This guide is to help you plan your weekly Deepen Discipleship meetings. These meetings should be a time to:
- Review what was learned;
- Encourage one another toward obedience to the Word;
- Pray for each other and those to whom you are reaching out;
- Plan for the upcoming week.
Aim for a combination of healthy challenge and sincere encouragement. Jesus seemed to model both invitation and challenge. The Word also invites us to intimacy with God even as it challenges us to continual repentance and faith.
Read and Learn: Five days of reading the Word with a reading guide. NOTE: Module One starts with three chapters per day in Luke and Acts but in Philippians it’s one chapter a day. The length of daily reading is not consistent, but varies with the genre and book of the New Testament.
Reflect and Change: Daily reflection on your reading and how it challenges you to change. Sometimes this is a question; sometimes it’s a truth or application from Scripture.
Go and Do: Daily activities to obey the Word and reach out to those around you.
Weekly Discipleship Activities: These aim at developing or deepening routines in the eight categories of discipleship which are the specific focus of Deepen Discipleship. Encourage both husbands and wives to work together on these as appropriate.
Review, Encourage, and Pray: Weekly time with accountability partners and the weekly small group meeting to encourage and challenge each other in the activities, to celebrate progress, and to plan together for growth.
Lead Well, Be a Model: Participants should be able to use your model to practice leading group meetings.
Review (15-20 min)
- Pray, asking God to guide the time; to encourage and teach each of you; and to give everyone the humility and grace to bless one another. Pray for any urgent prayer needs. (Ask for other prayer requests later.)
- Ask for reports on last week’s activities. Celebrate what’s working!
- Practice telling each other the gospel. Model these parts: God, Man, Christ, Response, and a Changed Life. Try to avoid language non-Christians would not understand, especially phrases like “inviting Christ into your heart” or “being washed by the blood.” Help each other keep it simple and clear. Show people how to use a passage/theme from the weekly reading to share the gospel.
Encourage and Celebrate (30 minutes)
Start with a short and simple summary of the week’s readings (or part of them), and ask your group to narrate a brief retelling or talk about the highlights. Ask participants to share what they learned through the “Reflect and Change” questions.
Help your group learn to teach and explain the Bible by:
- Reviewing the week’s reading and weekly activity;
- Asking questions about how the readings should change our lives, using the Reflect and Change questions. This is not an inductive study. Avoid long discussions on difficult-to-interpret passages, and direct people to other people or resources for those questions. Keep the discussion on what is clear and our obedient response to those truths.
- Ask individuals to share what they learned and did (short and simple!) with a focus also on experiential learning. For example, ask: What did you learn through the “Go and Do” this week? How are you working to obey and apply what we learned last week? The leader can answer first.
- Who are you sharing truth with? How did they respond? Model inter-group dialog by asking follow-up questions, and asking other individuals if they have questions or encouragements for each other from what they learned.
- Celebrate obedience, growth in character, faith, and openness. Affirm ways members are stretching themselves, stepping out of comfort zones, and pursuing daily obedience. Help group members find ways to point out each other’s growth and faithfulness. Model healthy ways for group members to be aware of and articulate their own development. Having a set form for this can be helpful, like saying, “I used to . . . but now God has helped me to . . .” Remember that God is gracious and kind!
- Remember the Stop, Start, Continue approach. For some participants, the next step is actually continuing a good routine or habit. For others, it will be stopping something. And for some, it will be starting a new habit or routine.
- Look ahead to the coming week. If starting a new book, go over the book introduction together or other supplemental reading.
Pray (10–20 minutes)
- Start with thanksgiving: name ways you’ve seen God’s faithfulness and presence in the last week. For the first few meetings, start this part yourself to model the “short and simple” principle. (Occasionally have others lead in prayer from prayers developed in Activities section on Praise, Confession/Repentance, or Thanksgiving.)
- Assign individuals to pray for:
- Opportunities to share, boldness to share, and increasing ability to share. See the included MOR faithfulness guide.
- An unreached people, using the UUPG Virtual Prayer Walk or another tool like Operation World to systematically pray for different unreached peoples around the world. Consider adopting a people group every month and focus on that group.
- Faithfulness to live out your group’s specific commitments.
- Ears to hear, humility to receive, and hearts to obey God’s Word this coming week.
- God’s grace to be at work through last week’s action steps and concerns, including those they met and shared with, as well as new ethnic groups to reach out to.
Plan (8–10 minutes)
- Plan together for Go & Dos and Discipleship Activities, helping each person plan two or three action steps. Remind your group of your goals/commitment statement. Customize appropriately for your context, troubleshoot obstacles or concerns, and take notes to give to the Deepen Discipleship feedback forum.
- Action steps should always include the transfer of learning or inviting someone to go along as you do your activities. You should be telling someone each week something they are learning, beginning with someone close to them and eventually including a new friend from a different cultural background.
- Set up a simple form of accountability—could be in-group texts/calls or a Telegram group—and list personal commitment steps that can be reviewed next week, having each participant define their goals to the group.
Using this guide, your meetings should last 60–90 minutes. But the weekly meeting is only one part of the process. It’s important for group members to know they can rely on you to be well-organized, timely, and prepared to welcome and facilitate.
Preparation Before the Meeting (15–30 minutes)
- IMPORTANT: Before your group begins Day 1 of Deepen Discipleship, your participants need to complete the reading explained in the introduction. There is extra reading as you start, so don’t be discouraged by all the intro material. You should point these pages out to your participants and be prepared to summarize them in case they haven’t read them.
- Plan the location of meeting. It should be private enough for free sharing of concerns, challenges, and prayer.
- Review weekly readings and Discipleship Activities.
- Check in with each group member to encourage or guide their Go & Dos and Discipleship Activities. Choose one group member to focus on with more prayer and encouragement each week.
- Prepare ideas for next week’s Discipleship Activities.
- Prepare a short summary of prayer items for an unreached people group from the IMB’s virtual prayer walk (or another chosen site).
- Plan to allow for some flexibility in how various participants work through Deepen Discipleship and the activities, but encourage faithfulness and persistence, relying on God’s grace.
After some time meeting together, start helping others lead the weekly meetings. Coach and encourage them, and don’t have someone else lead alone until you’ve watched them lead at least once.
Suggested community questions
- How and why did you come to this group and desire this kind of discipleship?
- What gets you most excited in life right now?
- What are your personal hopes and goals for this season?
- What are you learning about God and from God?
- What are you learning about yourself?
Short and Simple Principle
Without oversimplifying or preventing opportunities for meaningful conversation, leaders can promote group unity and care by encouraging disciples to share, report, and pray briefly and thoughtfully. “Short and simple” means sticking to the point, and avoiding extended theological, personal, or intellectual monologues. This is one way of loving the others in the group so that everyone gets a chance to communicate and be challenged and encouraged.
Helping Others Lead
Participants should be able to use your model to practice leading group meetings. Take time to help others lead in the prayer and Encourage and Celebrate sections by preparing ahead with another person and then debriefing afterwards about what went well and what could be better next time.
Here’s an example of a short “commitment statement” for the facilitator and participants to sign.
I commit myself during the topic of this study to:
- Read and reflect on God’s Word daily using the Daily Reading Guide;
- Rejoice in the gospel as I humbly submit myself to Him in obedience to His Word;
- Memorize His Word weekly;
- Fulfill the weekly activities with God’s help (approximately 2–3 hours/week in addition to Daily Reading and Reflecting);
- Pray daily for myself, this group, and the unreached around me;
- Meet weekly with an accountability partner, seeking the spiritual good of each other;
- Arrive at the weekly meeting prepared, ready to contribute and to receive and give encouraging, constructive feedback.
Before the meeting
- Before your group begins Day 1 of Deepen Discipleship, your participants need to complete the reading explained in “Before You Begin.”
- Choose a good meeting location?
- Review weekly readings and activities?
- Encourage and pray for group members?
- Prepare guiding ideas for next week’s activities?
- Prepare a short summary of prayer items for unreached people groups?
During the meeting
- Unreached People Group?
- Celebrate what’s working? Encourage participants?
- What are we learning? (Remember: Stop, Start, and Continue.)
- Practice sharing the gospel?
- Review the past week’s activities?
- Notable Read and Learns?
- Notable Reflect and Changes?
- Notable Go and Dos? Stops, Starts, and Continues?
- Plan Go & Do and Discipleship Activities? Learn and do together in pairs or groups?
- Set up accountability?
After the meeting
- Pray for God to produce fruit?
- Pray for God to raise up leaders?
- Identify potential people to lead different areas of the weekly meetings?