The purpose of our church is to glorify God by making disciples. The Lord Jesus is our model of discipleship in our church. Jesus prepared his disciples through his presence and involvement in public meetings and through teaching and accountability on a private level with a specific group. We observe that this model was followed by the early church when in Acts 2, early believers worshipped at the temple (public) and in houses (small groups). Therefore we, Harvest Metanoia church, follow the biblical model and will ensure this framework for training disciples, focusing on two targets: active presence and frequency at church services but also the presence and active participation in small groups. Because the description of the high impact services of the church was written in another section, we focus on coordinating small groups, trying to bring some explanations and answers to the most popular questions.
Small group discipleship is a group of disciples or believers who meet in an organized and regular way (weekly), with the specific purpose to grow in faith and authentic living for God, according to the teachings of Scripture. This group will continually follow the participants’ growth in their spiritual disciplines from their personal life with God and will walk in community with the children of God which form the local church.The small group is not and should not become a context of gossip or discussion of the problems in the church. The group leader has the responsibility to stop any discussion that can degenerate into gossip or slander of other people in the church or the problems of the church.
Participants in a small group are mainly believers, members of Harvest Metanoia church. If there are “seekers” – people who are opened to the gospel but have not yet received the gospel, who attend our church and want to participate in a small group, they will be evaluated and assigned by the coordinator of the small group ministry. Also if there are other believers from other churches who want to participate in small groups, they will have to be approved by the leaders of the small group ministry. Harvest Metanoia church does not encourage members of other churches to participate in the small groups of our church unless they have indicated their interest to transfer membership to our church through a written request. The number of participants in a small group can vary between 6 and 12 participants (maximum 14 people).Groups are mixed (men and women) for families but separated by gender for youth into separate groups of boys and girls. Anyone who wants to join a group may ask the pastors or the small group leaders of the church. Each small group member must sign the small group member covenant.
1. Active fellowship of the group members
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, Acts 2:46
The small group is the practical way in which Christians can practice fellowship in a smaller and more personal way, getting to know other better, and thus being able to more practically fulfill the set of “one another” verses. In the small group, participants learn, encourage and correct each other to motivate a way of life that honors and glorifies God. Therefore, fellowship in the same spirit of brotherly and pastoral care of the members of the small group is a feature of this ministry.
2. Spiritual care and mutual accountability of members
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10.24
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Pastoral care manifests itself especially through accountability which is an act of openness and vulnerability of participants to the rest of the group, seeking to “live in the light” to face our tendencies, habits, failures or burdens that dominate the heart of the believer. This act means doing a self-check, where the believer himself realizes what affects his relationship with God and desires to change in “light” of others in the group who will help him through prayer, exhortation and observing his life thereafter.
3. Applied discussion of Scripture
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
Discussions based on biblical and scriptural themes in the group are followed by continuous application of ideas and principles to the everyday life of participants, avoiding long or unhelpful biblical and doctrinal debates. Discussions will be characterized by dialogue and active participation and not a monologue, and the key question is “How do I practically apply this biblical truth in my life and in your life?
4. Vivid prayer
… pray for one for another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Prayer is one of the fundamental spiritual disciplines both in our personal life and in the community of believers. Thus, prayer is one of the core components in any small group meeting, and participants are encouraged to personal prayer, intense and faith-filled, both for individuals or groups as well as their own family or church.
5. Active serving
… but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Serving is not an option in the life of a disciple, so the small group members seek to serve each other and identify opportunities for ministry in the church and beyond. Because involvement in ministry, along with prayer and Bible study, is an imperative element in the believer’s spiritual growth, small groups will seek to motivate every member to get involved serving in a ministry.
6. Multiplying Leaders
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2
Small group is the context in which believers with dedication and high potential are identified, and with specific preparations they will be able to lead other believers in their spiritual formation in small group.
7. Small Group Multiplication
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. Acts 5:14
But the Word of God increased and multiplied. Acts 12:24
“Any living organism grows and multiplies.” Likewise, the church, and more specifically the small group is a living structure from a spiritual point of view that has a dynamic of growth, training, maturing and multiplying. Practically, any small group is accepting of new participants and in time multiples, which means dividing the group into two groups that will receive new members in turn.
Other Observations and Characteristics of Small Groups:
Week of service, prayer and fasting – Small groups participate regularly (through planning) in actions and activities involving spiritual service for the church. Thus, each group will go through a week of service (2 or 3 times a year) in which the group will participate in an organized way in several service projects such as:
Fasting – Every believer in the small group will be challenged to choose a day of fasting in the service week of the group, and everyone will discover and experience the practice of fasting, but at the same time the church will be served all year round by the believers, who will in turn have their days of sacrifice through fasting.
Prayer – As in the case of fasting, each participant in small group will be challenged in the week of service to choose a day that they will serve the church through intentional prayer. The small group will be challenged to participate in a church prayer meeting that takes place during the week.
Cleaning – In the week of service, the small group has the responsibility of cleaning the church building. Together with other groups, the group will be involved in cleaning and arranging the rooms for worship and the other areas of the church for the Sunday meeting.
Specific serving projects – Both in the week of service and at other times, the small group is challenged to serve within or outside the church community. Service projects can include: a) Preparation of food packages for the needy, b) involvement in orphanages, nursing homes, or specialized medical centers (HIV Center), c) helping people with disabilities, d) involvement in the lives of disadvantaged families, etc.
Diversity in unity – Jesus himself had a highly diverse group composed of fishermen, tax collectors, rich and poor, etc. and later we observe that Paul had around him doctors, Greeks, Jews, rich, poor, artisans, etc. God’s work in people through Jesus involves that exact same thing – winning people for the glory of God who are different from each other but united in Christ:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” Revelations 5:9
Small group discipleship provides a framework for the meeting and interacting between individuals and different believers in terms of education, ethnicity, financial or social situation, academic, or even spiritual maturity. We recognize diversity within God’s Word and encourage group participants to discover the spiritual and relational benefits of diversity within the group.
Objectives stated above are implemented through a series of activities specifically intended and designed to fulfill the purpose. Thus, the small group meets for regular weekly meetings , but may hold special meetings where the location, time and creative activities are chosen according to the intentions of the group, such as in the following situations: picnics, celebrations, watching a movie, hiking, etc.
Although there are special moments in the life of the group, we encourage the leader and group members to propose (through various forms and duration) a short time of prayer, sharing scriptures and teachings of Scripture, interactions involving confession, encouragement or motivation in the spiritual life of faith.
Beyond special meetings, the small group is based on regular and weekly meetings that involve creativity and freshness, all groups follow a pattern and some elements that are indispensable to the life of the group.
The elements of the weekly small group time:
Involves the time when the participants arrive at the location, find their seats and prepare for the time together. Punctuality is an essential principle of group life and a form of mutual respect – participants are continuously encouraged to be present and punctual.
Represents the time to accommodate the group, characterized by relaxation, communicating freely, food and mutual familiarity of the participants in the small group. Because we aim to encourage the openness of each group member in these meetings, initiating relationship-building is very important in building trust between group members, which is the basis of healthy interaction in the group. We encourage leaders to periodically plan and organize intentional and creative moments of relationship-building so that group members are not limited to interactions with the same people but are forming new relationships with other small groups – getting to know others and developing new relationships are always encouraged.
Represents the time to study the specific biblical passages fitting with the ongoing curriculum, and is focused on interaction-based application of the participants on the teachings of these scriptures.
Small group discipleship aims to grow the participants in knowledge and living out the Word of God, which is the reason why this time is treated with a lot of care and effort. The key question for this time is, “How can I apply this biblical truth in your life and in mine?
Represents the time of openness, vulnerability and intentionally letting the group know about personal issues which can mean an obstacle, a burden or a stumbling moment in the life of each participant. This time could be summarized by the phrase “the group brings to light the darkness within us.”
Accountability is done with sensitivity and great care for the participants, seeking a normal and healthy balance between the firm challenge to be open and bearing with those who do not participate.
Accountability is done under the principles stated and carefully kept in the covenant of confidentiality assumed by the whole group from the beginning of the church year (September).
Accountability can be done with the whole group or in separate groups of men and women.
In order to promote and protect the openness of the small group members, each group member upon entry of the group will sign the small group covenant that includes among other things, confidentiality of the discussions that happen in the group.
Represents common intercessory prayer during the group where the entire group is challenged to pray based on the practical challenges of the studied Word or various requests gathered from the group, church or in the context from each participant’s life (extended family, work colleagues, neighbors, etc.).
We continuously motivate simple, sincere and active prayer through which the participants open their hearts to the Lord. A major factor of this time is mutual intercessory prayer for the other participants and for the church as a whole and specifically for the people serving in the ministries.
Closing time is the time both prepared and felt by the leader, in which participants exchange their last ideas, impressions and prepare to leave.
Note: We encourage the duration of the small group to be decided jointly by the members of the group at the beginning of each year, given that participants have different schedules and family dynamics. However, specify that the minimum time for a meeting of the group is at least 1 hour. Most small groups meet for a period of 2-3 hours. It is a desirable principle that each participant knows what to expect from the meeting in terms of duration – some participants have children, babysitters, work schedules different from the norm, etc.
Small groups usually meet on Thursdays and Fridays, and some Saturdays or Sunday (for students or individuals who work in other places and consider the weekend to be more appropriate).
OTHER IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (click to open)
The small group is an independent and autonomous structure but linked to the church as a whole by the following:
- The leader and group members are under the authority of the elders of the church and the small group ministry of the church.
- The small group follows the study curriculum of the church.
- The small group participates in serving the church (cleaning, fasting and prayer, etc.) or projects undertaken by the church requesting the help of the group .
- The small group collaborates with other church ministries as needed (receiving new members through the process of assimilation; receiving prayer requests from the prayer ministry, collaborating with the ministries of the church, collaborating with the counseling ministry if counseling is needed in the small group, etc).
- The church helps small groups and group members by offering pastoral care and assistance in all matters that have to do with the health or well-being of the small groups.
- The church, through the leader of the discipleship ministry or church elders, may intervene in small groups if there are pastoral or doctrinal problems.
- The elders of the church may take disciplinary action with the group leaders or group members who deviate from the moral values, spiritual beliefs or direction of the church.
Small group discipleship is not a new invention but a biblical practice.
Small group discipleship:
- Is Biblical – Acts 1:14, 2:1, 5:42, 13:1-3, 20:20
- Is the only way to shepherd the flock in a real and practical way – Ephesians 4:11-12
- Is the method by which every believer is challenged and helped to identify and exercise spiritual gifts for the community – 1 Corinthians 12:7, 12, 14-27, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 2
- Is the method for the multiplication and equipping of disciples – 2 Timothy 2:2
- Is the right environment for expressing mutual love and care – John 13:35
- Is the environment where we see unity, fellowship and pastoral care – 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 John 1:3, 6-7
A small group at Harvest Metanoia church has an average duration of two years, after which the group reaches the multiplication stage.
Multiplication is the process of dividing a small group into two entities, each led by one leader who will have a main target of receiving new members and continuing the life of the group and in the meantime also identifying an assistant.
In some groups, this period will be extended after careful evaluation of their specific situation by the leadership of the small group ministry.
Multiplication is achieved by:
- Informing participants early in the group and continuously doing this during the two years
- Identifying an assistant in the first year of the group and equipping him/her for this work
- Close communication with the leadership of the small group ministry during imminent multiplication to avoid division management mistakes
- Establishing a method for dividing
- Prayer time (during the spiritual calendar year), during and after completion of the process
The purpose of the group multiplication is:
- Avoiding the consolidation of small groups to the point that participants will not be able to divide but form a “miniature” community with patterns, beliefs and practices that compete with those of the church as a whole
- Avoiding stagnation in spiritual growth through excessive familiarity and lack of vulnerability and watchfulness which usually manifests itself in groups where brotherly fellowship has developed into a “gang spirit” and the meetings have changed their hue from spiritual aspects to social, family, hobbies, etc.
- Creating opportunities for assimilation and integration of new members in the church who want to integrate into small groups
- Creating real relationships and knowledge of the church where after many years members establish relationships with dozens of other members with whom in different years they have shared in small group together.
A small group leader is a key person in the strategy of small group ministry being involved, responsible and respected as a person of influence in the group and community.
They can be proposed and “installed” as small group leaders, mature believers who have demonstrated stability, a pure testimony, teachability and dedication to the vision and values of Harvest Metanoia church. The small group leader’s authority and role ceases once he stops serving as a small group leader, but his qualifications remain (if there is not a disqualification of the person over time), so he can be involved again in serving a group when the decision is appropriate.
The group leader is:
A facilitator – who helps create relationships, discussions, moments and small group activities in the life of the small group; offers direction, informs and organizes group activities, also informs the group about decisions, direction and information entrusted to the church leadership or church small group ministry.
An authority factor – represents specifically the authority of the church, having credibility and authority delegated by the church for the work of ministry in the small group. The leader’s authority is limited and subject to the church leadership without the ability to make decisions about doctrine, discipline and direction for the group, but with the possibility of administrative decisions for the group, to rebuke and report cases of insubordination or sin, or the ability to make management decisions for the group meeting (end of discussion, closing with a time of prayer, the study, etc.)
A caregiver for members – who has the responsibility and honor to care in the name of Jesus and with the resources of God from a part of the “bride” of Christ.
- Observing the believers with the purpose to know and to serve them better
- Encouraging and supporting the believers spiritually
- Regular individual meetings with each participant to deepen the relationships, to motivate or correct attitudes, habits, etc. (e.g, lack of punctuality and participation of members)
- Rebuking and warning of group members in cases of sin
- Continuous prayer for group members
- Monitoring frequency of attendance at the small group, church services, service projects, prayer and fasting, etc.
- Observing spiritual, material, or social needs of small group members
The group leader is not:
A teacher or preacher – although they may answer questions or clarify doctrinal ambiguities for small group members, the leader is not called to do small group Bible study or to preach but to facilitate Bible study discussion from the message preached from the church or presented in the study brochure for the small group.
A deciding factor in the church – He supports and promotes the vision, direction and doctrine of the church but cannot make decisions for the church or promote contrary views to the doctrine or the direction of the church.
A pastor – he has a duty to “shepherd” the small group, to administer pastoral first aid to the needs of members, but does not have the right to baptize, discipline or to do other acts that belong to the pastors/elders of the church.
The quality of the leader ceases in three cases :
- Disqualification of the leader through sin, heresy, schism or incompatibility with the direction and leadership of the church
- Voluntarily withdraws because of personal situations such as moving to another town, events that require more time (wedding, special needs in family life, license), etc..
- Formal withdrawal by the authority structures of the church. This means that the leadership team of the church through the small group ministry leaders can remove leaders from service after their evaluations over a period of time have demonstrated unreliability, disloyalty and a lack of quality in their ministry, jeopardizing the dynamics of small group
Harvest Metanoia church is dedicated to helping, equipping and training leaders and assistants of small groups. We believe that every person involved in the small group ministry honors the Lord through his efforts and is worthy to be served, helped and trained to fulfill their tasks and calling.
The equipping and training of leaders is done during the course of the annual spiritual year through many means, such as:
1. Regular training meetings
- They place once a week or once every two weeks, depending on the training schedule determined by the leader of the small group ministry.
- Occur before the days of the weekly small group meeting
- Include discussion of lessons applied in the small group curriculum
- Include presentations and interaction on topics related to leadership and management of a small group
- Include presentations and interaction on issues of discipleship and spiritual formation, pastoral counseling and first aid, or specific spiritual disciplines
- Include a time of fellowship and prayer among the participants
- Include a time for information from the church leadership
2. Modular meetings
- Occur at different times of the church year, depending on the program curriculum, group needs or opportunities for special training that arise
- Include special and intense training on a book of the Bible that will be studied with the whole church
- Include special and intense training of the leaders of the church at the beginning of the spiritual year
- Include special and intense training of assistants at the end of the calendar year
- Include counseling training and pastoral first aid
- Include organized training with the coming of specialized and experienced people from other churches or organizations
3. Materials and specialized courses
- The journal of the small group leader
- Bible study brochures
- Equipment and special training DVDs
- Online Resources
- Conferences and special training meetings and evaluation of small group leaders
- Small group evaluation sheets
4. Discipleship pastor
The pastor of discipleship is one of the pastors of the church, officially recognized by the church leadership, and is accountable for the specific purpose of being alongside pastors, leaders and assistants of small groups as well as other leaders in the spiritual life of the church. He is the leader of the small group ministry in the church.
Discipleship pastor has the responsibility of:
- Knowing, observing and evaluating small group leaders and centralizing data
- Motivating, equipping and training small group leaders together with the flock leaders, other church leaders and managing the small group ministry team
- Identifying and raising new leaders and assistants
- Promoting and observing the church’s vision and values across different management structures (small group leaders, youth, men and women’s ministry, etc.)
- Pastoral and spiritual care for the small group leaders and assistants. This requires personal meetings where leaders are encouraged, supported in prayer, corrected or specifically instructed by the pastor of discipleship
- Regular meetings with the elders and pastors of the church, the leader of the small group ministry and flock leaders to assess the work of small groups, setting new priorities and goals, etc.
The pastor of discipleship is with the small group leaders and assistants throughout the church year, being available for questions, struggles and requests of the leaders about the life and dynamics of their small group.
5. Administrator of the small group ministry
The administrator of the small group ministry works with the discipleship pastor, and is the person responsible for the entire ministry of small groups which means the following:
- Knowledge in real-time of the components and the specific situations of the small groups in the church
- Knowing all small group leaders and assistants
- Data management and information related to the small group configuration – performs real time up-dating of the groups
- Collaborates with the assimilation ministry of the church to integrate new people into small groups
- Collaborates with the pastor of discipleship for planning and managing training of small group leaders and assistants
- Collaborates with flock leaders and small group leaders to gather data on the life and components of the small groups
- Promotes the vision and values of the church in his circle of influence and ministry
Note: The pastor of discipleship together with the leader of small groups and flock leaders form the supervision and management team of small group discipleship.
6. Flock leaders
Flock leaders represent a structure that has as specific purpose of serving, helping and motivating small group leaders and assistants. These flock leaders are included in the strategy of the small group ministry on an intermediate position between the discipleship pastor and small group leaders and assistants, and their major responsibility is the spiritual care of the leaders. More specifically, the responsibilities of the flock leaders include:
- knowledge and regular observation of small group leader
- motivating and inspiring small group leaders
- identifying and proposing new leaders and assistants to the attention of the pastor of discipleship and the leadership team of the small groups
- promoting and keeping the vision and values of the church alive in the life and ministry of the leader and small group assistant
- pastoral and spiritual care of the small group leaders and assistants, through prayer, teaching and inspiring in accordance with Scripture
Flock leaders have in their care 5 or 6 group leaders and assistants and have the responsibility to meet personally and regularly with each of them and to keep in touch with them through other forms of communication (telephone, email, Facebook , etc.). Flock leaders serve under the authority and supervision of the pastor of discipleship. All of them either lead or are part of a small group.