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Are groups of 3 or 4 of the same gender the most effective way to create a transparent, reproducing, relational environment for transformation into Christlikeness?

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Greg Ogden would say "Yes." His Discipleship Essentials and other works are based on the triad being the best size. Jesus was effective with 12 (but His inner circle was a "triad" with John and Peter). Others, Moon and Bryan Smith might say a small group can also be effective. I would say being male/female adds to the effectiveness in some ways too. The historic monasteries replicated Jesus group of 12, so there is some evidence of success there as well. I think being open to the Holy Spirit working and speaking and forming regardless of size is the key, that said, smaller is always better for intimacy and accountability.

Hiya Doug,
That's a tough question to consider. Coming from a background where several men got together and began a process of accountability to each other (in a church of 150), to watch this small group grow to well over 150 men in less than two years (church grew to well over 500), I can almost say YES.

But, this accountability is pretty much where it stopped. There was no hard-core time together in the Word. It was primarily a prayer/accountability/social club to make sure each week we adhered to several aspects of the Gifts of the Spirit (Gal 5).

I believe IF this group would have been together is deep study of the Word, as well as the rest, I could answer your question with an unequivocal and resounding YES.

I am Blessed to say I am in a group (para church group) that have completed two of the three criteria you present. We are in the process of "reproducing" and sending out invitations and are delighted to wait upon the Lord to continue His Will as He sees fit. (In our group we like to use the term - replicate)
We need not only small groups but personal time with a person who has been there. There is also a need for corporate worship. When young Christians walk into a service and that is their only exposure to Christ and obedience that is almost nothing. That is their view of Christianity and not what scripture teaches. When the person meets with someone one-on-one they begin to open up and the person can be dealt with on a personal level.
Yes, and behind all loving evangelism and then discipleship is that one-on-one connecting . . . as modeled best by Jesus Himself. This "model" is what many successful ministries are based on, including for example Young Life, where we "earn" the trust and respect first through loving and connecting, then Jesus is revealed in our lives, it is only then that the "message" is presented in words. Nothing like vulnerability, availability and love to draw others to the Savior.

I think that what is key to any small group or discipleship group, regardless of size, be it 3-4 or 12, is that it is centered around Scripture.  Often it seems that groups centered on people and their prayer needs, as Jeremy H mentioned, groups diverge into social clubs.  Scriptural fellowship seems to be best defined as mutual encouragement and edification centered around the Bible, the classic texts being Heb 10:24-25 and almost anywhere in 1 John [if I may be a little tongue-and-cheek].  However, we often overlook the obvious: we are gaining our definition of fellowship from the bible.  We are called together in Christ by faith through the written testimony passed down to us  from the Bible.  The best thing Christians have to talk about is Who God is and what He has done for us in Christ according to the Scriptures  (I Cor 15:3-4). 


I confess, I'm a little off-topic, for the issue here is about size of a group for maximum impact.  But I think the centrality of Scripture in a discipleship group is the first or second most important element of a discipleship group because by having the group thusly orientated, you keep the right Person as the focal point of the group, the Triune God Himself, and in turn, provide the ripest opportunity for another to engage the group: the Holy Spirit.  At that point, I guess every discipleship group has to have at least five persons, three of them divine and at least two seeking the other three.


- Timothy

While I think it appropriate to have my wife with me when ministering to a female, I don't think gender should undo an opportunity to disciple in a class setting. Where the discipleship trainig is one on one, gender does matter and the spouses should be included if it is to be done at all. The small group is of utmost importance as you need time, it should be interactive and prayer should be at the beginnig, end and sometimes accomplished during class. Proper curriculum, Christ centered, well prepared, theme focused materials should be used. While accountability is important, The Holy Spirit is primarily responsible for convicting and this is not the primary focus of Discipleship. Yes, it is necessary and important, but we need to focus on teaching and mentoring, and simply lead and live by example.

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