The Direction for Small Groups in the United Methodist Church

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2018

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Abstract

Today the United Methodist Church faces a sharp decline of spirituality in general, and of church attendance in particular. Attendance at Sunday worship service has steadily decreased. In addition, those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” has certainly increased. Compared with the 1900s, it is more difficult for people today to believe in God because of the wide-ranging effects of secularism. Modern people find truth within themselves, rather than from a transcendent source.

Many small groups in the United Methodist Church aim to overcome this condition of secularism. Examples of such groups are the Covenant Discipleship group, the Disciple Bible study group, and the class meeting. To better understand whether these groups are able effectively to respond to contemporary needs, I conducted a survey of twenty-one churches in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church that sponsored Covenant Discipleship groups or Disciple Bible study groups. This thesis investigates whether small groups (a Covenant Discipleship group and a Disciple Bible study group) are effective in spiritual growth and church growth. In addition, it uses the theory of the class meeting, which Kevin Watson reclaimed in his book The Class Meeting and the concept “mutual accountability” to present the direction for small groups in todays’ United Methodist Church.

As this thesis argues, a Covenant Discipleship group somewhat helps to recover the language for speaking of a living, breathing relationship with God. A Disciple Bible study group is also an effective way to change the locus of the authority from the self to the Word of God. However, these groups have limitations. While they are effective for supporting discipleship, they are seldom willing to foster conversation about deep matters such as a person’s relationship with God, with one another, and with the world. On the other hand, a class meeting deals with the basic question “How is it with your soul?” By sharing our spiritual status and being accountable for the growth of the relationships—as the class meeting seeks to do—our faith will grow into maturity in the Lord.

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Doctor of Ministry

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Oh, Intek (2018). The Direction for Small Groups in the United Methodist Church. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20180.

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