Start a D-Group

Discipleship Groups (D-Groups) help provide an essential environment for every believer to have intimate friendships, accountability, and most importantly, a life rooted deeply in God’s Word. As we work to live out our God-given calling as we follow Jesus and make disciples every day, Discipleship Groups are an integral part of the process.

Discipleship Groups are gender-specific, closed groups of 3-5 believers who meet together weekly for the purpose of accelerated spiritual transformation. It is not evangelistic in its form or function, but in its fruit: It makes disciples who will then go on to make more disciples. Discipleship Groups form through pre-existing, meaningful relationships with other believers in environments like Life Groups or Volunteer Teams. Because of this, Discipleship Groups are not simply joined, but started. Join us as we walk through what it looks like to start a Discipleship Group.

What is the difference between a Life Group and a Discipleship Group?

Model of Life Groups: Open group
Model of Discipleship Groups: Closed group

Make-Up of Life Groups: Composed of believers and non-believers
Make-Up of Discipleship Groups: Composed of believers

Size of Life Groups: Varies, but usually 10-20
Size of Discipleship Groups: 3-5 people maximum

Dynamic of Life Groups: Co-ed or gender-specific
Dynamic of Discipleship Groups: Gender specific

Purpose of Life Groups: Pursue biblical community together in order to follow Jesus and make disciples.
Purpose of Discipleship Groups: Intentionally entering into someone’s life to help them know Jesus and teach them to obey his commands.

Time-Frame of Life Groups: A community that exists for a period of time and then launches new groups.
Time-Frame of Discipleship Groups: Smaller groups that exist for 6-12 months.

Expectations of Life Groups: Flexible expectations of members, largely dependant upon the Life Group as a whole.
Expectations of Discipleship Groups: High expectations of participants, upheld by covenant commitments and consistent accountability.

Leadership of Life Groups: One or more leaders who facilitate biblical community where people can grow in their relationship with Jesus and each other.
Leadership of Discipleship Groups: One leader who helps participants grow in spiritual maturity and prepares them to lead future groups.

Outcome of Life Groups: Designed to grow and multiply biblical community.
Outcome of Discipleship Groups: Designed to replicate disciple-makers.

How do I Join a Discipleship Group?

This is a common question, and the short answer is, you don’t join a Discipleship Group, you start one. Becoming a member of someone else’s Discipleship Group happens by invitation only. However, you can place yourself in a biblical community like a Life Group or Volunteer Team out of which Discipleship Groups often form. If you are currently in a Life Group and desire to be in a Discipleship Group, talk to your Life Group leader and pray about starting your own. You can find more information about starting your own Discipleship Group from our Discipleship Group Starter Guide.

How do I lead a Discipleship Group?

The only absolute requirement for leading a Discipleship Group is that you be intentionally pursuing Christ. You do not need to be a master teacher or have all of the answers. If you can say, “Follow me; I’m pursuing Christ,” you have the tools you need to lead a Discipleship Group.

As a Discipleship Group leader, you set the tone for the group’s atmosphere. You are not lecturing students; you are cultivating an intimate, accountable relationship with a few close friends. You can read through our Discipleship Group Starter Guide for a step-by-step guide through leading a Discipleship Group.

How do I choose disciples?

The first step in establishing a formal disciple-making relationship is choosing disciples. Jesus, our example in selecting disciples, spent time in prayer before selecting men (Luke 6:12-16). The word “disciple” means learner. Begin by asking God to send you a group of men or women who have a desire to learn and grow.

Your Discipleship Group should consist of F.A.T. believers: Faithful, Available, and Teachable. A faithful person is dedicated, trustworthy, and committed. Consider a potential disciple’s faithfulness by observing other areas of his/her spiritual life, such as church attendance, Life Group involvement, or service in the church. Faithfulness is determined by a commitment to spiritual things.

Discern an individual’s availability by his willingness to meet with and invest in others. Does this person carve out time to listen, study, and learn from others? Is he accessible when called upon? Does she have a regular quiet time with God that consists of reading the Word and praying? Availability is measured by a willingness to serve God.

Not everybody who attends a Life Group is teachable. A teachable person has a desire to learn and apply what is taught. One who is teachable is open to correction. Recognize teachability by observing one’s response to God’s Word. For example, after hearing a sermon on prayer, do they begin to pray more regularly? Or after a lesson about the dangers of the tongue, does the person implement changes in their speech? A teachable person not only listens to what is taught but also applies it to his or her life.

After discerning that an individual is faithful, available, and teachable, prayerfully approach him or her and ask, “Would you be interested in studying the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and praying together?” Many people are open to that. All you have to do is ask. We don’t recommend that you say, “Would you like for me to disciple you?” as this question may come across in a derogatory manner. Keep in mind that men should disciple men, and women should disciple women.

How often should we meet?

Ideally, you should meet once a week or every other week for about an hour to an hour and a half. You can meet more frequently, but the most important thing is maintaining consistency on what you agree upon. It is important to remember that discipleship is about the relationship between you and your group members, not about checking a requirement box. Disciple-making is a way of life, not a program.

Is there an attendance requirement?

Yes, there is. The first time you meet with a potential group, explain the Discipleship Group Covenant with them. Some people may say after the initial meeting, “This isn’t really for me. I’m not interested.” That’s okay. Allow potential disciples to opt out of the group on the front end after understanding the expectations spelled out in the Discipleship Group Covenant.

How do I challenge my Discipleship Group to memorize Scripture?

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” How many times has Scripture come to mind when you needed just the right words in a situation? Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all that He said (John 14:26). Those passages of Scripture we have memorized will be brought to our memory at the right moment – but we must learn them.

Group members will memorize Scripture if you hold them accountable through reciting verses to one another at every meeting. Chapter 8 of Growing Up by Robby Gallaty contains a thorough explanation and a practical system for Scripture memorization.

What is a HEAR Journal?

The acronym HEAR in HEAR Journal stands for Highlight, Explain, Apply, and Respond. Each of these four steps contributes to creating an atmosphere to hear God speak. After settling on a reading plan and establishing a time for studying God’s Word, you will be ready to H.E.A.R. from God. You can find more information about HEAR Journals as well as purchase The Replicate Disciple’s Journal with the HEAR method here.

Is there ever a time I should ask someone to leave the Discipleship Group?

There are several reasons for asking someone to leave the group: they are not showing up, they are not completing assigned work and putting in effort, and they are living a lifestyle of blatant and unrepentant sin, etc.

Often these issues can breed complacency in the group. Missing meetings, refusing to memorize Scripture, failing to make journal entries, or missing meetings lowers the morale of the others in the group. This type of behavior must be addressed immediately. Meet with this individual privately to inquire about his or her attitude and actions. Remind him or her of the commitment made at the outset of the discipleship relationship.

Like Jesus’ relationship with His disciples, ours is a serious relationship, as well: a relationship built upon a mutual commitment to Christ and each other. Tragically, some will not follow through with that commitment, forcing you to confront them about their unfaithfulness.

What if I don’t know the answer to a question?

There is no shame in not knowing all of the answers to every question. Simply confess that you may not have all the answers, but you will find them. Then do so before the next meeting. Ask your pastor or another spiritual leader to help you with the answer. Never give the impression that you have all the answers.

It is less important to know answers than it is to know how to seek them. It is better to say, “I am not the smartest man/woman in the world because I know all the answers, but because I know where to find the answers.” You may not have total recall when it comes to biblical history, theology, and doctrine, but with time you can locate them!

How do I send out disciples to make disciples?

Always begin with the end in mind. Your group should meet for 6 to 12 months, and they should expect that final date from the very beginning. Some groups develop a closer bond, which results in accelerated growth; others take longer. We do not recommend meeting for longer than 12 months. Some group members will desire to leave the group and begin their own groups. Others, however, will want to remain in the comfort zone of the existing group. Some will not want to start another Discipleship Group because of the sweet fellowship and bonds formed within the current group. Remember, the goal is for the men and the women of the group to replicate their lives into someone else.