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
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)
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).
Getting Started in Covenant Discipleship Groups
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-899-2780, ext. 1765.
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.
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 (email@example.com, 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 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.
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.
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.
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)
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 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.
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 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.
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
• 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.
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”.
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.