I’ve been co-leading a small group at our church for the last year. In this time, I’ve learned that to lead effectively you have to constantly be looking at the spiritual growth of those in your small group as well as your own growth. For me, it has been difficult and even a little frustrating to understand where people are in their spiritual journey. In our group, we have people that are in vastly different stages, which makes it difficult to know how to create a discipleship plan that works for everyone. In addition to that, there is no possible way I can meet with all of them individually on a regular basis.

One of my goals for the year was to find a few women whom I could meet with regularly. Learning how to improve my relationship with the people in my small group and how better to serve and lead them has been something that I’ve strived towards. Recently, I started meeting with a couple of the women in our small group twice per month. I didn’t have a plan and it seemed overwhelming because I wasn’t sure how to do this well. I knew that I wanted to pour into them and help them grow, but knowing where to start was tricky.

During one of our recent small groups, I was teaching on discipleship and how we as Christians are called to make disciples. I told them that our small group wasn’t just so we could get together, but our goal was to disciple them. This is a core principle for all of our groups. We’ve even gone so far as to make our mission to “make disciples who make disciples.”

After I finished teaching on discipleship, I had my small group take the Disciple Labs spiritual health survey. A few weeks later I decided to follow up with the women I was meeting with to discuss their results. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how well the conversation would go. I started the conversation by asking what areas they were doing well in as well as the area where they needed the most work.

It is also important to note that I discussed my own results from the survey with them. Transparency is paramount for a leader during this process because you are asking the same transparency in those you’re meeting with. Without transparency, there is no trust.

Once we discussed what they needed to work on, I asked them what they could do to improve in that area. At first, they responded with good, but vague answers. So I probed more and asked them to pick one big thing they could do to improve. They wanted to come up with multiple things, but I told them they could only pick one big thing. This frustrated them, but they were able to do it. Both of them said they needed to read their Bible consistently and that having someone keep them accountable would help.

Based on the ideas they came up with we decided on a strategy to go through a YouVersion Bible plan together. The YouVersion Bible app has made this so much easier for leaders. Recently, they added the ability to read Bible plans with your friends. This lets you see if a person has read for that day and my favorite part is that it allows you to share comments with those reading with you. This enables you to connect with people in your small group every day just by reading the Bible together.

It’s still early on in the process, but so far it is going great. The first Bible plan we chose was “Why Does God Love Me?” I like this plan because there isn’t a devotional attached to it to tell you what to think about the Scriptures. Each of us has been commenting every day about what the Lord has been telling us about a certain Scripture or what we found interesting. It’s been helping all of us understand the depth of God’s love for us. It has also been incredibly insightful into how the women that I’m meeting with process God’s Word.

The plan we chose was rather short, only 5 days. At first, I wanted to do something longer, but I think that overwhelmed them. However, we already chose another Bible plan to start right after the first one ended. The next one we will complete is the “Immersion into Colossians.” I’m excited to see how well this one goes. My plan from there is to continue using Bible plans together on a regular basis.

As a small group leader or a leader of any ministry, pouring into our people is incredibly important. Knowing where each person stands in their walk with God helps to provide them with personalized next steps. In the coming months, we’ll take the Disciple Labs health survey again as a group and reevaluate what we need to focus on. While I’m excited about the progress we’ve already made in a short time, I know that we’ve got a long road ahead. Personal discipleship may be messy at times, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.