Discipleship is an important process for every believer that provides intimate friendships, an environment of accountability, and most importantly, it cultivates a life rooted deeply in God’s Word.
The second part in the Discipleship Pathway is to participate in a yearly Discipleship Group, or a “D-Group”. A D-Group is a gender-specific, closed group of 3-5 believers who meet together weekly for the purpose of accelerated spiritual transformation. To learn more, download the D-Group Overview. D-groups typically form through pre-existing, meaningful relationships with other believers in environments like Community Groups.
If you want to join a D-Group, talk with Ryan, a Community Group leader, or one of the other pastors. If you already have 2-4 friends who want to start a D-Group, email Ryan and he will help you launch and lead a new D-Group. Our staff will provide helpful resources that will remove the intimidation of leading. Find more information in the D-Group Overview.
Questions about D Groups?
What is a D-Group?
A D-Group is gender-specific closed group of 3 to 5 believers (including the leader) who meet together weekly for the purpose of accelerated spiritual transformation. A person joins the D-Group by invitation only.
While Community Groups exist for the purposes of community growth and fellowship, they have an underlying additional purpose: evangelism. Community Groups are designed to reach lost people by getting them involved in the group. A D-Group, on the other hand, consists of believers who desire a deeper walk with Christ. It is not evangelistic in its form or function, but in its fruit: it makes disciples who will then go on to make more disciples.
The format of a D-Group is not one of a teacher-student, but a roundtable discussion. A discipleship relationship is “more personal, more practical, and more powerful. A teacher shares information, while a discipler shares life; a teacher aims for the head, while a discipler aims for the heart; a teacher measures knowledge, while a discipler measures faith; a teacher is an authority, while a discipler is a servant; and a teacher says, ‘Listen to me,’ while a discipler says, ‘Follow me.’” This blueprint, sketched by Jesus Christ through His personal example, is how discipleship is accomplished in the lives of believers, and, ultimately, within the local church. When this plan is followed, those involved will participate in three dynamics that result in growth in their personal lives, as well as in the Kingdom: community, accountability, and multiplication.
How do I find a D-Group?
Making disciples in a D-Group is in the second step on the Discipleship Pathway because it flows out of the Community Groups. Community Groups, which form out of the Worship Gathering, are the “fishing ponds” for D-Groups. As people form friendships and bonds in Community Groups, handfuls of them will decide to take the next step and begin a discipleship journey together in a D-Group.
If you would like to be in a D-Group, the first step on the pathway is to join a Life Group. If you are currently in a Community Group and desire to be in a D-Group, talk to your Community Group leader or Pastor Ryan.
How do I lead a D-Group?
The only absolute requirement for leading a D-Group is that you be intentionally pursuing Christ. You do not need to be a master teacher or have all of the answers; you do not need to be able to say, “Listen to me.” If you can say, “Follow me; I’m pursuing Christ,” you have the tools you need to lead a D-Group.
As a D-Group leader, you set the tone for the group’s atmosphere. You are not lecturing students; you are cultivating an intimate, accountable relationship with a few close friends. The discipleship relationship is “more personal, more practical, and more powerful. A teacher shares information, while a discipler aims for the heart; a teacher measures knowledge, while a discipler measures faith; a teacher is an authority, while a discipler is a servant; and a teacher says, ‘Listen to me,’ while a discipler says, ‘Follow me.’”
How do I choose disciples?
The first step in establishing a formal disciple-making relationship is choosing disciples. Jesus, our example in selecting disciples, spent time in prayer before selecting men (Luke 6:12-16). The word disciple means learner. Begin by asking God to send you a group of men or women who have a desire to learn and grow.
When people approached Jesus about becoming His disciples, our Lord held a high standard. One man said, “I’ll follow you, but let me go bury my father.” Now, the man’s father had not yet died–the man was reaching for an excuse to postpone the kind of commitment that Jesus expected of him. Jesus responded with something that the man would have understood to mean, “You can’t do that. The kingdom is too important.”
Your D-Group should consist of F.A.T. believers: Faithful, Available, and Teachable. A faithful person is dedicated, trustworthy, and committed. Consider a potential disciple’s faithfulness by observing other areas of his/her spiritual life, such as church attendance, Community Group involvement, or service in the church. Faithfulness is determined by a commitment to spiritual things.
Discern an individual’s availability by his willingness to meet with and invest in others. Does this person carve out time to listen, study, and learn from others? Is he accessible when called upon? Does she have a regular quiet time with God of reading the Word and praying? Availability is measured by a willingness to serve God.
Not everybody who attends a Community Group is teachable. A teachable person has a desire to learn and apply what is taught. One who is teachable is open to correction. Recognize teachability by observing one’s response to God’s Word. For example, after hearing a sermon on prayer, do they begin to pray more regularly? Or after a lesson about the dangers of the tongue, does the person implement changes in their speech? A teachable person not only listens to what is taught, but also applies it to his or her life.
After discerning that an individual is faithful, available, and teachable, prayerfully approach him or her and ask, “Would you be interested in studying the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and praying together?” Many people are open to that. All you have to do is ask. We don’t recommend that you say, “Would you like for me to disciple you?” as this question may come across in a derogatory manner. Keep in mind that men should disciple men, and women should disciple women.
How many people should be in the group?
Because accountability works well in a smaller setting, the ideal size of a disciple-making group is 3 to 5 – you and 2 to 4 other people. We recommend that you do not have more than 5, and remember that a one-on-one relationship is not ideal.
Where should we meet?
Ideally, find a meeting place away from the church. Restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, diners, and homes are all good options. Meeting outside the church in the community encourages your group members to publicize their faith, teaching them it is okay to read the Bible at a restaurant or pray in public. Be sure to select a place that is convenient to all group members. You can also meet at the church and we are happy to help accommodate space for you.
How often should we meet?
Ideally, you should meet once a week for about an hour to an hour and a half. You can meet more frequently, but it is important that you meet at least once a week. This schedule does not prohibit those you are discipling from calling you throughout the week or coming by for counsel when needed. It is important to remember that discipleship is about the relationship between you and your group members, not about checking a requirement box. Disciple-making is a way of life, not a program.
Is there an attendance requirement?
Yes, and it is not negotiable. The first time I meet with a potential group, I explain the disciple-making covenant with them. Since we’re going to spend our lives together for the next twelve to eighteen months, I want to know if they are committed. Some people have said after the initial meeting, “Uh, this isn’t really for me. I’m not interested.” That’s okay. I allow potential disciples to opt out of the group on the front end after understanding the expectations spelled out in the disciple-making covenant. Remember, you are looking for people who want to be discipled, people who have a desire to grow and learn. An unwillingness to commit reveals that they are not ready to be in a D-Group. It’s the example Jesus set for us.
What do D-Group meetings look like?
Begin with prayer. Ask each participant to present one prayer request at the start of each meeting. Assign a person to pray over the requests, and ask the Lord to sharpen each of you through your relationship.
Here are some elements that your weekly meetings can include:
Open with prayer.
Have a time of intentional conversation by briefly sharing the highs and lows of the week. You can also share celebrations and praises.
Quote your Scripture memory verses for the week.
Study the Word of God together. A great way to do this is to share HEAR journals from the week. The goal of studying the Bible is to apply the Word of God. Remember, knowledge without application is useless information.
Here are some good application questions to utilize:
- What are you hearing from God, and what are you doing about it?
- What is God teaching you, and how is it affecting your life?
- Is there a promise to claim?
- Is there an action or attitude to avoid?
- Is there a principle to apply?
Spend a few moments asking questions and keeping each other accountable. All accountability should be saturated with grace, not legalism. You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.
Share prayer requests and close with prayer.
How do I challenge my D-Group to memorize Scripture?
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” How many times has a Scripture come to mind when you needed just the right words in a situation? Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all that He said (John 14:26). Those passages of Scripture we have memorized will be brought to our memory at the right moment – but we must learn them.
Group members will memorize Scripture if you hold them accountable through reciting verses to one another at every meeting. Chapter 8 of Growing Up by Robby Gallaty contains a thorough explanation and a practical system for Scripture memorization.
Should I disciple unbelievers?
The preferred method is a gathering of born-again believers seeking to grow in their faith. How can you determine if someone is saved or not? We recommend beginning every group by asking each person to share their testimony with the others. Next, ask them to explain the gospel. A great resource for anyone struggling with belief in Christ is Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Gospel?
When should I ask someone to leave the D-Group?
These are some reasons for asking someone to leave the group: they don’t possess a teachable spirit, they are not faithful in attending meetings, they are not completing assigned work and putting in the kind of effort you require, they are living a lifestyle of blatant and unrepentant sin, etc.
Teachability is an indispensable quality for growth. One situation where someone may be asked to leave is if he or she monopolizes the group discussion week after week. It will be obvious they want to demonstrate their superior knowledge of The Word rather than learn from interacting with others.
Additionally, laziness will breed complacency in the group. Missing meetings, refusing to memorize Scripture, failing to log HEAR journal entries, or sitting idly by during discussion times lowers the morale of the others in the group. This type of behavior must be addressed immediately. Meet with this individual privately to inquire about his or her attitude and actions. Remind him or her of the commitment made at the outset of the discipleship relationship.
Like Jesus’ relationship with His disciples, ours is a serious relationship, as well: a relationship built upon a mutual commitment to Christ and each other. Tragically, some will not follow through with that commitment, forcing you to confront them about their unfaithfulness.
What if I don’t know the answer to a question?
There is no shame in not knowing all of the answers to every question. Simply confess that you may not have all the answers, but you will find them. Then do so before the next meeting. Ask your pastor or another spiritual leader to help you with the answer. Never give the impression that you have all the answers.
It is less important to know answers than it is to know how to seek them. It is better to say, “I am not the smartest man/woman in the world because I know all the answers, but because I know where to find the answers.” You may not have total recall when it comes to biblical history, theology, and doctrine, but with time you can locate them!
When do I send out disciples to make disciples?
Always begin with the end in mind. Your group should meet for 12 to 18 months, and they should expect that final date from the very beginning. Some groups develop a closer bond, which results in accelerated growth; others take longer. We do not recommend meeting for longer than 18 months. Some group members will desire to leave the group and begin their own groups. Others, however, will want to remain in the comfort zone of the existing group. Some will not want to start another D-Group because of the sweet fellowship and bonds formed within the current group. Remember, the goal is for the men and the women of the group to replicate their lives into someone else.
Have a question not answered below? Email Ryan McBride, our Discipleship Pastor.
Bible Reading Plans
We recommend the NT-260 Bible reading plan, which goes through the 27 books of the New Testament through 5 weekly readings. You can download a PDF of the plan here, or go here and purchase a Foundations journal. (You can find several options for you family here as well.)
You can also find dozens of additional reading plans through YouVersion’s Bible App.
Download the MARCS Assessment to help the participants in your D-Group gauge their own spiritual growth as well as determine where they are as a disciplemaker.
To learn more about getting involved or starting your own D-Group, download the D-Group Overview.
- Growing Up; Bearing Fruit; Firmly Planted by Robby Gallaty
- Personal Disciple-making: A Step-by-step Guide for Leading a Christian From New Birth to Maturity by Christopher B. Adsit
- The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples: Every Christian an Effective Witness Through an Enabling Church by William and Charles Arn.
- Growing True Disciples by George Barna
- The Lost Art of Disciple-Making by Leroy Eims
- Transformational Discipleship: How People Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation
- What is the Gospel? By Greg Gilbert
- Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem
- The Complete Book of Discipleship; The Disciple-Making Church; The Disciple-Making Pastor; Jesus Christ: Disciplemaker, 2nd ed by Bill Hull
- Organic Disciplemaking by Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery
- Discipleship Essentials; Transforming Discipleship: Making a Few Disciples at a Time by Greg Ogden.
- Lifestyle Discipleship by Jim Peterson
- Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt
- Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples by Jim Putnam, Bobby Harrington, and Robert Coleman
- Real Life Discipleship by Jim Putnam
- The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time by Joel Rosenberg and Dr. T.E. Koshy
- The Great Omission by Dallas Willard
Sample D-Group Covenant
All D-Group members should commit to the discipleship process. Use this sample covenant as a guide for your group.
Follow the F260 Bible Reading Plan
The F260 is a Bible reading plan for busy believers that walks readers through 260 foundational passages over the course of a year.