I often get asked why I believe small group discipleship is the ideal way to cultivate discipleship in a parish. It is important to remember that we must be less concerned about the “how” we do discipleship and more concerned about what is needed in order for discipleship to be happening with the youth that we are working with. In Scripture we can find a few examples of how the disciples grew as disciples and were influenced and supported in their efforts in going to make more disciples. I really appreciate the small group approach to discipleship, especially with youth, because it can provide a good taste of many of the ways we encounter.
The relationship between Paul and Timothy is a great example of discipleship because the Bible makes it pretty clear that Timothy is a disciple of Paul. This relationship is very much like a mentoring relationship where Paul is clearly teaching Timothy and leading him. He is able to do this because he has the wisdom and the experience to pass on to him.
Another person who comes into the picture is Barnabas. Barnabas is depicted more as a companion to Paul. As they tackle areas like Cyprus (Acts 13), it is clear they are working together to accomplish the work of discipleship.
Looking at these three different people, we see how it would be important for each person to have a Paul (someone pouring into us), a Barnabas (companions/peers encouraging us along the way) and a Timothy (someone we are pouring into). I am confident that every youth can have these three types of relationships through a single small group.
The adults act as mentors and provide a wisdom and experience that no other youth can. The teens’ own peers in the group are also likely stronger in some areas and can provide insight and understanding to help guide each of the other teens as the need arises.
The accountability and support that comes from one’s own peers and friends is especially important to grow as a disciple of Christ.
Just as others may be stronger in some areas, each member likely possesses strengths that can feed the group in a powerful way. The group can also act as a support system or a springboard, generating ideas on how members can be investing in others outside of the group (especially younger siblings).
Be sure to spend some time looking at your small groups and evaluate if there is a Paul- Timothy-Barnabas feel for the youth involved.
Lastly, how about you as an adult? Who is your Paul? Who is your Barnabas? Who is your Timothy?