“For me, Jesus’ involvement in a small group is the most convincing rationale for why local churches need to seriously consider including groups as an integral part of their congregational lives. While it may not be wise or even appropriate for believers to mimic Jesus’ every act (e.g., healing a blind man by spitting on his eyes (Mark 8:23)), it is logical to replicate those behavioral patterns that constituted his methods for ministry. Therefore, it makes tremendous sense to explore Jesus’ use of small groups.”
From How Jesus Modeled Small Groups for Us
As we examine the ministerial practice of Jesus, we watch as he called the apostles, drew them together as a small faith community, and instructed them. They prayed together and shared their lives. They learned, questioned, grew, and were sent out.
When Jesus ascended, they gathered as a small group of disciples in an upper room. There they waited upon the Holy Spirit who descended on them as tongues of fire, filling them with His spirit, and they prayed together before they were sent out. As they ministered, new communities were formed. As you read Acts 2 and 4, you can see the new faith communities forming and come to understand the nature of their ministry. Later, St. Paul continued this ministry of call, response, and forming disciples in groups. He wrote at great length on the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ, with special elaboration in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Research strongly supports that parish-based small group ministry provides the best opportunities for Catholics to consistently grow in their faith.
“One way of renewing parishes, especially urgent for parishes in large cities, might be to consider the parish as a community of communities and movements…to form ecclesial communities and groups of a size that allows for true human relationships…. In such a human context it will be easier to gather to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ.”
(Pope John Paul II The Church in America, January 22, 1999).
Following is a suggested process for starting a discipleship group ministry in your parish.
Date to be Completed:
☐ Assess what small group ministry is present in the parish.
☐ Name potential discipleship team members.
☐ Pastor contact the potential discipleship team leaders/coordinator.
☐ Invite people to be a part of the discipleship team.
☐ Schedule the first informational discipleship team meeting.
☐ Provide and/or direct people to small group leadership courses.
☐ Provide opportunities for discipleship group leaders to meet together following sessions for support, feedback and prayer.
How to do this
Assess what small group ministry is present in the parish
Who is involved in small group ministry?
What types of small group ministry exist?
Is their intent discipleship formation?
Assign a point person within the pastoral team to oversee the formation of a discipleship team.
Name potential discipleship group leadership team members.
You may have people in your parish who have experience with leading small groups. You may start with them. Also, look for people who are good listeners and do not push their own agenda.
Identify who should be the captain of the discipleship team.
Set up training for small group leaders and invite potential leaders.
Provide and/or direct people to small group leadership courses
Secure trainers for small group facilitation
Obtain resources for training
Have a conversation with your trainers. They may know of particular resources or possess skills that will serve the formation of your leaders best.
Provide resources for small group leaders.
Provide practice in small group leadership
Provide ongoing support and training for group facilitators.
The diocesan office of New Evangelization will provide small group facilitator training dates.
Small group trainers: Contact diocesan office for recommendations
Lifetime Discipleship Plan
Beginning a Lifetime Discipleship Plan
The Lifetime Discipleship Booklet serves as a guide for helping individuals to develop new, life-giving habits in their spiritual lives. It draws from the wisdom of Scripture, Church teaching, and the lives of the saints. It employs the best practices of Catholic organizations and movements from around the world that are successfully facilitating vibrant discipleship, and it is uniquely adaptable to each person and his or her state in life. It is meant to accompany the faithful reception and living out of the Sacraments in each of our lives. The ultimate goal is holiness, and the hope is that through this genuine “training in holiness,” our hearts will burn with desire to share the Gospel with the whole world.
The first section, Lifetime Discipleship Plan, outlines the basic format and process for your discipleship group.
The second section, Lifetime Discipleship Journal, provides space for personal records of your periodic discipleship goals and assessments.
“The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. It is also clear however that the paths to holiness are personal and call for a genuine “training in holiness”, adapted to people’s needs. This training must integrate the resources offered to everyone with both the traditional forms of individual and group assistance, as well as the more recent forms of support offered in associations and movements recognized by the Church.”
(Novo Millennio Ineunte #31, Bl. John Paul II)