Have you ever encountered a difficult time in your life when you just needed an outside voice?

I can often mistake my inner voice. And it can actually be the voice of the accuser. Christian community can help us hear the voice of truth; the voice of the Holy Spirit. It can happen in corporate settings or in small groups. We can also be in conversation with one or two other Jesus followers and hear His voice crystal clear. The group’s size is not a limiting factor. In church history we discover a variety of settings in which the church has demonstrated where the voice of the Holy Spirit has spoken, been heard, and discerned. Small groups have been especially used by God to help people hear and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Especially today, where young people are being challenged by so many divergent voices, an environment that is uncluttered and clear is needed. Where care, concern, and compassion are elevated.  Where words, when needed, are kind. Where confrontation is done with love and grace. Where people can meet in circles and not rows, making real connections that go beyond the superficial. When silence on important issues can be broken once a safe place has been created. Small groups can serve all of these purposes.

John Wesley is a model and mentor for us in the church today. Holiness groups were the forerunner of the small group movement: Serendipity Groups, Navigator 2:7 Discipleship Groups, Life Transformation Groups, Discovery Bible Studies and Three/Thirds Groups, an micro churches to name but a few.

I want to revisit a historical account of John Wesley’s Band Societies for a sense of how he forged the foundations of a movement that led to revival in England and beyond. The rules of these Band Societies can be helpful to inform and inspire the ways in which we foster pastoral care, spiritual growth, and accountability in our small groups.

Wesley’s Rules for Band-Societies

Drawn up December 25, 1738.

The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed..

To this end, we intend.

  1. To meet once a week, at the least.
  2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
  3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
  4. To speak, each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
  5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present.
  6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.

The actual questions that are used in the Band Societies will vary – as long as the four following occur at every meeting.

  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
  2. What temptations have you met with?
  3. How were you delivered?
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

These questions, when asked with genuine concern and care for one another in the context of Christian relationships, can help us identify and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Reflection Questions to Assess your Disciple Making Communities

  • What is the purpose for our small groups?
  • What are the components that comprise your small group meeting?
  • Now review the actual fruits or outcome you are achieving from your groups?
  • Circle the things that your existing groups are achieving: assimilation, fellowship, discipleship, Bible study, application.
  • Which ones do you want more of?
  • Which ones do you want less of?
  • Which ones can you eliminate and no one would notice?
  • If you could re-launch your small groups, what would you like them to look like?
  • What support do you currently provide your small group leaders?
  • What support is missing?
  • How could you improve the type of support you are giving to your leaders?

How were these questions helpful for you? What would you add?



Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash


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