A Churchwide Focus on Intentional Discipleship - Issue #210 (October 31, 2014)
This is an excerpt from a PDF download. To download the full text of this document click: A Churchwide Focus on Intentional Discipleship
“I now feel more comfortable talking about my faith.” “Worship seems more personal.” These are just two of the comments from participants in a churchwide study at First UMC in Arlington, Texas. The church’s goal for the study was to increase prayer, Bible reading, and faith sharing of participants, so it was important to choose curriculum that leaders could adapt for various learning styles and the ways existing groups function. The church offered new study groups at a variety of times and locations and made modifications to meet people’s availability.
First, the congregation surveyed other churches that had initiated churchwide studies. The survey uncovered successes and barriers to participation. Next, they chose a study that they thought would meet their goals. The church staff completed the study first to determine if the study did indeed meet their goals. They then selected study leaders who completed the study together. During this phase of planning, the staff promoted the study in the congregation and encouraged participation from everyone.
People from age 2 to 102 joined in the study. For eight weeks, participants knew that everyone was reading the same Scripture and trying the same prayer activity. Each week, the ideas and experiences of study groups were incorporated in Sunday worship. People came to worship with anticipation and noticed ways the elements of worship reinforced the Scripture theme. Preschool children built a prayer wall with Lego bricks, on which they are still posting prayers. Adult groups requested additional opportunities to sing hymns and pray together.
An unexpected benefit of the churchwide study was strong participation of group leaders in meetings to support the effort. The facilitators met regularly to discuss ideas for teaching and engaging participants. These gatherings became teacher development events with 100% participation!
The churchwide study at First Arlington has helped people understand discipleship as a process of growing in the Christian life. Congregants have developed a new awareness of community life, engaging with visitors and with each other. The church is already planning the next study! Questions for Discussion
- What does your church do now to build the understanding of growth in discipleship as a lifelong process?
- How do you adapt materials and schedules to meet people where they are?
- What do you need to learn from other congregations to improve your ministry?