By Eric Geiger
The apostle Paul described his ministry as skillful building in response to and empowered by God’s grace. He said, “According to God’s grace that was given to me, as a skilled master builder I have laid a foundation” (1 Corinthians 3:10). In other words, the apostle Paul did not just “wing it” or “go with the flow.” He did not haphazardly plant churches or disciple people. Paul faithfully served with great intentionality. And likewise he challenged us to “be careful how we build.”
A wise builder has a set of blueprints, a plan and a clear strategy for proactively attacking the building project. A wise builder would never come to the table with a dream of what could be built without a plan for accomplishing the dream.
You cannot build a very good house with a dream, a napkin sketch or a fancy brochure. You need a blueprint. In the same way, your ministry needs a blueprint. Your church must have a plan to disciple people with wisdom. Your church must be more than random programming, studies and events.
But here is a major concern …
We know, both biblically and experientially, a healthy church is filled with people living in biblical community, growing together and serving together. And to help people live in community, small groups are essential.
Not only are the groups essential, but also the content they study must contribute to the spiritual transformation of the individuals. A group gathering that merely involves discussing feelings or staring at one another does not bring about transformation. Community is only as strong as what it is built upon. Transformation only happens when people’s lives intersect with the sacred truth of God’s Word. For groups to be healthy and transformational, the studies should intentionally help people encounter the grace of God through His Word.
But sadly, the majority of pastors and church leaders have no clue what the groups in their churches are studying. Almost two-thirds of pastors tell us the person primarily responsible for selecting the curriculum for the group or class is the group leader, and a large number of those do so without any oversight or direction from the pastor or staff.
In most cases group leaders are not given anything: not a plan, not a recommended resource list, not training on how to select studies based on the group, nothing. A ministry blueprint seems to be lacking. Haphazard ministry seems to be in great abundance. A wise pastor would never treat the teaching from the pulpit with that type of haphazard planning. Group content should not be treated this way either.
Do you have a discipleship blueprint for your small groups? Or do groups move in a plethora of directions with no clear goal in mind?
To help church leaders disciple people with wisdom, Lifeway is launching a new Bible Studies for Life series. Although the studies are compelling and connected closely to real life, a wise discipleship blueprint serves as the foundation.
The scope of the study series is developed from insights learned through the research behind Transformational Discipleship and designed around three spheres of life: Christ, community and culture. Through the studies, we desire to develop people who know Christ and His gracious work, are contributing servants in the community of faith and can effectively engage the culture without losing distinction.
Bible Studies for Life allows church leaders to rest assured knowing people are being discipled with a wise plan that will bring them to greater maturity in Christ.
Eric Geiger is the former vice president of Lifeway’s church resources division and co-author of Transformational Discipleship.