PFF — Prayer Friends Forever - Issue #78
First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has committed itself to incorporating small-group ministry into the life of the congregation. Several years ago, small covenant groups composed of people with similar life situations (older adults, parents of teenagers, youth, older children and so forth) participated in a churchwide Lenten study.
One of the children's groups consisted of fifth-grade girls. They wrote and committed to a covenant that included practicing means of grace such as forgiveness, praying for one another and keeping prayer journals, learning about church missions, loving God and neighbor, and extending kindness to others. Over the years, this group of girls grew from fifth-grade "Prayer Friends" to eighth graders who continue to meet weekly, pray together, hold eone anothe accountable, and keep covenant with one another.
Sheila Michel, coordinator of small groups at First UMC, has witnessed numerous ways in which the girls have grown in faith and discipleship as a result of their Covenant Discipleship group. When one member of the group noticed that a girl their age was sitting alone outside her little brother's Boy Scout meeting week after week, she talked to the group about inviting her to join them. They discussed it, and welcomed her. When it became necessary to look at and revise their covenant, they dedicated time to its revision. When one of the members of the group became the target of a bully at school, the group became a space for comfort, support, prayer, and action. These girls are living out what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Some Questions for Discussion
How do you nurture and support people of all ages, including children, to be accountable for their growth in discipleship?
What opportunities do you provide for youth and children to develop meaningful relationships with peers and caring adults that will sustain them through difficult situations?
How are you encouraging people of all ages to practice spiritual disciplines both individually and corporately?
Melanie Gordon is Director of Ministry with Children at the Discipleship Ministries. She can be reached at [email protected].