Thirty-one years ago I planted a church knowing that the goal was to eventually see that church become a movement of multiplying disciples. I had never been in a church that was committed to disciple making so I wasn’t that sure how to do it. I had also just graduated from a seminary that didn’t teach a single class in disciple making. Needless to say, I was planning to attempt something I had no real experience doing. I had discipled a small group of young men but that was as far as I had traveled down the disciple making trail.
After a few years into the church plant I started my very first discipleship group with three other men. The four of us met every Friday morning in a local restaurant at 6:00 AM. It’s was a great group and we spent a year together studying God’s Word, holding each other accountable, challenging each other, and praying for one another. All of us grew and became more like Christ as a result of this group.
When we got to the end of the year the guys asked me if we would start back up in the new year. Here was my response. “Guys, I love hanging out with you at 6:00 AM on Friday mornings. We have great study, great fellowship, and great accountability but to be honest I have all of this at other times with other people as well. So I am not planning to start back in the new year unless each of you goes out and recruits three guys to start your own groups.” To my shock each of them said, yes!”
I was really looking forward to finally being able to sleep in on Friday mornings but God had something else in mind. Our discipleship group went from a group of four, to four groups of four. We went from four men to sixteen men right away. About six months later we added more men and grew to around thirty while meeting at another restaurant. Eventually we moved the group to our church and had over sixty men attending in dozens of small discipleship groups. We took some men from that Friday morning group and started Thursday night and Sunday morning editions. At some point we had over two hundred men in three gatherings of small discipleship groups.
I would like to say we kept growing but honestly we made a huge mistake. We decided to decentralize and encouraged people to meet whenever and wherever. We quickly lost momentum. We had no way of tracking our leaders and helping them stay in the process. They eventually became unorganized and ran out of steam, and the whole movement suffered.
Today, we are working the plan again and we are beginning to see a movement regain momentum. It won’t be long and we will pass the two hundred mark again for our men’s groups. We currently have over sixty men meeting on Thursday mornings, another twenty meeting on Friday mornings, and twelve on Sundays. The key this time around is to keep the gatherings centralized and stay connected to our leaders.
A movement is just a like a river. A river needs banks to have power. If you remove the banks on a river, you either get an out-of-control flood or stagnate pools of water. Stagnant water has little to no flow and usually stinks. If you want to have a powerful, targeted movement of multiplying disciples, you need a place where you pour into your leaders. A very practical tip is that it helps if you have a common place for all your groups to meet. Structure (the banks) helps give the movement sustainable momentum.
Impact Discipleship Ministries is committed to helping peoples and churches be and build disciples. If we can help you come up with a better strategy for your groups or church strategy as a whole, let us know!