Rev. Lisa McGehee is an ordained deacon serving Good Shepherd (Richmond) as Associate Minister. Her specialties include Adult Discipleship and Communications.
Small groups, bible studies and support groups are opportunities to meet people where they are on their faith journey. At Good Shepherd UMC (Richmond) our Discipleship ministry has grown from seasonal studies to multiple groups meeting weekly, including a new grief support group and a Mental Wellness Ministry. What steps can you take to grow a vital Discipleship ministry so that people can develop their relationship with God and live as faithful disciples in the world?
- 1. Pray – seek God’s guidance – “without a vision the people will perish” – without God’s vision for Good Shepherd’s Discipleship ministry we would not be able to discern topics, leaders and needs of the congregation and community.
- 2. Ministry Team – it takes a village of people to implement and grow a small group and support group ministry – again, pray. Ask God to reveal potential leaders that have a heart for growing in their faith. Who in your congregation has the gifts of encouragement, faith, discipleship and/or leadership? Who has offered to lead a small group or bible study? For support groups, who has expressed a passion for an area of support, i.e. grief, divorce, mental health wellness? Invite them to join you in praying and seeking where God might be nudging them to become involved.
- 3. Vision – come together as a ministry team and seek God’s will for your congregation and community. What does faith formation mean to you? How do you define discipleship? What are the needs of your community? For the past two years, Good Shepherd has been in a time of discernment and Strategic Design. Throughout this process we sought God’s vision for all areas of ministry. We prayed together and listened to one another about the ways our lives had been transformed through the ministries of Good Shepherd. We also reviewed data from The Fullnsite Report available through the Conference. This report was one way we discovered the needs of the community. We learned that 33% of our neighbors were seeking support in the areas of addiction, recovery, grief, parenting development, marriage enrichment and mental wellness. Additionally, 34% were seeking prayer and bible study groups. We added these needs to our prayers.
- 4. Discernment – equipped with prayer, stories and data, our Becoming (Discipleship) Ministry continued to discern how we could best live into God’s call on our community of faith. This discernment occurred during several meetings in the summer. We went back to the vision for Good Shepherd to be “a place where lives are transformed through grace.” Grace and hope are the foundations for all that we offer at Good Shepherd. We heard that our congregation had embraced Sunday School, small groups and bible studies for all ages but the missing link was topical support groups. Parents of children and youth desired to gather to support one another. Those grieving the loss of loved ones and those who were experiencing mental wellness situations sought faith-based support. From these conversations and prayer, we discerned that for 2016-17 we would offer a grief support group, a divorce support group, develop a Mental Wellness Ministry, and offer parenting support groups for parents. These opportunities would be available for the congregation and the community.
- 5. Implementation – we continue to surround these new ministries in prayer. The grief support group began in September with three facilitators and eight participants (with an equal number of congregation members and community participants). An information session was held about the ministry and the three facilitators each shared that because of their own experiences with grief and healing they felt called to the ministry. A group of mental health professionals, school leaders and staff have developed a plan for a Mental Wellness Ministry. A sermon in September kicked-off the ministry which includes an information page on our website (gsumcrva.org/mentalwellness) and partnering with the local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to offer support groups. Our Children and Youth Ministries are partnering with parents to discern support group models that will fit their needs.
We are excited to see not only the development of these new initiatives but how lives will be transformed through the healing grace of God.