Most would agree that Church culture relies heavily on two forms of fellowship: large group and small group(s). When meeting as a large group or congregationally, many things take place, including praise and worship, communion/Lord’s Supper, preaching, fellowship and vision casting. Small groups, whether affinity, cell or ministry-focused, provide a more intimate atmosphere for fellowship, personal ministry and opportunities to discover and exercise spiritual gifts. In fact, the first small group I was involved with provided me the opportunity to exercise a teaching gift that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to share.
What many churches are finding is a form of fellowship that has been largely off the radar or dormant; namely one on one. What, though, if any, are the benefits or advantages of incorporating one on one into the existing church forms of large and small groups? Well, it starts at the beginning. Think of your first experience as a newby (A.K.A. new person) in the church. Everyone seemed to know everyone. They used similar phrases, knew what was going on, could close their eyes when singing because they knew the words to the songs, and we newbies (plural form of newby) didn’t quite fit. We made our best effort to fit into large and small group settings until we felt comfortable; like it was no longer new or foreign; when the transition from that church to my church happens. Research demonstrates that it takes newbies 12 months to feel comfortable in a large-group setting and 3-6 months in a small-group setting. Not bad, I suppose, unless we factor in research conducted by the Barna Group stating that most new Christians will walk out the back door of the church within 8-12 weeks after their initial decision to become Christians because they don’t feel connected to the church. The questions become: How do we connect them? Is there a way to care for new believers that will help them grow and stick around? The answers are yes and yes, and the method that works best is one on one because it provides a venue that fosters open and honest dialogue, creates a safe environment for growth and exchange, and can put newbies at ease because it’s a non-threatening environment.
Thinking back to when I was first discipled, I see how the power of one-on-one relationship manifested itself in several ways:
- It allowed me to be open about my life because it was just the two of us;
- It allowed my discipler to be open because, again, it was just us;
- It generated accountability between us, which is something, as a leader, I know is difficult to generate in a group setting;
- It made the discipleship process personal; and, last but not least,
- It demonstrated how easy the discipleship process would be to duplicate.
Throughout my discipleship process, I was reminded that the goal of our time was not solely that I would be discipled, but that I would live out the Great Commission and disciple others using one-one-one relationships, thereby creating generations of disciplers. And that’s what I’m doing.