The next few issues of Covenant Discipleship Connection will address questions sent to me by Covenant Discipleship group members at Newark United Methodist Church in Newark, Delaware. The leaders of this congregation formed its first Covenant Discipleship groups in 2011. They recently commissioned the first cohort of Class Leaders. The leaders of Newark UMC continue to do a very fine job supporting and growing Covenant Discipleship. I suspect their questions will help other congregations.
Here is their first question:
There are many reasons why people may leave a CD group. We’ve recently experienced a loss of ten participants across the board that has left several of our groups in the precarious position of having only two or three remaining participants. What should happen or be done when the number of participants in a specific group dips to three or even two?
In most cases, people leave a group one at a time. Do not wait until a group size dwindles down to two or three people. When a person leaves a group tell him or her that the group will continue to pray for him/her. If he/she is not moving away from the community, tell him/her the group will pray for him/her. If he/she is moving away, pray that he/she finds a congregation and a Covenant Discipleship group. If he/she does not find an existing group, pray that he/she works with his/her pastor to launch Covenant Discipleship in the congregation.
Let the congregation know the group has room for a new member. Ask the pastor to recommend persons who are good candidates for leadership development and would benefit by participating in a Covenant Discipleship group.
Invite the person(s) to visit the group for three meetings. They may participate fully in the group accountability for discipleship shaped by the covenant. Or he/she may simply observe, understanding the commitment to confidentiality. Nothing shared in the group leaves the room. After three meetings ask him/her if he/she wants to remain. If so, he/she becomes a member of the group. No changes need be made to the group’s covenant.
If a group dwindles down to three or two members it is no longer a viable Covenant Discipleship group. The ideal minimum number for group dynamics is five people. If you are not able to rebuild the group through congregational announcement and of daily prayer and scripture reading for disciples who want to grow in holiness of heart and life.
Remember, Covenant Discipleship groups role in the congregation is to form leaders the congregation needs to faithfully carry out its mission equipping its members to serve as Christ’s representatives in the world. Therefore, the congregation needs to consecrate the new group during a Sunday worship service. The new group could also invite the pastor to celebrate Holy Communion at the end of the first meeting.
These are my recommendations. What has been your experience with adding new members to an existing group? Have you ever merged two groups? How did you do it? What happened? Please share your experiences with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.