Thoughts on Discipleship #1

Since I joined the staff of my current church, I’ve been sharing some thoughts with our Growth Group leaders in the form of a weekly email. I’ve decided to share some of these. I pray they are a blessing to you…

Spiritual Disciplines in Small Groups

How do you promote the concept of spiritual disciplines within your groups? Is it a subject that you address with intention and frequency? Do you talk about it when your lesson plan calls for it? Or do you forego such discussions?

It is important to make the discussion of spiritual disciplines a part of your group’s discussions on a regular basis. Our call to make disciples includes training fellow believers to develop good spiritual habits that will enable them to grow in their relationship with God. 

Studying the Bible, giving, serving, praying… these are all actions. While there are aspects of the Christian walk that are matters of the soul or states of mind, serving in the church is an action. Giving faithfully is an action. And so on. This is why a habit needs to be formed.

Finding occasions to bring up spiritual disciplines need not be difficult. Since we are all instructed to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”(2 Peter 3:18), and disciplines help the believer accomplish this, then we as group leaders need to motivate others to “act” in ways that benefit our walk with God. When you pray together as a group, encourage them to pray for that week’s requests during their personal prayer time. Give them topics related to your group’s study that they can study during their quiet time. Ask for testimonies of folks who have witnessed to others recently so group members can hear what worked and what didn’t.

Did you know that there are two types of spiritual disciplines? According to Dr. Don Whitney of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, there are personal and corporate disciplines. For instance, we are to pray in private, but we are also to pray together with other believers. When you encourage your group, make sure to speak of both types. Make sure your group is the smaller meeting that happens between the larger gatherings (Acts 2:46-47).

Why is it important to emphasize spiritual disciplines? Because we all forget to do them from time to time! Even “holy habits” can skip our minds. And while it can be discouraging to mess up, our response needs to be renewed motivation instead of giving up (“I’ll never have a good prayer life – why even try?”). We as leaders should encourage our groups to persevere. 

Let’s all look for opportunities to encourage others to grow in their faith, and to do what it takes to make that happen.