to remember that as followers of Christ, we should endeavor to align our decisions with God’s will. If you sense that the Spirit is encouraging you to take a step out in faith to join a discipleship group, then it’s a good bet you should join one!
Ready to take the Plunge?
If you feel ready to join a discipleship group, even if you’re a bit nervous, then go ahead and take the plunge! You’ll gain valuable relationships, learn a ton of truth, be encouraged in your faith, and see your heart transformed.
If you’re part of a church that is looking to start a discipleship movement, then check out our discipleship training resources. Life on Life discipleship training involves an intentional, highly relational process, and your church will never be the same.
We are pastors leading life-on-life missional discipleship movements in our own churches, and we have seen it transform our people and impact our communities. We want to help you launch this movement in your own church by using a proven, intentional discipleship training process.