Church of England to vote on allowing women bishops

Church of England to vote on allowing women bishops

BREAKING. The Church of England (the mother church of the Wesleyan movement) has now voted to allow women bishops. http://news.yahoo.com/church-england-vote-allowing-women-bishops-030528188.html

UPDATED: The British Methodist Church welcome the news.
The Rev. Ken Howcroft, president of the Methodist Conference, said: “We rejoice in the decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopacy. We recognise that this has been a long and difficult process and that, for some, it is a painful decision. We will continue to keep everyone in the Church of England in our prayers. The Methodist Church has long benefitted from the equality of ministry between men and women. We are confident that our Church of England brothers and sisters will be similarly blessed as a result of today’s courageous decision.”

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YOUNG ADULTS MISSIONARY TRAINING IN THEPHILIPPINES

Young adults head to the Philippines for missionary training and commissioning
July 11, 2014 By UMReporter Leave a Comment

GBGM Logo

NEW YORK, Ny: This week, 42 young adults from 11 countries have gathered in the Philippines to get ready for service as Generation Transformation Global Mission Fellows.

On July 19, 2014, they will respond to God’s call on their life when they are commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. They will be sent to serve for two years with organizations in 15 countries, sharing God’s love through acts of mercy and piety.

In preparation, they are spending three weeks being trained by mission staff — engaging in prophetic, vocational exploration while living together in a faith community. This year, the training will coincide with The United Methodist Church’s Global Young People Convocation. The fellows will participate in the convocation as non-voting delegates and will be commissioned in Tagaytay, Philippines, as part of the Convocation.

Commissioning

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Annual Conference, who is the president of Global Ministries, will preach at the service on July 19 at 8 a.m. local time (July 18 at 8 p.m. ET). United Methodists and friends are invited to watch the commissioning live at http://www.umcmission.org/live and share messages of encouragement. Follow @umcmissionGT on Twitter for training and commissioning updates.

Please keep these young adults in prayer along with the communities they will serve. Financial support can be made through their individual bio pages or through The Advance #13105z.

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Young adults head to the Philippines for missionary training and commissioning
July 11, 2014 By UMReporter Leave a Comment

GBGM Logo

NEW YORK, Ny: This week, 42 young adults from 11 countries have gathered in the Philippines to get ready for service as Generation Transformation Global Mission Fellows.

On July 19, 2014, they will respond to God’s call on their life when they are commissioned by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. They will be sent to serve for two years with organizations in 15 countries, sharing God’s love through acts of mercy and piety.

In preparation, they are spending three weeks being trained by mission staff — engaging in prophetic, vocational exploration while living together in a faith community. This year, the training will coincide with The United Methodist Church’s Global Young People Convocation. The fellows will participate in the convocation as non-voting delegates and will be commissioned in Tagaytay, Philippines, as part of the Convocation.

Commissioning

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Annual Conference, who is the president of Global Ministries, will preach at the service on July 19 at 8 a.m. local time (July 18 at 8 p.m. ET). United Methodists and friends are invited to watch the commissioning live at http://www.umcmission.org/live and share messages of encouragement. Follow @umcmissionGT on Twitter for training and commissioning updates.

Please keep these young adults in prayer along with the communities they will serve. Financial support can be made through their individual bio pages or through The Advance #13105z.

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Nine Secrets Your Pastor’s Wife Wishes You Knew
From SHATTERED By Christina Stolaas on June 4, 2014

She’s always there. Sometimes in the background, sometimes with a welcoming smile up front, sometimes noticed and appreciated, sometimes being silently judged. Your pastor’s wife; the powerful force behind most church leaders often perceived as a mystery by the rest of the church. It doesn’t have to be that way.

What if we just asked our pastor’s wife to candidly, honestly, even anonymously share some of their secrets? What if we invited them to share their hearts and tell us what they wished the church knew?

I posed a simple, open ended question to a panel of pastors’ wives in different states, from different denominations, with various years of service, “If you could tell the church a few things about your role as a pastor’s wife, what would you say?”

The women selected are the wives of music ministers, children’s leaders, senior pastors and youth pastors. Some of them serve in churches with large staff and even larger budgets, others in newer church plants, and even some from old and barely surviving congregations. Despite such different backgrounds, their responses were strangely similar and in several cases, almost identical.

I’ve sat for coffee, exchanged emails and had lengthy conversations with many who freely shared their secrets with me in exchange for the promise of anonymity. What follows is a condensed collection of their words.

1) “I wish people knew that we struggle to have family time.”
There was one common response that I received from every single pastor’s wife. Every. Single. One. Over and over again, many pastors’ wives shared numerous occasions where planned vacations had been cut short (wouldn’t that be hard?). They told me tales of family evenings being rearranged for crises of church members, middle of the night emergencies and regular interruptions. A true day off is rare; even on scheduled days off their husbands are essentially on call 24/7.

2) “Almost every day I’m afraid of screwing it all up.”
They don’t have it all together. They battle many of the same issues every other woman battles: marriage issues, extended family difficulties, sickness, finances, children who make poor decisions, fear and insecurities. Some seasons of life are obviously harder than others; but remember, ministry wives are not Wonder Woman with special powers. Please have a little mercy and extend grace.

3) “Being a pastor’s wife is THE loneliest thing I’ve ever done and for so many reasons.”
Personally, I think this is surprising to many (it was to me). Several ladies shared the difficulties of finding friendships that are safe, being looked at (or treated) differently and even the desire to be invited for an occasional ladies night out. One woman shared, “Invite us to something just to get to know us. We like being known.” People in the church often assume that the pastor’s wife is always invited and popular. In reality, for whatever reason, many ladies fear befriending them. On Sunday mornings pastors’ wives are often sitting solo and those with children are essentially single parenting.

4) “It is okay and welcomed to have conversations with me about things that do not pertain to church, or even Jesus. There I said it!”
They have a variety of interests. Believe it or not, many pastor’s wives went to college and had full time careers before becoming “Mrs. Pastor’s wife.” They have hobbies, likes and dislikes, and though they often serve beside their husband, they are individuals with their own unique gifts. Do not make the mistake of assuming your pastor’s wife has the same personality as their husband. One wife shared that as newly weds when they announced their engagement people regularly commented on how good of a singer she must be (because her husband to be was a music minister). When she shared that she sounded more like a dying cat than an elegant song bird the shock on their faces was evident.

5) “Sundays are sometimes my least favorite day. Wait– am I allowed to say that?”
Sundays are hard. And long. And there is no rest. To a pastor’s wife, Sunday means an early morning of rushing around to have the family ready in their “Sunday Best.” Although you may not see your pastor’s wife on the platform, rest assured, Sunday is equally tiring for most (all) of them.

6) “It’s hard to not harbor resentment or to allow your flesh to lash out at members who openly criticize his ministry.”
They hate church criticism more then anything. It’s hurtful. Offensive, and yes, it’s very hard not to take it personally. It is one of the most damaging things they witness regularly inside the church whether it be through emails, social media or gossip. They wish people understood how serious God’s word speaks on the danger and power of our words. And how much it injures the pastor’s family.

7) “Please don’t look down on me or assume I don’t support my husband just because you don’t see me every time the churches doors are open.”
Most wives are not paid staff. They are wives, mothers, and some are employed outside the home and need to be allowed the freedom to pray and choose ministries they feel called to.

8) “I wish people knew that we taught our children to make good choices, but sometimes, they don’t.”
Jokes about pastor’s kids should be avoided at all costs. The risk of rebellion in a “preacher’s kid” is no secret. They aren’t perfect, and never will be (are yours?). They have to learn to walk in their faith just like other children and need encouragement and love to do so. Again, extend grace.

9) “What I can tell you is I have been blessed beyond measure, I have been given gifts, money, love and prayer, so much prayer… by so many.”
They love their church and understand the role comes with special challenges and special blessings; it is fulfilling and brings them great joy.

One Extra Thought
Though it was not a common response, there was one that stood out. The top of the list of one seasoned pastor’s wife simply read, “I deleted my number 1.” Some secrets are so difficult to share, even the promise of complete confidence is not enough to bring them out.
These Godly women have something they want us to know and as a body of believers working together towards the same goal I think we might gain a better understanding of how to appreciate our leaders by listening. All of these responses point to a singular truth. Your pastor’s wife is a human being that desires to be known, just as you do.

 

[Image via Eflon on Flickr]

Christina is an energetic mom to four adorable young kids, wife, a lover of the outdoors and people. In her free time she enjoys writing, training for road races, drinking too much coffee, belly laughs with friends and pursuing a deeper walk with Jesus. She is forever thankful that God’s script for her life needs no editing. (Romans 8:28)

 

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Why the Pastor’s Wife is the MOST Vulnerable Person in Your Church
by Joe McKeever Posted at Church Leaders

We’re all vulnerable.

Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt in what happens during the next hour. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, oldtimer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable, and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.

No one in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor’s wife.

She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure. (Note: I am fully aware that in some churches the pastor is a woman. In such cases, what follows would hardly pertain to her household.)

And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.

She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.

You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.

The pastor’s wife can be hurt in a hundred ways—through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.

She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor’s children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium.

She has to take it in silence, most of the time.

It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor’s wife and pull it off. And that’s the problem: In most cases, she’s pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.
The pastor’s wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.

That’s why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor’s wife, and will try to envision whether they would “fit” in “our” church.

The pastor’s wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote, and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than she.

She is the object of a world of expectations …

She is expected to dress modestly and attractively, well enough but not overly ornate.

She is expected to be the perfect mother, raising disciplined children who are models of well-behaved offspring for the other families, to be her husband’s biggest supporter and prayer warrior, and to attend all the church functions faithfully and, of course, bring a great casserole.

Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage—if not from the moment of her salvation—and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, “This is why we pay him the big salary,” and “Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?”

She is expected to run her household well on the limited funds the church can pay and keep her family looking like a million bucks.

And those are just for starters!

The pastor’s children likewise suffer in silence as they share their daddy with hundreds of church members, each of whom feel they own a piece of him, and can do little about it. (But, that’s another article.)

What we owe to the pastor’s wife …

1. We owe her the right to be herself.

She is our sister in Christ and accountable to Him.

My wife was blessed to have followed pastors’ wives who cut their own path. So, in some churches, Margaret taught Sunday School and came to the woman’s missionary meetings. In other churches, she directed the drama team and ran television cameras. A few times, she held weekday jobs while raising three pretty terrific kids.

And, as far as I know, the churches were always supportive and understanding. We were blessed.
Allow the pastor’s wife to serve in whatever areas she’s gifted in. Allow her to try different things, and to grow. But do not put your expectations on her, if at all possible.

Do not try to tell her how to raise her children. Do not try to get to her husband through her with your messages or (ahem) helpful suggestions.

2. We owe her our love and gratitude.

She has a one-of-a-kind role in the congregation which makes her essential to the church’s well-being.
Recently, as I was finishing a weekend of ministry at a church in central Alabama, and about to drive the 300 miles back home, a member said, “Please thank your wife for sharing you with us this weekend. I know your leaving is hard on her.”

How sensitive—and how true, I thought. That person had no idea that my wife underwent surgery two weeks earlier and I had been her nurse ever since, and that in my absence, my son and his family were taking care of her, and that I was now about to rush home to relieve them.

Church members have no clue—and no way of knowing—regarding the pressures inside the pastor’s family, and should not investigate to find out.

What they should do is love the wife and children and show them appreciation at every opportunity.
3. We owe her our love and prayers.

While the Father alone knows her heart, the pastor may be the only human who knows her burdens.
Pray for her by name on a regular basis. Then, leave it to the Lord to answer those prayers however He chooses.

If we believe that the Living God is our Lord and Savior and that He hears our prayers, we should be lifting to Him these whose lives are given in service for Him.

Ask the Father for His protection upon the pastor’s wife and children—for their health, for their safety from all harm, and for Him to shield them from evil people.

Pray for His provisions for all their needs, and for the church to do well in providing for them.
Pray for the pastor’s relationship with his wife. If their private life is healthy, the congregation’s shepherd is far better prepared for everything he will be asked to do.

\4. We owe her our responsible care.

What does she need?

Do they need a babysitter for a date night? Do they need some finances for an upcoming trip? If they are attending the state assembly or the annual meeting of the denomination, are the funds provided by the church budget adequate or do they need more? Is the wife going with the pastor? (She should be encouraged to do so, if possible.)

Ask the Holy Spirit what the pastor’s wife (and/or the pastor’s entire family) needs, and if it’s something you can do, do it. If it’s too huge, rally the troops.

5. We owe it to the pastor and his wife to speak up.

Sometimes, they need a friend to take their side.

If your pastor’s wife has a ministry in the church, look for people to criticize her for a) dominating others, b) neglecting her home, or c) running the whole show. To some, she cannot do anything right.

You be the one to voice appreciation for her talents and abilities, her love for the Lord and her particular skills that make this ministry work.

Imagine yourself standing in a church business meeting to mention something the pastor’s wife did that blessed someone, that made a difference, that glorified the Lord.

Imagine yourself planning in advance what you will say, asking the moderator (who is frequently the pastor) for a moment for “a personal privilege,” without telling him in advance.
And, imagine yourself informing a couple of your best friends what you are planning to do, so they can be prepared to stand up “spontaneously” and begin the ovation. (Hey, sometimes our people have to be taught to do these things!)

The typical reaction most church members give when someone is criticizing the pastor’s wife is silence. But you speak up. Take up for her.

Praise God for her willingness to get involved, to not sit at home in silence, but to support her husband and bless the church.

6. We owe them protection for the pastor’s off-days and vacations.

After my third pastorate, I joined the staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, and quickly made an outstanding discovery. The personnel policies stipulated that the church office would be closed on Saturdays and the ministers were expected to enjoy the day with their families.

Furthermore, when the church gave a minister several weeks of vacation, it was understood at least two full weeks of it would be spent with the family in rest and recreation and not in ministry somewhere. As one who took off-days reluctantly and would not allow myself to relax and rest during vacations, I needed this to be spelled out in official policy.

When a pastor is being interviewed for the position and when he is new, he should make plain that his off-days are sacred. The ministerial and office staffs can see that he is protected.

The lay leadership can make sure the congregation knows this time is just as holy to the Lord as the time he spends in the office, the hospitals or even the pulpit.

7. We owe them the same thing we owe the Lord: faithful obedience to Christ.

Pastors will tell you in a heartbeat that the best gift anyone can give them is just to live the Christian life faithfully.

When our members do that—when they live like Jesus and strive to know Him better, to love one another, to pray and give and serve—ten thousand problems in relationships disappear.

Finally, a word to the pastor’s wife …

It’s my observation that most wives of ministers feel inadequate. They want to do the right thing, to manage their households well and support their husbands, keep a clean house, sometimes accompany him on his ministries, and such, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much strength in this young woman. She feels guilty for being tired, and worries that she is inadequate.

The Apostle Paul may have had pastors’ wives in mind when he said, “Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

We are inadequate. None of us is worthy or capable of this incredible calling from God.
We must abide in Him or nothing about our lives will go right.

One thing more, pastor’s wife: Find other wives of ministers and encourage them. The young ones in particular have a hard time of it, with the children, the young husband, the demanding congregation and sometimes, Lord help us, even an outside job.

Invite a couple of these women for tea or coffee. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another.
See what happens.

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7 Helpful Skills for Pastors Leading Growing Churches
• By Ron Edmondson Posted on May 28th, 2014 at Ministry Matters

• I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God can and does work through all different types of people. But, he has appointed some to be leaders, some teachers, etc. And, I know this from my experience working with and hearing from dozens of pastors each month. There are some great pastors who admit they aren’t skilled at leading the church.
• I hear it at least weekly — “I know how to teach and cafe for the people, but I’m simply not always sure how to lead.” And, yet they recognize the value in and the need for leadership. They aren’t afraid of church leadership, as I’ve written about previously.
• I believe there are some helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to not only care for and disciple the people in the church now, but actually grow and be healthy at the same time — where there is momentum and unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission.

Here are seven helpful skills I’ve observed:
• Networking – For definition purposes, this is “the cultivation of productive relationships”. It is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission and it is invaluable for any position of leadership. This is true inside and outside the church. One place where good relationships are proving helpful in the community, for example, is within school systems. With the right people, churches can make significant missional differences in their community with school relationships. Those relationships are formed through networking. And, the possibilities here are endless.

• Connecting – If the church is large or small, the best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. First, the pastor needs to meet them, but that isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders connect them to people within the church, or help create systems of connection. They value connectivity — creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church — and see that it is a natural, but intentional part of the church’s overall mission.

• Visioneering – Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next — they should have some — but they can rally people behind the vision.

• Pioneering – To lead a church by faith, a leader has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always starts with new — doing things differently — creating new groups, new opportunities — trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.

• Delegating – No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to completing a specific aspect of attaining that vision.

• Confronting – If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change and change in church involves change in people. And, most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision, and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.

• Following – Ultimately, it’s all about Christ. I can’t lead people closer to Him — certainly not be more like him — unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ. But, following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Good leaders have systems in place that personally keep them on track. Self leadership — and following others who are healthy — keeps a leader in it for the duration.
• That’s my list. Or, at least seven on my list.
• What would you add?
• ________________________________________
• Ron Edmondson blogs at RonEdmondson.com.

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16 DRIVERS OF VITAL CONGREGATION

The United Methodist Church continues to be a spiritual influence in the world for the Gospel. Essential to its ministry are healthy, vital congregations. But what makes a congregation vital and what do vital congregations do?
A study was made on 33,000 churches and found that nearly 5,000 over five year period were growing and engaging a greater percentage of their membership in worship and ministry. The study further examined these churches and found they shared at least 16 ministries/strategies in common. The study called them “drivers of vitality,” and indicated that if churches worked on all 16, they would move toward vitality or become more vital. The 16 ministries/strategies can be grouped into four areas:

Engagement of disciples in small groups and the number of ministries for children and youth
1. Vital churches have more small groups for all ages.
2. Vital churches have more programs for children.
3. Vital churches have more programs for youth.

Lay leadership
4. Vital churches focus on increasing the effectiveness of lay leaders (understand their role and carrying these roles out effectively).
5. Vital churches have lay leaders who demonstrate a vital personal faith (regular worship, intentional spiritual growth, personal devotional life, and giving of financial resources).
6. Vital churches place an emphasis on rotating lay leadership in order to involve more people over time.
7. Vital churches call, equip, use and support more lay leaders than non-vital churches. (Twenty percent or more of their worship attendees describe themselves as current or past leaders in their church).

Pastor
8. Vital pastors give attention to developing, coaching, and mentoring lay leadership to enable laity to increase their ability to carry out ministry.
9. Vital pastors use their influence to increase the participation of others in order to accomplish changes in the church.
10. Vital pastors motivate the congregation to set and achieve significant goals through effective leadership.
11. Vital pastors inspire the congregation through preaching.
12. Vital pastors, when they are serving effectively, stay for a longer period of time. (Short-term appointments of effective pastors decrease the vitality of a congregation).

Worship
13. Vital churches offer a mix of contemporary (newer forms of worship style) and traditional services.
14. Vital churches have preachers who tend to use more topical sermon series in traditional services.
15. Vital churches use more contemporary music (less blended music that includes traditional tunes) in contemporary services.
16. Vital churches use more multi-media in contemporary services (Some congregations in other parts of the world may have limited access or do not use multi-media to the same extent and therefore it may not be as important as it is in some cultures.)

While the study noted that vital churches give more to mission, some have noticed that other types of mission engagement and outreach are not listed as proven “drivers.” This is because, during the past, we have not collected this data consistently across the UMC and therefore the research could not quantitatively substantiate mission engagement. But, in conversations with vital congregations, they tell us that this is an important aspect of their ministry. Directly related to the giving to mission is in all matters fostering a spirit of generosity both giving and serving in individuals and in congregations. It also should be noted that while the study alludes to spiritual vitality in the faith of the laity and the inspirational leadership of clergy, one should not see these ministries/strategies as mechanical operations. Rather, they are undergirded or enlivened by a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ.

 

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FOUNDATION OF THE CALL TO ACTION TO THE CONSTITUENCY OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

The recent general conference of The United Methodist Church held at Tampa, Florida, USA, called on its constituency to:
1. GROW VITAL CONGREGATIONS that will make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world;
2. DEMONSTRATE COURAGEOUS TURN-AROUND LEADERSHIP that leads the church toward deep Holy Spirit change;
3. TAKE RISKS; experiment in ministry as we go to the margins of society to minister with the poor, immigrants, prisoners, and homeless, as well as the non-religious and nominally religious people in our communities;
4. SET VISIONARY GOALS and support one another as we eagerly experiment, innovate, embrace change, and regularly account for our ministries.
The Council of Bishop of The United Methodist church also issued the Foundation of the Call To Action.

OUR MISSION
THE MISSION of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world as described in:
Matthew 28:-18-20 – (The Great Commission)
Matthew 22:36-40- (The Great Commandments)

WE ARE CALLED TO ACTION
THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH is called to be a world leader in developing existing churches and starting new vital congregation so that we may make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

VITAL CONGREGATIONS
VITAL CONGREGATIONS ARE Spirit filled, forward-learning communities of believers that welcome all people. (Galatians 3:28)
a. Make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)
b. Serve like Christ through justice and mercy ministries (Micah 6:8; Luke 4:17-21).
c. Develop inviting and inspiring worship services.
d. Work with disciples in mission and outreach.
e. Empowers lay leadership.
f. Support inspired clergy leadership.
g. Create small groups and strong children’s programs and youth ministry.
h. Engage in world transformation through the creation of vital disciples.

VITAL DISCIPLES
A VITAL DISCIPLE is a changed follower of Jesus as described in Matthew 22:36-40 (The Great Commandment)
a. WORSHIP sincerely
b. GROW their faith
c. ENGAGE in mission
d. GIVE to mission
e. Make NEW DISCIPLES.

 

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LECTIO DIVINA

The Upper Room endorses Lectio Divina as a way of praying and reading the scripture. This is primarily use individually and or as group meeting together for prayer and scripture reading.

I am posting some articles on how Lectio Divina was practice during the ancient time and how it can be adapted today for personal and group prayer and devotion.

Lectio Divina (UPPER ROOM)
Use lectio divina in your daily reading of scripture or as you read the quote for the week.
One of the most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is lectio divina, or divine reading. In lectio divina, we begin by reading a few verses of the Bible. We read unhurriedly so that we can listen for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, or prophecy?” Listening in this way requires patience and a willingness to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for us, we are naturally drawn to prayer. From listening we move to speaking — perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting — this is the basic rhythm of divine reading.
1. Read the scripture slowly. Watch for a key phrase or word that jumps out at you or promises to have special meaning for you. It is better to dwell profoundly on one word or phrase than to skim the surface of several chapters. Read with your own life and choices in mind.
2. Reflect on a word or phrase. Let the special word or phrase that you discovered in the first phase sink into your heart. Bring mind, will and emotions to the task. Be like Mary, Jesus’ mother, who heard of the angel’s announcement and “treasured” and “pondered” what she had heard (Luke 2:19).
3. Respond to what you have read. Form a prayer that expresses your response to the idea, then “pray it back to God.” What you have read is woven through what you tell God.
4. Rest in God’s word. Let the text soak into your deepest being, savoring an encounter with God and truth. When ready, move toward the moment in which you ask God to show you how to live out what you have experienced.
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1. THE PROCESS of LECTIO DIVINA

A VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina – a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of Benedictine monastics and oblates. Together with the Liturgy and daily manual labor, time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.

Lectio – reading/listening
THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.
THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh’ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” – listen – to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God’s word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio – reading.
THE READING or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally – not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s word for us this day.
Meditatio – meditation
ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word – that is, memorize it – and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina – meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.

Oratio – prayer
THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio – prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
Contemplatio – contemplation
FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition – contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.

2. THE UNDERLYING RHYTHM of LECTIO DIVINA
IF WE are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost. In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.”
PRACTICE – spiritual “activity” – referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish. The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward – down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God’s image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become.
IN THE early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation – God in “the many.” Second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words – God as “The One.” From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in His creation.
IN CONTEMPLATION we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God’s presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.
IN ANCIENT times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God’s recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.
HOW DIFFERENT this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal – something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our “goal-oriented” approach if we are to practice lectio divina, because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of His word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God’s Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God’s presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing Him.
IN lectio divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix – an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God’s presence – many different ways of praying.

3. THE PRACTICE of LECTIO DIVINA
Private Lectio Divina

CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.
PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.
NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.
SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise
THE most authentic and traditional form of Christian lectio divina is the solitary or “private” practice described to this point. In recent years, however, many different forms of so-called “group lectio” have become popular and are now widely-practiced. These group exercises can be very useful means of introducing and encouraging the practice of lectio divina; but they should not become a substitute for an encounter and communion with the Living God that can only take place in that privileged solitude where the biblical Word of God becomes transparent to the Very Word Himself – namely private lectio divina.
IN churches of the Third World where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common in which a text from the Scriptures is pondered by Christians praying together in a group. The method of group lectio divina described here was introduced at St. Andrew’s Abbey by oblates Doug and Norvene Vest: it is used as part of the Benedictine Spirituality for Laity workshops conducted at the Abbey each summer.
THIS FORM of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.
THE FIRST reading (the text is actually read twice on this occasion) is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, it is silently taken in, and gently recited and pondered during the silence which follows. After the silence each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.
THE SECOND reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. In other words, how is Christ the Word touching his own experience, his own life? How are the various members of the group seeing or hearing Christ reach out to them through the text? Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”
THE THIRD and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time; and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right.
THOSE WHO who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures regularly find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group; it also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more formal group meetings. A summary of this method for group lectio divina is appended at the end of this article.

Lectio Divina on Life
IN THE ancient tradition lectio divina was understood as being one of the most important ways in which Christians experience God in creation. After all, the Scriptures are part of creation! If one is daily growing in the art of finding Christ in the pages of the Bible, one naturally begins to discover Him more clearly in aspects of the other things He has made. This includes, of course, our own personal history.

OUR OWN lives are fit matter for lectio divina. Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine with our pondering on the Scriptures, as has been described above. But sometimes it is fitting to simply sit down and “read” the experiences of the last few days or weeks in our hearts, much as we might slowly read and savor the words of Scripture in lectio divina. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God’s gentle presence in the events of our lives. We thus allow ourselves the joy of experiencing Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes “salvation history.”

FOR THOSE who are new to the practice of lectio divina a group experience of “lectio on life” can provide a helpful introduction. An approach that has been used at workshops at St. Andrew’s Priory is detailed at the end of this article. Like the experience of lectio divina shared in community, this group experience of lectio on life can foster relationships in community and enable personal experiences to be consecrated – offered to Christ – in a concrete way.

HOWEVER, UNLIKE scriptural lectio divina shared in community, this group lectio on life contains more silence than sharing. The role of group facilitators or leaders is important, since they will be guiding the group through several periods of silence and reflection without the “interruption” of individual sharing until the end of the exercise. Since the experiences we choose to “read” or “listen to” may be intensely personal, it is important in this group exercise to safeguard privacy by making sharing completely optional.

IN BRIEF, one begins with restful silence, then gently reviews the events of a given period of time. One seeks an event, a memory, which touches the heart just as a word or phrase in scriptural lectio divina does. One then recalls the setting, the circumstances; one seeks to discover how God seemed to be present or absent from the experience. One then offers the event to God and rests for a time in silence. A suggested method for group lectio divina on life is given in the Appendix to this article.

CONCLUSION

LECTIO DIVINA is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It is a way of allowing the Scriptures to become again what God intended that they should be – a means of uniting us to Himself. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God in a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.

LECTIO DIVINA teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In lectio divina we dare to believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us today. And His embrace is real. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a word which He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.

FINALLY, lectio divina teaches us about ourselves. In lectio divina we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us in lectio divina what it means to be members of His royal priesthood – a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.

:                              TWO APPROACHES to GROUP LECTIO DIVINA

1. Lectio Divina Shared in Community
(A) Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word (The Literal Sense)
1. One person reads aloud (twice) the passage of scripture, as others are attentive to some segment that is especially meaningful to them.
2. Silence for 1-2 minutes. Each hears and silently repeats a word or phrase that attracts.
3. Sharing aloud: [A word or phrase that has attracted each person]. A simple statement of one or a few words. No elaboration.

(B) How Christ the Word speaks to ME (The Allegorical Sense)
4. Second reading of same passage by another person.
5. Silence for 2-3 minutes. Reflect on “Where does the content of this reading touch my life today?”
6. Sharing aloud: Briefly: “I hear, I see…”

(C) What Christ the Word Invites me to DO (The Moral Sense)
7. Third reading by still another person.
8. Silence for 2-3 minutes. Reflect on “I believe that God wants me to . . . . . . today/this week.”
9. Sharing aloud: at somewhat greater length the results of each one’s reflection. [Be especially aware of what is shared by the person to your right.]
10. After full sharing, pray for the person to your right.
Note: Anyone may “pass” at any time. If instead of sharing with the group you prefer to pray silently , simply state this aloud and conclude your silent prayer with Amen.

2. Lectio on Life: Applying Lectio Divina  to my personal Salvation History
Purpose: to apply a method of prayerful reflection to a life/work incident (instead of to a scripture passage)

(A) Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word     (The Literal Sense)
1. Each person quiets the body and mind: relax, sit comfortably but alert, close eyes, attune to breathing…
2. Each person gently reviews events, situations, sights, encounters that have happened since the beginning of the retreat/or during the last month at work.

(B) Gently Ruminating, Reflecting   (Meditatio – Meditation)
3. Each person allows the self to focus on one such offering.
a) Recollect the setting, sensory details, sequence of events, etc.
b) Notice where the greatest energy seemed to be evoked. Was there a turning point or shift?
c) In what ways did God seem to be present? To what extent was I aware then? Now?

(C) Prayerful Consecration, Blessing (Oratio – Prayer)
4. Use a word or phrase from the Scriptures to inwardly consecrate – to offer up to God in prayer – the incident and interior reflections. Allow God to accept and bless them as your gift.

(D) Accepting Christ’s Embrace; Silent Presence to the Lord (Contemplatio – Contemplation)
5. Remain in silence for some period.

(E) Sharing our Lectio Experience with Each Other (Operatio – Action; works)
6. Leader calls the group back into “community.”
7. All share briefly (or remain in continuing silence).
One of the most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is lectio divina, or divine reading. In lectio divina, we begin by reading a few verses of the Bible. We read unhurriedly so that we can listen for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. We ask, “What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, or prophecy?” Listening in this way requires patience and a willingness to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s shaping.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for us, we are naturally drawn to prayer. From listening we move to speaking — perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting — this is the basic rhythm of divine reading.

GOING DEEPER
The simple process of Bible reflection known as lectio divina is intended specifically for spiritual nourishment. We often think of reading the Bible as a process of study. But there is a way of reading the Bible devotionally to satisfy spiritual thirst. Christians have long known a means of turning to scripture that transcends any time and culture-specific references, reaching into the reader’s present experience to facilitate spiritual growth.** Yet this older process has been set aside in the “rational” centuries from the Reformation (sixteenth century) through the Enlightenment (eighteenth century); that is, the time when a definitive split between sacred and secular emerged through dramatic changes in philosophy and the arts, politics and economics, trade and daily life. In general, our post-Enlightenment twentieth century tends to emphasize a historical and analytical approach toward any text. Systematic analysis of the scripture has yielded many valuable insights about events at the time of writing, the relationship between various editors, and the like. But these details have tended to overwhelm a more devotional method of presence to the scripture. While this approach has achieved many gains, it has neglected an older tradition that viewed the Bible as an aid to the spiritual life rather than chiefly a source of data or information!

It is now difficult for us to imagine what a devotional approach to the Bible might mean, much less how to go about it. Yet the ancient Christian art of Bible reading for spiritual growth has never been totally lost, and today it is gradually reemerging in several radically different Christian settings — from monastic communities in the United States to recently evangelized African Christians. Lectio divina offers a means of Bible reading available to all for spiritual growth.

The ancient Christian tongue twister name is lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-oh dih-vee-nuh). This Latin phrase literally translates into English as “divine reading” and refers primarily to the reading of sacred scriptures as practiced by the early Christian fathers and mothers. In Latin as in English, the adjective “divine” refers both to the material being read (the divine word) and the method of reading (an inspired approach). The Latin also carries a tradition of meaning that is vaster than the literal English translation suggests. Therefore, we continue to use the Latin phrase and usually shorten it simply to lectio.

Historically, both individuals and groups use lectio with much variation in actual practice. It focuses on the good word of God as revealed in divine scriptures, although it can be practiced on other readings of spiritual depth and on events drawn from daily life also. Lectio looks to the Bible as the word of God, a privileged text from which Christians receive continued nourishment. Yet lectio is not Bible study, for it involves neither an analysis of a scripture passage nor an emphasis on text information. Scripture study is an essential supplement to ongoing lectio but is not directly involved in this process. Above all, lectio is undertaken in the conviction that God’s word is meant to be a “good” word; that is, something carrying God’s own life in a way that benefits the one who receives it faithfully. Lectio turns to the scripture for nurture, comfort, and refreshment. Lectio is an encounter with the living God; it is prayer.

Lectio is a way of deep prayer, of encounter with God. Yet this mode of deep prayer differs from much modern practice. It involves reason and discursive thought, an inner exploration of meaning. It connects daily prayer both with the credal truths of the Christian tradition and with life’s current issues. Lectio fully engages the mind and the body as active partners in spiritual nourishment. Lectio has both an active mode and a receptive mode; both are essential to its practice. For example, the meditative lectio phrase is not the same as a mantra, which is intended to quiet mental thought in order to deepen spiritual centering. On the contrary, in lectio we use the gifted phrase as a means of interacting directly with the actual situations of life, evoking new images and possibilities that empower us to live in congruence with our faith. The lectio phrase is the fruitful word of God in the sense that Isaiah intends it:

For as the rains and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11, NRSV)

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word.[1] It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.[2]
Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.[3]
The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ.[4] In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.[5][6]

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to Origen in the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine.[7][8] The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict and was then formalized as a 4 step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II, in the 12th century.[3] In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of the Second Vatican Council recommended Lectio Divina for the general public. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.[9]

                                           The four movements of Lectio Divina
Historically, Lectio divina has been a “community practice” performed by monks in monasteries, and although it can be taken up individually its community element should not be forgotten.[16]

Lectio Divina has been likened to “Feasting on the Word.” The four parts are first taking a bite (Lectio), then chewing on it (Meditatio). Next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio). Finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).[21] In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.[5][6]

Unlike meditative practices in Eastern Christianity (such as hesychasm) which repeat the Jesus Prayer many times, Lectio Divina uses different Scripture passages at different times and although a passage may be repeated a few times, Lectio Divina is not repetitive in nature.[12][28]

Lectio: read

“ “… these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” — 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.[29]

The first step is the reading of Scripture. However, it is generally recommended to prepare for Lectio Divina, in order to achieve a calm and tranquil state of mind.

[2] The biblical reference for preparation via stillness is Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”[2] An example would be sitting quietly and in silence and reciting a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the reading of the Scripture that is to follow.[16]

The biblical basis for the preparation goes back to 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 which emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Word of God.[29] As in the statement by John the Baptist in John 1:26 that “Christ stands in the midst of those who seek him”, the preparatory step should open the mind to finding Christ in the passage being read.[30]

Following the preparation the first movement of Lectio Divina is slow and gradual reading of the scriptural passage, perhaps several times.[2] The biblical basis for the reading goes back to Romans 10:8-10 and the presence of God’s word in the believer’s “mouth or heart”.

The attentive reading begins the process through which a higher level of understanding can be achieved.[16] In the traditional Benedictine approach the passage is slowly read four times, each time with a slightly different focus.[2]

Meditatio: meditate

Although Lectio Divina involves reading, it is less a practice of reading than one of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit.

Lectio Divina does not seek information or motivation, but communion with God. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the “Living Word”

The second movement in Lectio Divina thus involves meditating upon and pondering on the scriptural passage. When the passage is read, it is generally advised not to try to assign a meaning to it at first, but to wait for the action of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind, as the passage is pondered upon.

The English word ponder comes from the Latin pondus which relates to the mental activity of weighing or considering. To ponder on the passage that has been read, it is held lightly and gently considered from various angles. Again, the emphasis is not on analysis of the passage but to keep the mind open and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire a meaning for it.

An example passage may be the statement by Jesus during the Last Supper in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you”.

An analytical approach would focus on why Jesus said that, the fact that it was said at the Last Supper, and the context within the biblical episode. Other theological analysis may follow, e.g. the cost at which Jesus the Lamb of God provided peace through his obedience to the will of Father, etc.

However, these theological analyses are generally avoided in Lectio Divina, where the focus is on Christ as the key that interprets the passage and relates it to the meditator. So rather than “dissecting peace” in an analytical manner, in Lectio Divina the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ. The focus will thus be on achieving peace via a closer communion with God rather than a biblical analysis of the passage. Similar other passages may be “Abide in my love” or “I am the Good Shepherd”, etc.[4]

Pray

In the Christian tradition, prayer is understood as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with God who has invited us into an embrace. The constitution Dei Verbum which endorsed Lectio Divina for the general public, as well as in monastic settings, quoted Saint Ambrose on the importance of prayer in conjunction with Scripture reading and stated:[31][32]

And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying.”

Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of using Lectio Divina and prayers on Scripture as a guiding light (cf. Light of the World) and a source of direction and stated:[9][31]

“It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path”.

Contemplate

Contemplation takes place in terms of silent prayer that expresses love for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines contemplative prayer as “the hearing the Word of God” in an attentive mode. It states:[33]
“Contemplative prayer is silence, the “symbol of the world to come” or “silent love.” Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the “outer” man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus.”

The role of the Holy Spirit in contemplative prayer has been emphasized by Christian spiritual writers for centuries. In the 12th century Saint Bernard of Clairvaux compared the Holy Spirit to a kiss by the Eternal Father which allows the practitioner of contemplative prayer to experience union with God.[34] In the 14th century Richard Rolle viewed contemplation as the path that leads the soul to union with God in love, and considered the Holy Spirit as the center of contemplation.[35]
From a theological perspective, God’ grace is considered a principle, or cause, of contemplation, with its benefits delivered through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[36]

How to Practice Lectio Divina
A step-by-step guide to praying the Bible
BY: Father Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.

Lectio divina is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures. Time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm, we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.

Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations, naturally intertwine with our meditations on the Scriptures. We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for God’s presence in the events of our lives. We experience Christ reaching out to us through our own memories. Our own personal story becomes salvation history.

How to Practice Lectio Divina
• Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the eucharistic liturgy for the day (find the readings here); others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God’s hands, not yours.

• Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite.. For some, the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
• Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightning or ecstasies. In lectio divina, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us ever more deeply into his presence.
• Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.
• Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to him what you have discovered during your experience of meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.
• Rest in God’s embrace. And when he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

Sometimes in lectio divina, you may return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your lectio divina, as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

Lectio Divina as a Group Exercise
In the churches of the Third World, where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common, in which a text from the Scriptures is meditated on by Christians praying together in a group.
This form of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people. A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing. The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.
The first reading is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart. When the word or phrase is found, the group’s members take it in, gently recite it, and reflect on it during the silence that follows. After the silence, each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.
The second reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text. Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day. Then, after the silence, each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”
The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being. Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week. After the silence, each shares for the last time, and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the right of him or her.
Those who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group. It also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more-formal group meetings.

 

 

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COVENANT DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS

    Methodism started and expanded the Methodist Societies which reach each, nurtured, and trained them to makes disciples, which they also enrolled to form other small groups of Methodist Societies. The on-going Covenant Discipleship Groups in the present United Methodist church is an adaptation of the early Methodist class meetings or Methodist Societies. 

We urge and challenge churches to start Covenant Discipleship groups in their congregations and community in fulfillment of the theme and goal this quadrennium: to “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the World.”

 

                                                    COVENANT DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS
Introduction
Covenant Discipleship groups are a contemporary adaptation of the Methodist class meeting, the small groups that were the method of Methodism. John Wesley describes the Methodist societies and classes as
…”a company of men (and women) “having the form, and seeking the power of godliness” (see 2 Tim. 3:5), united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their own salvation’ (see Phil. 2:12)

Covenant Discipleship groups help the church fulfill its mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ” Discipline Par. 121). Disciples are formed as Christ and his teachings guide their daily lives. This happens best in small groups. In weekly meetings group members “watch over one another in love”. They help each other become better, more dependable disciples.

Two great Commandments
Jesus summarized his teachings in Matthew 22:37-40:
“You shall love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” this is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandment hangs all the law and the prophets.

In the Covenant Discipleship groups, these two great commandments are applied through a General Rule of discipleship that shapes the life and work of the groups:
“To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” see Book of Discipline Par. 1116.2a)

Discipleship Basics
The importance of the General rule is the balance it maintains among all of the teachings of Jesus:
+ Loving God (Works of Piety)
Acts of DEVOTION AND WORSHIP
+ Loving Neighbor (Works of Mercy)
Acts of COMPASSION & JUSTICE

A General Rule
The General Rule of Discipleship is ju7st what it says: a general rule. It is not meant to be followed to the letter, quite simply because each disciple is a unique person, doing unique things for Christ.
These distinctive gifts and grace should be used to the fullest, not least because they will complement and enhance everyone else’s strength and skills. The Testament image of the Body of Christ is helpful in this regard:”Each part of the body contributes to the well being of the whole, precisely because each part is distinct yet inseparable. So it is with discipleship. Each of has a unique contribution to make to the whole.

Covenant discipleship Groups are….
• Up to 7 persons who meet together for one hour each week to hold themselves mutually accountable for their discipleship.
• Guided by a covenant that they themselves have written, shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship.
• Where Christians” watch over one another in love” by giving one another a weekly compass heading.
• Task-oriented gathering whose task is to help one another become better disciples.
• Trustworthy and effective means of identifying and nurturing leaders in discipleship for mission and ministry.
• Not where our discipleship happens, but where we make sure that it happens.

Covenant Discipleship Dynamics
• A process of question and answer give the leader a directive role.
• Groups have no permanent leader. Members take turns leading each week.
• The meeting begins with a prayer, then members works through the covenant.
• Members focus on the aspects of their discipleship that can be helpful to the other members.
• The covenant is the agenda.
• Meetings are one hour.
• At atmosphere of trust and sharing develops over time.
• Anything shared in the group is confidential and stays in the group.

Where Does Covenant Discipleship fit?
• Covenant discipleship groups are intended to be part of congregational infrastructure (see Discipline Par. 255.1b)
• Covenant discipleship is not a program. It is an ongoing ministry that form leaders for mission and ministry in the world. It is away for the congregation to make sure its members are doing all in their power to help one another “work out their own salvation” (Phil. 2:12) by7 increasing faith, confirming hope, and going on to perfection in ,love (see The UMC Hymnal page 38).

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Getting Started in Covenant Discipleship Groups
Introduction
Covenant Discipleship groups are a proven way for congregations to live into the mission of The United Methodist Church: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Covenant Discipleship groups are adapted from the early Methodist class meeting. The weekly practice of mutual accountability and support for living the way of Jesus in the world is the method of Methodism.
Because Covenant Discipleship is a contemporary adaptation of the method of Methodism, it is not a program. It is an ongoing ministry that is designed to help the congregation live into its mission of forming members into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who live as his witnesses in the world. Covenant Discipleship is designed to be an integral part of the congregation’s disciple-making system. Its goal is to form members into leaders in discipleship for the congregation and the world.
Covenant Discipleship groups are open to everyone in the congregation who is ready to be accountable for their daily walk with Jesus Christ in the world. They are for persons who are willing to show up every week for one hour to give an account of what they have done, or not done, to witness to Jesus Christ in the world and follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The groups are like a church choir. In most churches the choir is open to all members. The only condition is that they must be willing to take on the responsibility of regular attendance at weekly rehearsal and helping to lead the congregation in worship. Covenant Discipleship groups are open to everyone in the congregation who is ready for the discipline of a weekly one hour meeting, being intentional about following the way of Jesus in the world, and serving the congregation as a leader in discipleship. Members of Covenant Discipleship groups understand that their mission is to build up the body of Christ by watching over one another in love.
Introducing Covenant Discipleship groups to your congregation will require much preparation, prayer, and perseverance. The natural impulse will be to treat Covenant Discipleship like a program and simply offer the groups as one group among a menu of others. If you want your congregation to form the needed leaders in discipleship, this impulse must be resisted. You will need to gain the support and help of your pastor(s) and other key leaders. We urge you to follow the process for introducing Covenant Discipleship to your congregation found in Chapter 4 of Forming Christian Disciples: The Role of Covenant Discipleship and Class Leaders in the Congregation by David Lowes Watson.
Where to Begin
The first step to take is to get copies of Forming Christian Disciples: The Role of Covenant Discipleship and Class Leaders in the Congregation and Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation through Mutual Accountability by David Lowes Watson. These books provide all the information you will need to lead the Covenant Discipleship ministry in your congregation. The books will help you understand what Covenant Discipleship groups are and their role in the congregation’s life and work. They are filled with useful information that explains:
• the General Rule of Discipleship
• how to introduce the ministry to your congregation
• how to form groups
• the purpose of the group covenant
• how to write a covenant
• how to lead a Covenant Discipleship group meeting
• how to support existing groups and add new groups
• the role of the Convener
• how to add new members to existing groups
• answers to commonly raised questions and objections
Every leader involved with the ministry and each Covenant Discipleship group should have a copy Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation through Mutual Accountability.
Another useful resource is Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household by Steven W. Manskar. This book will help you understand the Biblical, theological and historic origins of Covenant Discipleship groups. It is ideal for small group study. You will gain a much deeper understanding of the groups and their role in the mission of the church after studying this book. A helpful group study guide is Lay Speakers are Accountable Disciples. While this is an advanced Lay Speaking course, it may also be used as a leaders guide for group study of Accountable Discipleship. This is an excellent way to introduce prospective group members to the ministry of Covenant Discipleship groups.
You will need to gain the support and participation of your pastor(s). We know from years of experience that Covenant Discipleship takes root and flourishes best when the lead pastor participates in the first group. When the pastor is actively taking part in a Covenant Discipleship this communicates the importance of the ministry to the rest of the congregation, especially the key leaders. The extra benefit of the pastor’s involvement is that the Covenant Discipleship group will help him or her become a better pastor because they will learn about discipleship from the laity.
Thank you for leading this important work of leading your congregation into the ministry of Covenant Discipleship. Please feel free to contact us at cdgroups@gbod.org or 877-899-2780, ext. 1765.
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Dynamics of Grace in Covenant Discipleship
One of the most difficult concepts to grasp in the Christian life is the discipline of discipleship, and for three very good reasons.
First, the word has a negative connotation in many parts of our contemporary culture. It is associated with the sort of upbringing which few parents would wish to impose today on their children; or with the rigid mindset of a dated militarism which most military personnel today would likewise wish to disown.
Second, the word has a negative connotation in the church. It has frequently been identified in Christian tradition with rules and regulations which, for no lasting reason, have denied church members the simple pleasures of life. And perhaps those of the Methodist tradition have felt more deprived than most in this regard.
The third, and more significant reason, is that the word troubles many deeply committed Christians, who feel that an undue emphasis on the works of the Christian life tends to denigrate the grace of God, which is properly the form and the dynamic of Christian discipleship.
It is this last objection which merits our attention in discerning the true purpose of Covenant Discipleship Groups.
We must begin with the very nature of Christian discipleship. The word disciple comes from a Latin word meaning one who learns. This was the nature and purpose of Christ’s relationship with his first disciples — to teach them about his work and his mission. This required commitment and obedience, for which Christ himself was the perfect role model. Throughout his ministry, he was committed and obedient to the God whom he called Abba, Father; not a blind obedience, but a faithful obedience, a trusting obedience, a consistent openness to the will of the One whose purposes alone could be affirmed as right and good.
It was this same obedience which Jesus taught his disciples (Jn.13:1 – 17:26). It was not restrictive, since it was grounded in a relationship of love. Yet because it would be tested (Jn. 16:16ff.), it required discipline in order to withstand the testing. True discipleship could not be the effortless elation of self-indulgent emotion; nor yet could it be the mindless obedience of self-alienating legalism. The realities of human sin and a fallen world required an obedience that is at once more gracious and demanding.
It is at this point that Wesley’s understanding of grace provides us with remarkable insight. He identifies the dynamics of grace as a constant tension in the Christian life. God makes endless, limitless initiatives towards us, inviting us, drawing us to be reconciled, so that we might enjoy the freedom which Christ so clearly described as the relationship of a large family. Yet God’s grace is so gracious that we are always given the choice of accepting or rejecting these initiatives; and our sinful habits are such that our first instinct is to reject them.
This is why so many of the hymns of early Methodism are couched in the language of resistance and surrender. For the critical moment in Christian discipleship is the decision to quit resisting, to accept God’s gracious initiatives, and to return to the family which is incomplete without us (Luke 15:4-7): His love is mighty to compel, His conqu’ring love consent to feel; Yield to his love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more.
Once we have made this critical surrender, the path of discipleship is the refining of our new relationship with God as we learn to be open to the gracious initiatives of the Holy Spirit. We have two major handicaps in this learning, of course: Our own residual resistance which, in spite of the indwelling grace of the Holy Spirit, subjects us to countless temptations and struggles; and the continued resistance of the world to God’s grace, with its misplaced wisdom, its entrenched injustice, and its chronic neglect of the poor and the powerless.
The challenge of Christian discipleship, therefore, is to learn to be open to grace, so that the freedom of our obedience to God can supplant the captivity of our self-centeredness, and thereby equip us to withstand the pressures of a sinful world. We learn this by trial and error — by discovering each day how to let grace come into our lives with more power, so that we can avoid the pitfalls of resistance in ourselves and in the world.
Here we have the purpose of Covenant Discipleship Groups. By asking ourselves each week what has happened in our lives, and shaping the questions around the time-honored disciplines of the Christian life, we learn from each other how not to say no to God, how not to resist grace.
This is not an exercise in rules and regulations, nor yet a pursuit of heightened well-being. It is a confident trust in the One whose business it is to save the world, and a deep devotion to the unfinished task.
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Introducing Covenant Discipleship Groups to Your Congregation

STEP 1: PILOT GROUPS
By far the most effective way of introducing Covenant Discipleship groups to a congregation is through pilot groups. These meet for at least a year, testing the format and preparing the congregation for the time when the groups are opened to the whole congregation.
A. Recruitment of Pilot Groups
1. Offer a general invitation to the entire congregation through several announcements from the pulpit, in the worship bulletin, or church newsletter along with copies of the Covenant Discipleship brochure.
2. In some cases the general invitation will not produce enough response to form a pilot group. A more intentional approach can be taken:
• Approach members of the congregation you think are ready to be accountable for their discipleship.
• Lead various groups in the congregation in a study for Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household by Steven W. Manskar. Following the study invite those who are interested to form the pilot group.
• Make a presentation on covenant discipleship to Sunday School classes, UMW, UMM, UMYF.
• B. Pilot Groups Meet For One Year.
During the year the congregation is informed regularly about the progress and experience of the pilot group members. This can be done through occasional presentations to Sunday School classes, offering testimony during Sunday worship services, meeting with the Administrative Board or Council, UMW, UMM, UMYF and others. Communication with the congregation during the pilot year is vitally important for successful introduction of covenant discipleship groups.

STEP 2: OPENING THE GROUPS TO THE CONGREGATION
Pilot groups should begin with the clear objective of opening covenant discipleship to the whole congregation approximately one year later. This will take the form of a special covenant discipleship weekend, and a date should be placed on the church calendar, with publicity arranged well in advance.
The Covenant Discipleship Weekend is the proven way of opening covenant discipleship groups to the congregation as a whole. By no means will everyone be ready to join a group; but it is vitally important that everyone be invited to join. In this way, the congregation as a whole can have a sense of ownership of this new dimension of their ministry and mission. Likewise, those who make the commitment to join a group can be affirmed in their decision, without the rest of the membership feeling that covenant discipleship is in any way exclusive.

THE FORMAT OF THE WEEKEND:
1. The Friday Evening Meal
On the Friday evening, it is a good idea to begin with a church-wide meeting–if practicable, a covered dish supper or a family evening with dessert or refreshment. After the meal, the pastor or a guest speaker may give an introduction to the concept of covenant discipleship, following which the pilot group members can talk about their experiences of the past year. Their testimonies are invariably the high moment in the weekend.
2. The Saturday Seminar and Role Play
On the Saturday, preferably in the morning, a training seminar may be held. This should have two sessions: first, an account of the theology behind covenant discipleship groups, along with something of their origin in the Methodist tradition; and second, a practical explanation of how a covenant discipleship group functions, with members of the pilot group inviting other participants in the seminar to join them in performing a short role play of a typical weekly meeting.
A good resource for the seminar is the video set, Fancy Footwork: Discipleship Wesleyan Style available by contacting the Director of Wesleyan Leadership (cdgroups@gbod.org, 877-899-2780, ext. 1765).
3. The Saturday Evening
When there is a guest speaker for the weekend, it is helpful to schedule a Saturday evening meeting with the administrative leadership of the congregation. The purpose of this is not to recruit them for group membership, but rather to ask for their support in accepting covenant discipleship as a new dimension of the ministry and mission of the congregation. The integration of the groups into the life and work of the church is vital to their purpose and effectiveness, and such a meeting can greatly facilitate that process.
4. The Sunday Worship Service
On Sunday morning, the weekend comes to its climax in the worship service, at which the invitation is made to the entire congregation to join a covenant discipleship group. The order of worship should indicate clearly that the focus of the service is to call persons to enter into a mutual accountability for their discipleship. The hymns should center on service and obedience to the will of God, and the text for the sermon should reflect the theme of working out our salvation–Matthew 21:28-32, for example, or Philippians 2:12-13.
There should also be a clear indication that there will be an invitation following the sermon to make a public commitment to a covenant discipleship group. This can be done by including in the bulletin a sample covenant of discipleship.
This is a suggested format for introducing accountable discipleship into your congregation. For more information it is strongly recommended you read Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household by Steven W. Manskar and Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation through Mutual Accountability by David Lowes Watson. These books are available from Cokesbury, and Amazon.com.
Members of the covenant discipleship groups are strongly encouraged to read and study Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation through Mutual Accountability by David Lowes Watson. This book provides practical information on how to write a covenant and lead the weekly meeting.

 

Covenant Discipleship Groups

A Covenant Discipleship group consists of five to seven people who want to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through mutual accountability and support. They meet once a week for one hour to pray and “watch over one another in love.” The group writes its own covenant based on the General Rule of Discipleship. Their covenant guides their discipleship and serves as the agenda for the weekly meeting.

The General Rule of Discipleship
To witness to Jesus Christ in the world,
and to follow his teachings
through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion,
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The General Rule of Discipleship encourages a balanced and varied discipleship. It is balanced among works of mercy (acts of compassion and justice) and works of piety (acts of worship and devotion). It also balances the personal (compassion and devotion) and social (justice and worship) dimensions of discipleship.
The General Rule of Discipleship represents a holistic and Christ-centered discipleship. It is like a tent held up by four poles. The tension on the poles needs to be equally distributed if the tent is to stand.
The Covenant
The General Rule of Discipleship is the starting point for the group covenant.
A covenant contains a preamble that makes clear that the clauses of the covenant are not a set of rigid regulations, but a shaping of Christian discipleship in response to God’s grace. It is recommended there be no more than ten clauses (to ensure that each member can address each clause within a one-hour meeting). The clauses should be evenly divided among acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion. The covenant is concluded by a short statement reaffirming its nature and purpose.
The emphasis of the covenant is our dependence upon God’s grace. It is grace that enables the disciple to witness to Jesus Christ in the world through living out the covenant. The covenant is not a set of rules. It is a guide for a life of faithful discipleship.

The Weekly Meeting
In a Covenant Discipleship group, a process of question and answer gives the leader a directive role; but there is no permanent leader. The leadership rotates, with a different member serving as leader each week. The format of the meeting is to begin with prayer, then to go through the Covenant, clause by clause, with the leader asking every member in turn, including himself or herself, to give an account of his/her discipleship during the past week in light of the Covenant. The duration of the meeting is limited to one hour. This requires a brisk pace and a focus on the agenda of the Covenant. However, as the group develops the skill of mutual accountability, sharing increasingly takes place in an atmosphere of trust and Christian fellowship.
To Keep Us Mindful of ALL the Teachings of Jesus
When asked which was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), Jesus summarized his teachings in two commandments:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The Covenant and weekly practice of mutual accountability and support help us to be mindful of all the teachings of Jesus: those that are convenient, as well as those that are not. It ensures that everyone’s gifts and graces are recognized and fulfilled. By the same token, it prevents us from deceiving ourselves about what we are/are not doing for Christ.

Learning and Living the Way of Christ
In Philippians 2:1-13 the Apostle Paul encouraged the church, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus …”. Disciples are students who learn a craft or way of living by following and listening to a teacher. For Christian disciples our teacher is Jesus Christ. The goal of discipleship is to learn the mind of Christ our teacher. We learn his mind by listening to him and following his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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Covenant Discipleship Groups: An Introduction

Mutual Accountability & Support for Discipleship
A Covenant Discipleship group is 5-7 persons who meet together for one hour each week to hold one another mutually accountable for their discipleship. Groups tend to form based on the day and time people are available for a weekly meeting.
There are no rules about the composition of groups. Many groups are composed of women and men together. Some are all men. Some are all women.
Groups are usually composed of people from the same congregation. But, particularly in the case of a multiple church charge or circuit, a group may comprise people from several congregations.
The purpose of the weekly meetings is mutual accountability and support for discipleship. The group is guided by a covenant they write, shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship:
To witness to Jesus Christ in the world
and to follow his teachings through
acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The covenant serves as the agenda for the weekly meeting. It keeps the focus of conversation on discipleship; what each member of the group has done, or not done, during the past week to follow the teachings of Jesus in their daily lives.

Weekly Compass Heading
Covenant Discipleship groups are where Christians “watch over one another in love” by giving each other a weekly compass heading. If you have ever used a compass you know that, when used with a map, a compass will point in the direction you need to travel in order to reach your destination. Occasionally, life and the world put obstacles and choices in our way that cause us to get off course. This is why it’s important to frequently check our map and compass so that we can get back on course and make progress towards our destination.
The goal of discipleship is to become fully the human beings God created us to be, in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Our map is the Scriptures which contain the teachings of Jesus Christ, summarized by him in Mark 12:30-31
… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. … you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Our compass is the General Rule of Discipleship. The mutual accountability and support that happens in the weekly meeting of a Covenant Discipleship group provides the regular compass headings that help us to make the course corrections need to keep us on the way of Jesus that leads to our desired destination.
Task-Oriented Gatherings
Covenant Discipleship groups are task-oriented gatherings whose task is to help each other become better disciples. Members are responsible for one another. Covenant Discipleship groups are one way congregations help their members to keep the “new commandment” Jesus gave to his disciples in John 13:34-35
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
One of the ways Christians love one another is by helping one another to become the persons God created us to be; by helping one another to become more dependable witness to and workers with Jesus Christ in the world.

Forming Leaders in Discipleship
Covenant Discipleship groups are trustworthy and effective means of identifying and nurturing leaders in discipleship for mission and ministry. It’s important to understand that the mission of Covenant Discipleship groups is to develop leaders in discipleship who help the church to faithfully live out its mission with Christ in the world. While individuals certainly receive great blessing when they participate in CD groups, those blessings are secondary to the main purpose of building up the body of Christ for participation in God’s mission for the world.
Congregations that take seriously their mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” need dependable leaders in discipleship. They are women and men who are intentional about their vocation of following Jesus Christ in the world. As members of Covenant Discipleship groups they form holy habits that open their hearts and minds to grace. Their habitual encounters with grace forms them into persons whose natural response to the world is love. They are leaders in discipleship because others see in them and the way they live and serve in the world embodiments of Christ’s love.

Forming Dependable Disciples
The weekly Covenant Discipleship group meeting is not where your discipleship happens, but it’s where you make sure that it happens the rest of hours of the week. The mutual accountability and support you receive in your CD group keeps you mindful of what you need to do as a follower of the way of Jesus Christ. The weekly sharing that happens in the group helps you to be intentional about doing the things Jesus taught his disciples: prayer, worship, the Lord’s Supper, reading and studying the Bible, doing no harm, and doing good to everyone. Over time these basic practices of discipleship become habits that transform your character into a reflection of Jesus Christ.
Dependable disciples are the people who lead churches in their mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Covenant Discipleship Groups Are NOT…
• Bible Study Groups
• Prayer Groups
• Encounter Groups
• Cell Groups
• Sharing Groups
• Neighborhood Groups
• Service Groups
• Advocacy Groups
• Growth Groups
• Outreach Groups
• Caring Groups
The dynamic of Covenant Discipleship groups is mutual accountability and support for discipleship. Group members certainly read and study the Bible. But when the group meets the conversation is focused on discipleship, with the group’s covenant serving as the agenda. Many groups open their weekly meetings by reading a passage of Scripture and with prayer. But Bible reading and prayer are not the primary purpose of the meetings. Rather, they are more likely to happen in the lives of group members because of the weekly group meeting.
Congregations need a variety of small groups that meet people where they are and help them to grow and mature in faith, hope, and love. Covenant Discipleship groups provide mutual accountability and support for discipleship in a way that forms persons as leaders in discipleship. Some may serve as leaders for Bible study, prayer, cell, service and other types of small groups that serve as part of the congregation’s disciple-making system.

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The Covenant Discipleship Group Meeting
The Leader Facilitates
The weekly meeting is a process of question and answer gives the leader a directive role. The leader offers a brief prayer and the group reads the covenant preamble in unison. The leader begins by giving his or her account of how she or he did with the first clause, or group of related clauses (acts of compassion, acts of justice, acts of worship, or acts of devotion). The leader then turns to another group member and asks, “How did you do with this (these) clause (clauses). After the person has finished hiving his or her account of that part of the covenant, the leader may go to the next person or he or she may ask a question to get the person to say more about their experience with that part of the covenant that week.
The leader determines gives each person an opportunity to give their account of how they did with each part of the covenant. He or she must also keep track of the time and make sure the group does not run over time too much. He or she also manages the time so that no one in the group monopolizes the time. It’s important to keep everyone focused on mutual accountability and support for discipleship in light of the covenant written by the group.

No Permanent Leader
Leadership of Covenant Discipleship groups is shared by the group. Members take turn each week. This way the task of leading week to week does not fall on the shoulders of one person. Shared leadership also helps members develop leadership skills.
If any group member does not feel ready to lead the group, that’s okay. Let them pass when it is their turn to lead. In time they will learn by observing their peers as they lead. In time they will take their turn with the others.
Finally, the last order of business of each meeting is determine who will lead the next meeting. Some groups set up a regular rotation of members. Others select weekly leaders from week to week. Either way is okay as long as everyone knows who is leading the next meeting.

Begin with prayer. Then go through the Covenant.
Leading a Covenant Discipleship group meeting is simple and straightforward. The leader opens the meeting with prayer. This may be a simple extemporaneous prayer or it may be a prayer from a book (The United Methodist Hymnal, The Book of Common Prayer, Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 52 Prayers for Today by Paul Chilcote are good resources for prayers.). The leader may include with the opening prayer reading a brief passage of Scripture. Some groups use Disciplines: A Book of Daily Devotions from the Upper Room.
Following the opening prayer, many groups read the Covenant preamble aloud in unison. Some groups read the entire covenant together. The unison reading centers the group in the business at hand and physically reminds them of the covenant, which is the meeting agenda.
The leader then walks the group through the covenant. This may be done several ways. The preferred way is to deal with each clause, one at a time. The leader always begins by giving his or her account of a clause and then inviting others to give their accounts in turn. This process is repeated until all the clauses have been covered.
The order in which the clauses are covered is up to the leader. Some like to start at the top of the page and work their way down to the bottom. Others may like to be more random and take the group through the covenant in no particular order. As long as the entire covenant is covered each week, the order is not really important.
One Hour Meetings
The group member leading any given meeting must always keep her or his eye on the clock. Meetings must begin and end on time. One hour. No more. No less. This means the leader is responsible for keeping the conversation focused on the covenant. It also means that the leader must help guide the conversation in such a way that each member has time to give an account of each part of the covenant within the allotted hour. More talkative group members need to be given gentle reminders to be brief in giving their account of each part of the covenant so that everyone will have time to participate within the hour.
Try to leave the last five minutes of the meeting free for members to briefly share prayer concerns. Then the leader concludes the time with a brief prayer, blessing and dismissal.
Be certain that everyone knows who will lead the next meeting before anyone leaves the room at the end of each meeting.
Covenant Is The Agenda
This means that the focus of conversation during the one-hour meeting is discipleship. In particular, the practices the group has agreed to incorporate in to their life together and individually contained in the clauses of the covenant. The leader in any given week needs to be mindful of this important dynamic. Occasionally the group will get distracted a comment or begin discussing recent events in the morning news or recent gossip in the church. When this happens the leader needs to gently intervene and bring the group back to the purpose of the meeting: mutual accountability for discipleship shaped by the covenant written by the group shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship. The covenant is the agenda. Limiting conversation to the agenda will help to maintain focus and keep the meeting to its agreed upon one hour time limit.
Develop an Atmosphere Of Trust & Sharing
Over time, as the group meets faithfully week after week, an atmosphere of trust and sharing will develop. This trust and willingness to share develops and grows when meeting leaders faithfully keep the weekly conversation focused on the discipleship contained in the covenant (the meeting agenda) and regularly begin and end each meeting on time. Trust is built when the discipline of accountability and support for discipleship is routinely maintained.
Confidentiality is also essential to build trust and sharing within the group. The group needs to agree from the beginning to keep confidence with one another. This means that all that is said in the group stays in the group. Nothing that is said in the group meeting may be mentioned to anyone else, ever. No group member should ever hear something he or she said during a meeting outside the context of the group. Confidentiality within the Covenant Discipleship group helps to build trust and deepens the level of accountability and sharing.
Catechesis: Question and Answer
“The most important reason for the sharing of leadership is that the format of the group meeting is what the early church called catechesis, a process of questions and answers. In other words, the distinctive dynamic of covenant discipleship is a dialogue between the leader and each member of the group. This is how the primitive Christian community taught its new members and its children: the catechist was the questioner, and the learners were called catechumens. To this day in a number of denominations, learning one’s catechism is still the first step toward being accepted into full church membership.
“Of course, cont content of the catechesis in covenant discipleship groups is practical rather than doctrinal. But the method is the same, and it is a good one. It means that important aspects of Christian discipleship are first of all agreed and written into the covenant. Then the leader appointed for the week voices them and asks each member to do likewise. In this way the axioms of living a Christian life are written, heard, and spoken.
“A good illustration of this dynamic is what happens in an airplane cockpit before takeoff. There is a basic checklist—so basic that most pilots prior know it backwards. Yet the routine is established. However well they know these basics, the pilots go through them, one by one. They read them out to each other, they physically check that each control is properly set, and they say out loud that they have made the check. The procedure is rudimentary yet very necessary, for human error is always a real possibility.
“How much more, then, should Christians do the same for their discipleship. After all, serving Jesus Christ in the world is the most responsible duty assigned to human beings in this world. It surely merits meticulous checking, for human error is an ever-present possibility” – from Covenant Discipleship by David Lowes Watson (pages 145-6)
The Covenant
Once a Covenant Discipleship group has formed and the members have agreed on a day and time to meet, the first task is to write a covenant of discipleship. The covenant will serve as the agenda for the weekly meetings. The covenant follows the pattern of the General Rule of Discipleship:
To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This will focus the covenant on all the teachings of Jesus rather than on the strengths or preferences of the group members.
The covenant has three essential sections:
1. A preamble
2. Clauses covering particular acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion everyone in the group is willing and able to do.
3. A conclusion
You will find sample covenants, preambles, clauses, and conclusions here: Several points about these sample clauses are worth noting. First, while they are arranged according to the categories of the General Rule of Discipleship, not all of them can be clearly defined as acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion. Indeed, in many instances there is considerable overlap and duplication.
This illustrates an important principle of the General Rule of Discipleship, and of Christian discipleship: We should not get caught up in method for its own sake. It is far more important to have clauses that are meaningful and relevant to the Christian life than to have clauses that are neatly classified. When we walk with Christ, we are on a journey with a real person; and while the teachings of Jesus give us important guidelines, our discipleship will always be relational and, therefore, full of surprises.
Another point worth noting is that a number of clauses illustrate ways in which the ongoing accountability of Covenant Discipleship groups deepen the insight and conviction of its members. This is reflected in clauses that become more specific and challenging either in the frequency or by the directness with which the clause identifies particular practices. Some of the examples indicate this development. This is not an expression of over achievement but merely an indication that grace is at work in the lives of the group members as they chew on the solid food of the gospel.
One final word, these examples are included in the hope that they can assist you in writing your covenant. They are certainly not meant as rigid rules for your discipleship or that of you group. Together you must develop your own covenant, which Christ as the model for discipleship; and the Holy Spirit as your guide.
The Preamble
The preamble states the nature and purpose of the covenant. It makes clear the covenant is not a set of rigid regulations but rather a shaping of Christian discipleship in response to God’s grace. The writing of the preamble often raises significant points of faith and practice, so it is important to encourage members to express opinions freely as the preamble is developed.
You may write your own preamble or use one of the samples found here:. If you use one of the sample preambles, feel free to change the wording to fit your context. If you choose to write your own preamble, the process may take several weeks. But it is important to avoid getting caught up in discussions around minor details.
Because writing the preamble is typically the most difficult part of covenant writing, I suggest you write your covenant clauses first. The process of discussing and coming to consensus on the clauses helps the group get to know one another. It is good preparation for the work involved in writing the preamble.

The Clauses
Although there is no hard and fast rule, covenants typically contain eight to ten clauses. Groups should limit themselves to no more than 10 clauses. This will assure that all group members will be able to give their account of each clause within the allotted hour meeting time. A good guideline to follow is to make sure that your covenant fits on one side of one 8½ X 11 inch piece of paper (1″ margins, 12 point font).
The clauses reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ as summarized in the General Rule of Discipleship. The most important guiding principle for the group as you write the clauses is to limit them to works of piety (acts of compassion and justice) and works of mercy (acts of worship and devotion) that everyone is willing and able to do and to include as regular practices of each persons’ discipleship.
A helpful principle to keep in mind as you begin to write your clauses is: “Begin where you are, not where you think you should be.” A common mistake new groups make is to fill their covenant with acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion they think they should be doing. For example, some members of the group may be of a mind that faithful disciples of Jesus Christ should pray and read the Bible for at least two hours every day, just like John Wesley. However, the likely reality is that daily prayer and Bible reading itself will be a challenge for many in the group. Committing to two hours of prayer and Bible reading every day is likely more than most group members are willing and able to do. They will come to meeting after meeting and admit to their peers that they did not keep that clause. If the covenant has several similar clauses that are beyond the willingness and ability of most of the group members, some will begin to feel guilty, some will feel like failures in discipleship. These disciples will conclude that this Covenant Discipleship process is just too hard and they will quit. To prevent this from happening it’s important to resist the temptation to fill the new covenant with clauses that members are not actually willing and able to incorporate into their practice of discipleship. It’s okay to include in your covenant works of piety and mercy that are already part of your regular practice. The difference now will be that the Covenant Discipleship group will help one another be more dependable disciples.
To return to the illustration of including a clause that says “We will pray and read our Bible two hours each day.” A more practical way of reaching the goal of regular daily prayer and Bible reading is a clause like this: “We will pray and read our Bible every day.” This wording leaves it up to each person to decide how much time they spend each day in prayer and Bible reading. Begin where you are, not where you think you should be.
The covenant clauses must reflect the balanced discipleship contained in the General Rule of Discipleship. This means the group needs to identify particular acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion everyone is willing and able to include in their practice of discipleship. It is essential that the covenant is written in a way that helps the group to follow all the teachings of Jesus. Our natural inclination is to emphasize our preferences and strengths and to neglect the teachings of Jesus that may lead to embarrassment or suffering. We’d rather stick to practices that suit our temperament than do things that move us outside our comfort zone. However, when we commit to following Jesus in the world, we need to understand that he will take us to places and to people who will be outside our comfort zone. He does this because when we follow Jesus into places and the company of people who challenge us our hearts become more open to grace and its power to form our character more and more into the character of Jesus. We also need to always remember that Christ goes with us to places like the homeless shelter, hospital, nursing home, jail, soup kitchen, etc., etc. In fact, he is there waiting for us.
Making the commitment to regularly engage in acts of compassion and justice (works of mercy) is the first step to removing the blockage to grace and allowing grace to flow into and through you. It is the first step to becoming the people Jesus describes in Matthew 5:13-16, “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.”
Groups are strongly encouraged to place the clauses in their covenant in the same order given by the General Rule of Discipleship. This means that the first clauses will be the acts of compassion; followed by the acts of justice; followed by the acts of worship; followed by the acts of devotion. One reason for this is that all groups have the most difficulty with practicing acts of justice. Their natural unease with this important part of the covenant causes them to deal with it last and place it at the end of the clauses. Scripture makes very clear that justice is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is why it is placed near the top of the clauses when the order of the General Rule of Discipleship is followed. Acts of compassion and justice are together because they are closely related to one another. They describe in practical terms what John Wesley called “works of mercy.” They are the “holy habits” Christians take on to follow Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Following the “works of mercy” are the “holy habits” Wesley called “works of piety:” acts of worship and devotion. They are the practices that equip Christians to follow Jesus’ first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
The order is not intended to indicate that any of the practices are more important than the others. Rather, it is a practical reality that “loving your neighbor as yourself” with acts of compassion and acts of justice is much more challenging and difficult than loving God through acts of worship and acts of devotion. Therefore, Covenant Discipleship groups are strongly encouraged to begin their weekly accountability with the more challenging parts of the covenant; the parts that some in the group would just as well skip.

The Conclusion
The covenant conclusion is a short statement reaffirming the nature and purpose of the covenant. It expresses the intent of the group to shape their lives according to the covenant and reaffirms their dependence upon grace. Covenant Discipleship groups are not striving to maintain standards of performance. They are seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus in their daily lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The covenant conclusion should be no more than a sentence or two in length. Some groups word it in the form of a prayer that can be used as the closing prayer for the weekly meeting. Here’s an example: Open my eyes to your presence, O God, that I may see the sorrows and joys of your creatures. Open my ears to your will, O God, that I may have the strength to keep this covenant. Open my heart and my hands in mercy, O God, that I may receive mercy when I fail. Amen.
When the group has written its covenant each member is given a copy. All members sign and date the covenant. The completed covenant is then brought to every meeting. Some groups reduce their covenant to a small laminated card, making it convenient to carry in a pocket or wallet.

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How to Write a Covenant With Your Covenant Discipleship Group

After a Covenant Discipleship group decides when and where to hold the weekly meeting, their first task is to write the group covenant. Writing the covenant together helps the members to learn more about one another and produces the document that will serve as the group’s agenda.
As the group begins its covenant writing process there must be an agreement of mutual respect among the members. The process requires that the members respect and listen to one another. Because there must be consensus about every part of the covenant, members must be willing to compromise. This requires openness to negotiation. Of course, the entire process must be supported by prayer and openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The covenant is shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship:
To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This General Rule serves as the framework around which the covenant is built by the group. The group covenant puts flesh on the bones of the General Rule. It is a statement of how the group intends to follow Jesus Christ in the world.
A simple five step process will help your write its covenant:
Step 1: The Introductory Meeting
The first meeting is lead by the pastor or a lay person who has experience in Covenant Discipleship groups. The leader gives a brief overview of the General Rule of Discipleship and the structure of the group covenant: Preamble, Clauses, & Conclusion. Distribute to the group copies of Covenant Discipleship: Christian Formation Through Mutual Accountability by David Lowes Watson. This book will serve as a valuable guide for the group.
At the conclusion of the meeting the leader tells the group to think and pray about the acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion they are willing and able to day and want included in the covenant. Each member is to bring to the next meeting four clauses: an act of compassion, an act of justice, an act of worship, and an act of devotion he or she is willing and able to practice and to give a weekly account.
Step 2: The Clauses
The materials needed for this session are four pieces of newsprint, post-it notes, pens, and masking tape (to hang the newsprint on the walls around the room). At the top of each piece of newsprint write, in large letters, one of the covenant categories: COMPASSION, JUSTICE, WORSHIP, DEVOTION. Hang the newsprint sheets on the wall around the room.
Distribute post-it notes to each member of the group. You may want to have four different colors, each corresponding to the four categories of clauses: compassion, justice, worship, devotion. Instruct group members to write each clause on one post-it note. When they have finished writing, place the notes on the appropriate newsprint sheet. Acts of compassion go on the sheet titled COMPASSION, acts of justice go on the sheet titled JUSTICE, etc.
After everyone has placed their post-it notes on the four newsprint sheets, instruct everyone to go to each sheet and read all the clauses posted there. Group together clauses that are very similar. Repeat this process until all clauses have been sorted.
In my experience the group will find much duplication of clauses. This tells the groups what is important to the group. The task remaining is to edit the similar clauses into one clause. Repeat this process until the group has reached consensus on at least one clause in each of the four areas. There should be no more than two clauses in each area.
Most groups following this process will reach consensus on all the covenant clauses in no more than two meetings.
When the group has completed their clauses, instruct the group to think and pray about the covenant preamble. Each member is to bring with him or her to the next meeting a proposed preamble.
Step 3: The Preamble
A process similar to the one described above is used for writing the preamble. The only difference is that only twosheets of newsprint is needed and a supply of slightly larger post-it notes.
At the beginning of the meeting distribute large post-it notes to the group. Ask the members to write the preamble he or she has brought to the meeting on the post-it note. When they complete their writing, each person posts their preamble on the sheet of newsprint. After everyone has posted their preambles invite the group to silently read the collected preambles. Look for common phrases and ideas.
On a second piece of newsprint write phrases and ideas found in the collected preambles. The group then begins a process of editing until the preamble is completed. This will usually be finished in one meeting. If needed, finish the preamble writing at the beginning of the next meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting that completes the writing of the covenant preamble, tell the group to bring to the next meeting a one or two sentence conclusion for the group covenant.
Step 4: The Conclusion
The process for completing the preamble conclusion is identical to the preamble writing process. Most groups will finish their conclusion in a single meeting.
Step 5: Signing the Covenant
When the group has reached consensus on every part of the covenant, it is ready for everyone’s signature. Print a master copy of the covenant for everyone to sign and date. Copies of the signed covenant are then distributed to the group.
A copy of the signed and dated covenant should be given to the pastor and posted on a bulletin board in the church and on the congregation’s web site. Everyone in the congregation should be able to see the covenant. This helps everyone to know that Covenant Discipleship groups are an expression of the congregation’s mission of disciple-making and leader formation.
Points to Note
• A single leader should lead the group through the covenant writing process. The ideal leader is someone who has experience participating in Covenant Discipleship groups. This provides continuity for the writing process.
• Limit your covenant to no more than 10 clauses. Clauses should be balanced between all four areas of the General Rule of Discipleship: acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion. Your covenant should fit on one side of a single 8 ½ x 11 inch size piece of paper with one inch margins and 12 point font. If your covenant spills over to a second page, the group must edit it down to fit only one page.
• Keep clauses concise and specific. This practice keeps the covenant practicable. Avoid generalized clauses. For example, “We will endeavor to oppose injustice.” This is much to general. A better clause is “I will communicate regularly with elected officials regarding issues of justice.” or “I will join with Amnesty International to write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience.” Rather than make general statements, state what the group is willing and able to do to follow Jesus’ teachings.
• Begin where you are, not where you think you should be. Avoid including in your covenant acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion you think you should be doing. Rather include only acts everyone is willing and able to do now. It is okay to include practices you are already doing. The group will help you to be more disciplined in your practice because everyone will give a weekly account.
• Place the clauses in the same order they are named in the General Rule of Discipleship. This means the first category of clauses to appear in the covenant is the acts of compassion, followed by the acts of justice, worship, and devotion. This assures that the acts of justice, which are always the most difficult and frequently avoided, will remain at the top of the group agenda.
• A slightly modified version of this process may used when it is time to revise your covenant. We recommend groups evaluate and revise their covenant at least once a year.
• Following this simple process will help your group to complete its covenant in no more than four meetings. It’s okay if you need a meeting or two more. This process assures that everyone’s voice is heard and contributes to the covenant writing process. When everyone participates equally, everyone is invested in the success of the group.
Sample Covenant Clauses

of Compassion
• I will seek out people in need and do all I can to help them.
• We will strive to increase our service to others and graciously acknowledge others’ service to us.
• I will go two miles for a sister or a brother who asks me to go one.
• I will spend one hour each week visiting a lonely person whom I would not ordinarily visit.
• I will spend four hours each month helping the disadvantaged in my community.
• We will balance the time we devote to school, church, work, family, and friends, including our own spiritual and recreational life.
• I will spend an hour each day with my children.
• I will spend some time each day with each member of my family in meaningful communication.
• We will practice listening to other people as a ministry of grace.
• I will express feelings of genuine appreciation to at least one person each day.
• We will each establish a meaningful relationship with someone in prison and, where possible, with their families.
• I will get to know at least one poor family.
• I will offer friendship each day to someone of an ethnic background different from my own.
• We will encourage our congregation in its missional giving, and do this by personal example.
• I will seek to help a family in need somewhere else in the world.
• I will eat one less meal each day and give the money to feed the hungry.

Acts of Devotion
• We will practice daily devotions, including the reading of scripture and prayer for group members.
• I will spend at least one hour each day in the disciplines of praise, thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession and meditation.
• I will pray daily in solitude and with my family or friends. I will include all the members of my covenant discipleship group in my daily prayers.
• I will keep a diary to plan my daily and weekly prayers.
• We will make the study of scripture a central part of our daily devotions.
• We will agree on our daily Bible readings and share our insights as we give an account each week.
• I will record the spiritual insights of my daily Bible reading.
• I will read the Bible each day as a devotional exercise and not a study assignment.
• We will each keep a spiritual journal and will devote time at the end of each day to enter our reflections as the Holy Spirit leads us.
• I will spend at least 30 minutes each day alone with God, of which 15 minutes will be spent just listening to God.
• I will pray each day for my enemies.
• I will take the initiative each day in holding family devotions.
• I will read only those materials and watch only those programs which enhance my discipleship.
• I prayerfully pledge to practice responsible stewardship of my God given resources: my body, the environment, my artistic graces, and my intellectual gifts.
• In order to care for our individual wholeness in body, mind and spirit, we will schedule time each week for retreat, reflection, renewal, and fun.
• Knowing that my body is the temple of God, I will prayerfully plan my work and leisure time.
• I will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in fasting.

Acts of Justice
• When I am aware of injustices practiced in my church, my community, my nation, and the world, I will speak out.
• We will not be silent when confronted with social injustice, and we will witness for justice, inclusiveness, and equality and will encourage reconciliation wherever possible.
• I will actively support a movement for world peace, and will communicate regularly with my elected national representatives on issues of world peace.
• I will get to know at least one unemployed person, and I will communicate regularly with my elected local representatives on issues of unemployment and economic justice.
• I will get to know at least one person of a different ethnic background at my place of work.
• We will become more aware of social situations through attention to the news (newspapers, television, magazines, radio).
• I will ask forgiveness of God each day for those who die of starvation, and I will work to alleviate world hunger.
• We will become an advocacy group for prisoners of religious and political conscience.
• We will devote our daily Bible study to the eighth-century prophets for the coming year.
• I will dissociate myself from racial slurs and jokes at my place of work.
• I will express disapproval of racial, social, and sexual prejudice among my relatives and friends.
• We will practice responsible stewardship of the world’s resources in the context of our personal lives and communal commitments.
• We will each take action to improve our relationship with our natural environment.
• I will strive for unconditional love and acceptance of all God’s creations.
• I will pray every day for the coming of the reign of God.

Acts of Worship
• I will be faithful in attendance and participation in worship each Sunday.
• I will receive the sacrament of Holy Communion each week, when possible in my Covenant Discipleship group.
• We will prayerfully consider what resources we can contribute to the work of Christ in the world.
• I will return to Christ the first tenth of all that I receive.
• We will pray for those who lead us in worship each week, and especially for the preacher.
• We will pray for those who visit our worship service, that they will be touched by grace.
• We will pray for those who are baptized in our church and visit the parents of baptized children.
• We will seek opportunities to worship with people of other races.
• I will develop the habit of worshiping three times a week: Sunday, Wednesday, & Friday
• We will seek ways of bringing God’s word alive during worship.
• We will seek to worship God in unexpected situations.
• We will attend and participate in healing services.
• I will pray earnestly for God to bless those who either enter our church or pass by its doors.

Sample Covenant #1

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. God intends to save us from sin and for lives of love to God and neighbor. God has called us and the Spirit has empowered us to be witnesses of God’s kingdom and to grow in holiness all the days of our lives. We commit ourselves to use our time, skills, resources and strength to love and serve God, neighbor and creation, trusting God’s power through these means to make us holy.

Acts of Compassion
• I will actively seek out ways to show compassion and care for all people and all of God’s creation.
Acts of Justice
• I will witness for justice, inclusiveness, and equality, and encourage forgiveness always and reconciliation wherever possible.
• I will actively support a movement for world peace with justice, and will communicate regularly with my elected representatives on these issues.
Acts of Devotion
• I will spend time daily in reading scripture and offering prayer, including praying for enemies, and include the members of our covenant discipleship group in our daily prayers.
• I will care for my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Acts of Worship
• I will faithfully join in corporate worship each week unless prevented.
• I will offer my resources faithfully to support the work of God’s kingdom, beginning with the local church with which I am affiliated, with the tithe as my guide. Resources interpreted broadly to include money, time and talents.
Open my eyes to your presence, O God,
that I may see the sorrows and joys of your creatures.
Open my ears to your will, O God,
that I may have the strength to keep this covenant.
Open my heart and my hands in mercy, O God,
that I may receive mercy when I fail. Amen.

Name:_________________________________________
Date: ________________

Sample Covenant #2

Knowing that throughout history God has entered covenant relationships with his people, and because we are called by God to be and make disciples of Jesus, we form this group. Our covenant provides the framework for a balanced spiritual life, enabling us to be better disciples. With God as our guide we promise to approach one another honestly in a spirit of Christian love, and to provide accountability and encouragement to grow in faith.
Acts of Compassion
• Realizing that Jesus has called me to give my life to him and at the same time that I am to live in the world, I will seek to balance the time I devote to church, work, family, friends, strangers and recreation. I acknowledge that my spiritual needs (prayer, quiet time, worship) must be met to totally live for Him.
• In my interactions with others I will practice listening and improving communications.
• I will be alert for opportunities to reflect Christ on a daily basis.
Acts of Justice
• When I am aware of injustice, I will take action as I am led by the Holy Spirit.
Acts of Worship
• I will be faithful in my worship each week.
• With gratitude for God’s goodness to me, I will be faithful in my giving.
• I will participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion each month.
Acts of Devotion
• I will practice daily devotions (the reading of scripture, meditation, prayer, including special prayers for group members) always listening for God’s direction for my life.
Spiritual Promptings and Warnings
• I will remember that whatever I do is dedicated to God.
• I will listen for God’s voice and watch for God’s presence in my life.

Trusting in grace, I pledge to support each member as I leave the confines of comfort in my search to do God’s will in the world. By affixing my signature to this document, the singular “I” becomes the communal “we”.

Name:_________________________________________________
Date: _________________

Sample Covenant #3

In gratitude for the grace of Jesus Christ, in whose death we have died and in whose resurrection we have found new life, we pledge to be his disciples. We recognize that our time and talents are gifts from God, and we will use them to search out God’s will for us and to obey. We will do our best not to compromise the will of God for human goals. We will serve both God and God’s creation earnestly and lovingly. We respect and accept fully all group members, who integrity and confidentiality we will uphold in all that we share. With God’s grace and their help, we make our covenant.

I* will spend four hours each month helping the poor people in my community.
When I am aware of injustice to others, I will not remain silent.
I will obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit to serve God and my neighbor.
I will heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit not to sin against God and my neighbor.
I will worship each Sunday, unless prevented.
I will receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion each week.
I will pray each day, privately and with family or friends.
I will read and study the Scriptures each day.
I will return to Christ the first tenth of all I receive.
I will prayerfully care for my body and for the world in which I live.
I hereby make my commitment, trusting in the grace of God to give me the will and the strength to keep this covenant.

Name: ______________________________________

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