A simple but revolutionary way of doing small groups is sweeping the world. It started in India, but you can also find it in the suburbs of San Francisco, throughout the slums of South America, and among the Muslim tribes of Africa. Through this simple method, the lost are being won, disciples are being mobilized, and churches are multiplying. The Disciple-Making Movement (DMM) is a modern-day phenomenon, but it's really just a return to principles Jesus taught 2,000 years ago.
A DMM group is a combination of several key principles and methods, but the heart of this method is based on teaching disciples to obey everything Jesus has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). The format of DMM groups is simple, but it's powerful.
The Discovery Group Format
DMM groups work through the same questions each time they meet. These questions work regardless of what you're studying.
- What are you thankful for this week? (This question helps teach seekers or those new to Christ how to worship and pray.)
- What is a challenge you're facing? Is there some way our group can help? (This guides people into caring community.)
These questions follow up from the previous week. See more about this under the Bible Discovery Questions and Outreach Questions below.
- With whom did you share what you learned last week?
- How did it go with your "I will" statements?
Bible Discovery Questions
Read the passage several times together, perhaps in different translations. Then answer these questions.
- What does it say?
- How would I say that? (Each person tries to retell the passage or Bible story in their own words.)
- What must I do to obey what I have learned? "I will..." (Each person crafts an "I will" statement or two to tell how they will obey the passage this week.)
Optional Questions if You Have Time
- What does the passage say about humanity?
- What does this passage say about God?
- With whom will you share what you learned this week? (Each person considers who they will talk to about what they learned. Perhaps they'll encourage a coworker with this new knowledge or talk to their brother about the passage.)
There are two ways to begin experimenting with the DMM strategy. You can start using this group format with your current group to help people learn from Scripture and obey what God is teaching them. Or you can start a new group that will focus on this method.
Implement This Format in Your Current Group
I use this new format in my co-ed evening group. I love the method and the group members are enjoying it, too. It requires a change of approach, however, because while we're used to studying and talking about the Bible, we're not used to immediately applying it, sharing it, and holding each other accountable! But that's the beauty of this method—it cuts to the chase. It takes effort to change the approach of a group that's already up and running to this more straightforward approach, but it's well worth it! When you switch to your next study topic, I encourage you to incorporate these questions and see what happens to your discussions and spiritual growth.
Start a New Group
My wife has started a discovery group with a more evangelistic focus with great results. When you're starting a new group with this focus, there are several steps to help you get off on the right foot.
Find Someone Seeking God
First, look for someone that is spiritually hungry. This is a foundational principle of DMM: You don't have to create interest in spiritual things. Rather, God is already drawing people (John 6:44). Find these spiritually hungry people so that you can cooperate with God in bringing them into a relationship with Christ.
Jesus told his disciples to look for a "person of peace" when they entered a new community (Luke 9:6). You can see many examples of this type of person in the New Testament—people like the woman at the well (John 4) and the centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). They were hungry for the good news of Christ and they went on to introduce new communities and groups of people to him. Look for these people in your community and invite them to study the Bible with you.
You're not inviting them to a class or series. Instead, invite them to explore the Bible with you to discover what God is like and how he might want to speak to them. If you have more than one person, that's great. But you actually only need one person to begin. If that goes well, the two of you can invite more people to join you. Each week, follow the Discovery Group Method, and encourage one another to obey what you're learning.
Launch More Groups
At some point, people will begin to experience God in life-changing ways. They will discover that he is real and wonderful and trustworthy! When this happens, they'll say something like, "My friends need to experience this. Would you lead a group for them?" Or, "I would like my family to learn these truths as well. Can I invite them to this group?" Your answer to questions like this should be, "No, you should lead a group for them yourself." There will likely be hesitant, but you can encourage them to lead the group just as you've been doing it. It's a simple method, and they can definitely do it themselves. The beauty of this method is that you don't need to know the Bible well to lead a DMM group. Rather, they just need to be able to point people to God's word—to help them discover its meaning and to help them begin to apply its truths in their lives. Let them know you will be there to help along the way.
Continue to Disciple Them as They Lead
As people begin their own groups, you should continue to meet regularly with these new leaders one-on-one or together. When you do this, use a more intense form of Discovery Group called the 3-Column Study. You will each write your responses to the three core questions on a single piece of paper divided into three columns: It says, My words, and I will.
- It says. (What does the passage say?) Write the Bible passage word-for-word in the first column.
- My words. (How would I say it?) Write out the message or story in the passage in your own words.
- I will. (How will I obey it?) Write down a few "I will" statements to put the truths into action in your life.
Use the opening, accountability, and outreach questions along with these questions when you meet. You should also encourage your leaders and help them solve problems they might be facing in their own groups or their personal lives.
Keep these three principles in mind as you implement the DMM strategy in your group:
Pray. Thriving Disciple-Making Movements are saturated in prayer. The strategy depends on God, not on you—so invite him to be involved. Ask him to guide you. Invite his Spirit to raise up people of peace and put you in touch with them. Pray for guidance, insight, and God's heart and vision.
Experiment. Like any new strategy, it takes a while to learn the principles and to discover what works best in your setting. Experiment as you go along and find what works best for your context.
Wait. It takes considerable time to learn the principles, apply them, and see results. Although over time, DMM groups have seen millions come to Christ, it's actually a "mustard seed" strategy—something which starts tiny but in the long run becomes very big (Matthew 13:31-32). It goes slow at first, so that later things can move fast. It focuses on a few initially because the goal in the end is to reach many. Be patient.
—Jim Egli is a small-group leader, researcher, and writer. He has authored more than a dozen books on evangelism, small groups, and discipleship. He has a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication from Regent University. To learn about his latest research, learnings and discoveries, visit his blog at jimegli.com. To learn more about DMM groups, read Contagious Disciple-Making by David and Paul Watson.