It is easy to get in a rut. Here are a couple of small group prayer ideas. Experiment with them in your group. Share your experiences and other prayer ideas. “Let us spur one another on...”
October 23, 2012 0 1 comments
A quality Koosh ball is my favorite tool to illustrate small group the communication opportunities and challenges.Buy a Koosh ball. Take the ball to your group and throw it around.
October 16, 2012 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The Bible Study group/small group that I am part of has decided to study the book "the Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn. I have mixed feelings about this book being an appropriate one for use as a Bible Study. In my opinion the passage of Isaiah 9:10-11 is only loosely connected with the book. I am...

October 6, 2012 0 1 comments
Small Group leaders dream of lively discussions with lots of interaction. Here are a few tips for leaders to use in leading small group conversations.
September 25, 2012 0 2 comments
“A couple years ago we built a discipleship and leadership development system for our whole congregation. But when we implemented our new discipleship system, it flopped. Creating and implementing a workable discipleship system for the whole congregation is very difficult.”
September 11, 2012 0 2 comments
We are still in the early stages of this small group experiment, but so far the results have been great. As pastors, we feel the congregation is more involved and interacting with the weekend messages. The format means that we don’t have to create something new – it flows out of what we are already doing. 
September 4, 2012 0 0 comments
With all the choices of small group options, why choose sermon based small groups? Two selling points are: 1) it allows people at a variety of spiritual stages to dig deeper than a thirty minute message, and 2) it takes little preparation for either the facilitator or the group member.
August 28, 2012 0 7 comments
Imagine small group leaders and teams standing as scarecrows over our groups and ministries to guard against Satan’s assaults. Farmers place scarecrows in gardens because the farmer expects birds to go after his seeds. It is naïve of us to not be ready for Satan’s attempts to wreak havoc in our Christian communities.
August 14, 2012 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Last week I blogged about adding mission and service to your small group. We reviewed some of the benefits that an infusion of mission can provide your group. These benefits included a deeper level of community (communitas) and opportunities for many different gifts and abilities to be used...

August 7, 2012 0 0 comments
Things got exciting around our congregation this summer. Two things happened specifically with our youth group. First of all, they went on a mission trip to Logan County, WV to work with Disaster Relief Services in the wake of the floods of this spring. It was a great trip where they worked hard, often under difficult conditions. The second thing that happened was even more unusual. Plastic flamingos began appearing in front yards throughout our community.
July 31, 2012 0 1 comments
What do you do? I am a “facilitative, organizing catalyst who brings energy, creativity andpassion to change or development-oriented efforts (catalyst) through building structures, methods or programs (organizing) that equip, empower or provide tools for growth (facilitative).” That is a mouth full.  
July 16, 2012 0 4 comments
The CRC that nurtured my growth as a child taught me that Jesus saves and is present for me to reach out to in prayer in times of need. There were also lessons about discipleship that the church of my childhood never taught me. 
July 10, 2012 0 2 comments
The Coffee Break idea started forty years ago and has grown into a missional movement of the CRC and many other denominations. Hear are some themes that might ignite kingdom growth in Coffee Break and small groups today.
June 26, 2012 0 2 comments
Small groups are small organizations. Small Groups and leaders can envision, model and practice spiritual transforming patterns. Jesus did that with his disciples. He led with prayer and dependency on the Word of God. He sent them out to do what he did, then brought them back for debriefing. The disciples followed...
June 19, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Melissa is a mom to active young children and her husband works long hours. She felt like her life was spinning out of control. Convinced that she’d keep perspective if she could to find even minutes alone with God, she asked her triad to hold her accountable to do that. She now finds regular...

June 11, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

God’s call to make disciples is undeniably clear. The strategy of how to go about disciple making can sometimes get fuzzy. Well-designed small groups of 8 – 12 are great environments for spiritual growth until the primary objective is lost and the natural tendency towards social fellowship...

June 5, 2012 0 6 comments
How does Alpha work? Alpha is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, where guests can explore the meaning of life and ask questions in a non-threatening, relaxed setting. The traditional Alpha course is 10 weeks long and includes a day or weekend long retreat half-way through the course. Alpha is simple and includes...
May 29, 2012 0 0 comments
Looking for a way to mobilize more people in evangelism in 1999, a few of us at church stumbled on to the Alpha Course. We were drawn to it because it offered a simple way to involve people in bringing the Gospel to their friends. We got a small pilot group together, followed the instructions, and went for it. 
May 21, 2012 0 0 comments
A metaphor that has helped me understand and lead small group ministry is this: Growing a small group discipleship ministry is like growing a garden. Small group coordinators and leaders must ask gardening questions. How would you answer these questions about your small group ministry? 
May 14, 2012 0 3 comments
"Time flies when you're having fun."  I guess I would say that would be my mantra too having been the guide of the Network's Small Groups section for some sixteen months or so.  I don't know where the time went. And now that I'm moving on I thought I'd just do a little reflecting.
May 7, 2012 0 1 comments
The Sonship material comes in various formats, some which are shorter and less intensive than others. When considering how to use Sonship, it should be noted that more is better. However, being exposed to the material in any of several formats has value.
April 25, 2012 0 0 comments
Read an interview with Todd Murphy, a pastor who has incorporated the gospel into his own life and the life of his church. Learn how people who have been in the church all their life have been dramatically changed. In addition, discover how outreach is radically different when people in the church believe and live out the gospel in their own lives.
April 17, 2012 0 0 comments
Sonship is written and taught from a Reformed perspective, and it moves our great theological truths from our heads into the nitty gritty of life. Its perspective is life changing and practical and sets a foundation for other forms of discipleship.
April 9, 2012 0 18 comments
Discipleship. Spiritual Formation. Christian Formation. Spiritual Transformation. Missional Discipleship… Have you heard these terms and wondered which each meant?
April 2, 2012 0 0 comments
I know for myself that I lead by doing and coming alongside potential and present leaders to encourage, support and train them.  It is usually the case that when there is a lack of leadership it is because there is no environment or atmosphere of leadership development happening in the church.
March 27, 2012 0 0 comments



Thanks Drew.

I'm very interested in following your posts.   

We have used Ascending Leaders' materials in our church in a variety of ways - formal discipleship courses, informal triads and small groups, individual study and supplement for preaching series. The flexibility of the material and the rich content make for a wonderful resource to help people grow in their character, something that is really lacking in our churches today. I have grown in my faith using AL's materials as well. I highly recommend "Christ Habits", "Spirit's Fruit" and the other AL resources for spiritual formation in your church.

Did  you know that "scarecrows" occur in Jeremiah's description of false idols (at least in the NIV and NRSV - Jer. 10:5; KJV has "palm trees")? I remember doing a sermon on "Scarecrows in a mellon patch" once -- partly because both the sound and imagery of that phrase seemed irresistable. In that context it becomes a picture of something that is not very effective. Since Satan is not easily detered, the metaphor of armor in Eph. 6 (of "fortress" often in the Psalms) makes a stronger image. But any recognition of the need to defend against the attacks of Satan is worthwhile. Thanks for the reminder!

posted in: Scarecrows

Nate - thanks for your blog and being willing to field questions.

Thank you for your response Daniel.  The answr to your question is "yes" and "no." 

Yes: I agree with the "process" concept of discipleship,  that one never finishes and that Scripture provides a framework of various roles which we would think would match up with the process of one's maturing as a disciple. I first read Bill Hull's Disciple Making Pastor 25 year ago and agreed wholeheartedly. 

No: Between roughly 1987 and 2001 I wrestled with how to practically do this in congregational ministry. I found it easier to agree with, than to implement. Our material is meant to be quality content to help people practically move forward well on the discipleship journey. While you would find our that our materials assume a process perspective on discipleship as taught by the NT, they do not teach such directly. We try to use more Jesus model of sending people into growth. Thus the process and materials simply gets people going in quality growth.

I hope that adequately answers your question. 10,000 people is tremendous!!! May God use you to teach 10,000 more. Over the last 7 years, roughly 6,000 have used something of our material. A growing disciple is a good and beautiful sight to behold!

Michael,  I have been a "disciple-making pastor" for 25 years.  It has been the most explosive part of my ministry.  Over 10,000 people have been directly, and indirectly affected by this "organic" multiplying ministry.  Pastors and "apostolic leaders have been raised up."   Disciplemaking is often engaged as an effort to make better disciples, more committed, intense, dedicated followers---Far less often has it been taught about Disciple-making--as a method of growing through teaching,  My materical focuses on the Apostlic methods of Paul, John and Peter.  IThes 2:7-13; II Tim 2:1-2; I Jn 2:7-10; and II Peter 1:3-8;    The apostles knew about stages of a disciples growth toward maturity----baby, child, brother, parent, elder, pastor, apostle.  

Just wondering if your material focuses on this reproductive aspect of disciplemaking?


Thank you gamaoli for your gracious words of affirmation. We desire to provide CRCs and other churches with a tool that works well to grow people of character and impact (growing, active disciples). It sounds as if we were successful in your case. We are grateful.

Ascending Leaders is GREAT and what growth potential there is for each of us with this course of study.

My first serious introduction to spiritual disciplines was through "Christ Habits", a study produced through Ascending Leaders. Actually, I've gone through it twice with two different groups. I refer back to the materials often as I continue to be "in training" as one of Jesus' disciples, rather than just hoping to be one. The more I practice spiritual disiplines, the more I change and grow. This study was also my first introduction to triads. I have not found a better way to go deeper into the Word and each other's lives.

Thanks for this article, Sam. I'll be co-directing for the second year this year at AACRC and find reviewing the five missional themes of Coffee Break helpful. Five of our seasoned Coffee Break leaders have stepped down in the last couple of years and we've been thinking about how we could recruit new leadership from the women from our church who have been attending Coffee Break for a number of years. After reading Marian's comment below I am wondering if their workshop is open to women of other churches and what city in Ontario they are located and also what resources are available from the Coffee Break ministry staff?

Good to see you!


Thanks Sam,

This is a great summary of the discussion, and of the main themes of Coffee Break.  I've been thinking a lot about the Leadership Development piece, and about how we might continue to grow the Leadership of women, in our churches.  In Ontario, we're planning a Women's Leadership Retreat for the end of September, for any woman who wants to grow in her leadership, and in whatever she believes God is calling her to.  If you're interested in this retreat, please send me an email

Also, it might be helpful Sam, to post this conversation on the Coffee Break forum as well!  Are you able to do that?  Or I could do it, with your permission.



I love that Ogden uses the term "hot-houses" for these optimum environments for growth. That term certainly applies to the triads and quads at CenterPointe.

Yep! I learned the power of triads by going through Ascending Leaders Christ Habits study. It was a great introduction not only to triads, but to spiritual disciplines. I recommend it!

I cut my small group leadership teeth on coffee break and men's life.  Yes, believe it or not, coffee break for a man.  I was 20 and assigned to lead a Bible Study for people far from God in a national park.  I asked my mother in law, a long time coffee break leader, what she recommended and she gave me a coffee break book. Then I began using Men's Life materials while an intern shortly after they came out in the late 80s and again had the joy of having people far from God in my groups. Coffee Break had within it the seeds that sprouted, more fully developed in other ideas later. For instance, while coffee break and later men's life introduced the ideas of confidentiality and bonding, those ideas have grown up and it is TRIADS/QUADS that create the optimum environment for that to happen.

Thank you Ruth, for this gentle and insightful piece. Yes, comfort and confidentiality are high on the list. We learned so much of  this in Coffee Break and God was the inspiration for all of that. Blessings in your work...stay in touch.

Right on Ruth. You know I have been a believer in triads/quads for years and can tell many stories as evidence of their power. I was in a quad this past Tuesday night with a 30 year old converted Muslim, a 60something man and a 50something man. There is where we get down to the heart of it all. I could tell you some cool stuff from it, except what is said in our quad stays in our quad so I am sworn to confidentiality.

Very interested in looking into this strategy for discipleship.  Looking forward to next week's article.


Sounds like a great plan for your discipleship garden. I noticed that you started with the blessing of your council and that your leaders participated in the first group. I'm wondering if this is a key principle to the success of any discipleship strategy that a church develops. When the elders, deacons and key leaders own the strategy it will more likely take root! Next week's guest blog from Dave Huizenga will have more about this idea.

Thanks for your input in the conversation! 

Hi Sam (and Allen), in a few weeks, we will be completing one year of foundational gardening... hoping that a process of intentional discipleship/disciplemaking can take root in our suburban racially diverse garden/congregation. This process slowly took off with the full blessings and knowledge of the pastors and Council. (I replaced my previous contributor's photo/portrait with that of our first discipling group, aka DG-1.) Except for two, the group is composed of elders and deacons. To get started, we used Greg Ogden's Discipleship Essentials workbook. We slightly amended and wrote our own "My Discipleship Covenant" to which DG-1 members responded with increasing faithfulness, commitment and passion to help disciple others. Through the 8 months when we met Wednesday evenings, group members were convinced Biblical discipleship was not simply acquiring knowledge as important as it is BUT to more so obey and live out the essence of Matthew 28:18-20. In February, DG-1 members "graduated". To date, we have a second group of senior high schoolers plus two new adult members. DG-1 members were willing to help others in the discipleship process but only a few stepped up. With the few, we're trying to be faithful and diligent with what we need to do.

After almost a year of foundational work for our chruch's discipleship garden, I and my DG-1 friends had learned a lot. Most of these lessons are nothing fancy nor new. We simply returned to the elemental ways how Jesus made disciples. When we met as a small group or in our triads, we said we were at the feet of the Lord listening with intent and purpose. For my friends and myself, the 8-month process (which we firmly believe could have only been led and blessed by the Holy Spirit) brought us into a host of life and character changes, notably the passion to help others become disciples.

Having been myself discipled through the Navigators ministry in the Philippines, a heart and vision for intentional discipleship and disciplemaking had taken root, and had not been lost. For years, this was not the main thing for me. These days, may this be for me and for the others in our church. May the Master Dsiciplemaker be honored as we labor together!!

Sam, I'm looking forward to more in this forum. Thanks for your and Allen's work.

Thanks Sam,

I look forward to reading more and hope to hear more about how other churches are making disciples.



Thanks Allen for taking us along for the ride.

Tim Brown... wow!  lots of interesting  controversies about grace, gospel, faith leading to sanctification, assurance, etc., etc..  in the links you provided   but the bottom line for me is simple.   Saved by grace through faith.   and then, "shall we sin more, so that grace may abound?"   Christ talked more about obedience, than He did about grace.   Although He exhibited grace in his life and actions.  And in his death and resurrection.  

Lately, I've heard the quote, "judge not, that you be not judged", used as a way of muting the commands of obedience.   It is a way of neutering the authority of elders and pastors.   It is often used as a way of reducing the commands of Christ in our daily lives.  

We can debate the theological precepts forever, but the bottom line is that our desire to follow Christ is always fighting with our sinful nature.   We are sinful saints.   When we stop fighting against that sinful nature, then sin wins.   Pray for the Spirit to fill us, to win the victory over the daily sin in our lives.  Scripture says that no one who follows Christ continues to sin.   Don't make excuses for it, and don't try to justify yourself in your sin.    Believe it and do it right.   

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

For what it's worth, "Sonship" teaching has been somewhat controversial within Presbyterian circles, not because of its name but because of its theology.  Number 19 in this paper by John Frame gives some of the background:  An account of a conference on "Sonship and Sanctification," which included presntations "for" and "against" is:

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thanks for a good review Diane! The ten months my wife and I spent going through the Sonship material with Drew Angus was one of the most profound experiences in our spiritual growth. As a pastor of 15 years and student of discipleship and leader development, I highly recommend this course. The material is solid, reformed in its approach, and carries out its goal of personal transformation. I wish more CRC folks were aware of this rich resource. As Drew pointed out, WHM's more recent "Gospel Centered Life" is also an excellent course and more user-friendly for small groups and newer Christians.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I have tried to send this as a pesonal email through the network site, but it won't go through, so I'm posting it here. . .

Hi Allen,
Read your last post and wanted to take it "off-line", so that the back and forth between us doesn't get circular :)
I understand your final post and appreciate that you have a responsibility to moderate that thread. I also agree that the issue will not be "resolved" in any text-based, on-line dialogue. However, your previous post (at 3:02) gave me the impression that my comments were not welcome, that they "distracted" from the "real" conversation we should be having, and that I should take them somewhere else.
Your further post clarified in a more effective way, for me. They were less personal (i.e. not directed specifically at me) and I understood that you heard my comments, not just that you wanted them to stop.
The conversations did not seem circular to me, as they were responses from different people, with different emphases.
It's difficult to have a real conversation online. I bless you in your role. I trust, in general, it's more 'fun' than 'friction'. :)

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I get that and I think your point was clearly made early on.  And I have no problem with dissenting dialogue, but that issue won't get resolved here but has been highlighted. Points were made and stated and it looked as if it may continue becoming circular or ad hominem in nature.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I believe that the conversation about language and how we tell the story should be part of every thread, so that we think carefully about how we use language and how we engage with those who may not know the story, or may feel that the story doesn't apply to them.

I commented on this thread because of both the language/wording of the title of the material and because of the content of the recommended study.

But, you have made your point and I will agree to disagree. However, if we can't have a dialogue with dissenting voices, it's not much of a conversation.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I think we should be shouting that God loves people.  I'm afraid that the focus of egalitarianism is side-tracking any discussion regarding the quality and content of the curriculum that others -- as have been vocal here -- have appreciated, both male and female.  To dismiss a curriculum strictly on the title being perhaps "outdated" would be a grave misfortune and perhaps suggesting one's own passionate agenda is more important than the value in the progam and the main point; discipling others into a closer walk with Christ and thus reaching others for the kingdom.

While I agree words are important and how we use language, the nature of this thread is in regard to the content of the curriculum and not "words" per se.  I believe the discussion on the use of language in our denomination belongs somewhere else on the Network but not this particular thread.  It is becoming clear that that discussion is not going to be resolved here.  And as the current guide I do not want the thread to stray from its intent.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that we can argue about words until the cows come home. We are not talking about the word 'man', we are talking about the word son.

And quoting a list of scriptures does not prove your point.

The english word 'son' is exclusive and does not reflect the witness of the whole story of scripture or of the life and witness of Jesus.

If we agree that God loves the female that he made and there is no distinction in his love between male and female, then we should shout that story from the rooftops. We (those who have the responsibility of telling this great story) should not make those who don't know the story work so hard that they have to twist their language to fit in. They should not have to learn a secret code about what we "really" mean by the word son. . .wink wink. . .in order to get the point.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

We can argue about words till the cows come home.   Fact of the matter is that "man" is often used to mean mankind,  which includes boys, and girls, and women, and men.   When the term is used, it implies an equality in significance of all of the human race, genders, ages, colors, languages, ethnicities.   Trying to remove that meaning, is simply highlighting the differences rather than the similarities (which is the exact opposite of your intent).  

It is quite obvious that "sons" refers to both males and females.  See below. 

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Romans 8:14
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:19
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

Romans 9:26
and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Galatians 3:26
[ Sons of God ] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,

Galatians 4:6
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Hebrews 2:10
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
   Hebrews 12:1
[ God Disciplines His Sons ] Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Are you advocating that we take whatever words we find in the modern english translations of our bible and make them mean whatever we like? Son means male. Sonship means relationships between parent and males. Adoption is more inclusive and applies to both male and female.

Sonship is exclusive, not inclusive. And regardless of whether you would like it to be inclusive, or not, it speaks to inequality, not its opposite.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

An interesting concept, Greg.  More bible based than "self-based".   That both men and women can be "sons of God" seems to be much more egalitarian than our present day concepts of gender equality.  It leaves no room for distinguishing any kind of difference between sons of God and daughters of God, in terms of God's love and salvation for us.    Thanks for your words. 

posted in: What is "Sonship"?


Really?  The concept of adoption including the full rights of sons for male and female is offensive?  For Paul, the awesome news of the gospel was that all of us, male and female, could share the full rights of sons (Romans 8:14, 19 etc).  This means we get the full inheritance!  It is a concept that needs to be explained, but not forgotten in a struggle over language.  Sonship describes and defines the incredible love given to us in adoption.

This  discipleship course is about understanding God's love and grace in Christ so as to apply it to every area of life.  In other words, it has nothing to do with "lording it over others."   It emphasizes humility brought about by repentance and faith.  I struggle to see how such biblical concepts are out of date.  

I can positively affirm that the Sonship material has been an incredibly powerful tool of transformation in my life, in the life of my wife, and within my congregation.  It has opened the hearts and minds of many to see the radical, life-transforming power of the gospel.  It has changed the language of our church to be focused on repentance, faith, forgiveness, reconciliation, and gospel-inspired evangelism.  In other words, this discipleship program has brought authentic revival and renewal to a congregation that desperately needed it.  

So what does it teach?

1.) Cheer up, you are a lot worse than you think.  The first third of the course deals with our need for the gospel.  This message is not merely the key to heaven, but the key to authentic Christian living.  Theologically speaking, the first third of the course deals with the topic of total depravity so as to pastorally affirm our current need for the gospel.  It points to repentance and faith as the true marks of faith.  It focuses on how we do so many things to change the subject so we do not have to deal with our need.

2.) Cheer up, God loves you more than you think.  The second third of the course deals with the good news of the gospel.  It pastorally applies the concept of justification by faith to every area of life.  This section continues to probe deep within our hearts to illuminate how the Love of God allows us to give up the idols of control, addiction, anger, and lust which are nothing but cheap substitutes for God's grace and love in Christ.

3.) Cheer up, God can use you more than you can imagine.  The last third of the course deals with application of the gospel.  The material includes the topics of forgiveness, how to engage in constructive gospel-centered conflict, and gospel-centered evangelism.  

All of these topics are firmly within the Reformed faith, but so often we forget them.  This discipleship course is a reminder of what adoption is all about.  

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Thank you for the background - I did understand the biblical reference and the emphasis on adoption and the freedom that comes from being united with Christ. I'm not surprised that a study on this topic, with the intensive, mentored approach that you mention would be effective.

Yes, there were many books published before and during the years when gender equity issues were nascent and beginning to be better understood. That is no reason to continue to use this kind of language. Books and print materials of all genres are regularly re-issued with new and/or edited material, with new covers and imagery and with different titles and by-lines. This is a common and effective method of updating material that has become out of date.

If the publisher wants to continue to promote this material, they should change the title. And we should not purchase or promote material that is insensitive to this issue. We should, instead, be telling the publisher that, no matter how good their material, we won't buy it with that title.

While it may be only one instance of demeaning language, it points to the still deeply imbeded use of words that hurt and disenfranchise. We could strive to do better. We should take every step possible to lift up the radical insistence of the gospel - we are all one in Christ, and none should lord it over the others.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

Some responses have confirmed my fear that individuals would reject the material based on the title. Words matter, and I should have be more sensitive with my explanation.  It is also true that actions speak louder than words. I can only speak to my experience, but as a woman I have found that those who have been discipled by and who live out the principles of this material have not been demeaning toward me. In fact, they have encouraged me to use the gifts that God has given me.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that adoption does include everyone and that the title `Sonship' is not inclusive. My ministry for 18 years was with the organization, World Harvest Mission, that created the `Sonship’ discipleship material. I have been discipled and deeply impacted by the material and have also had the privilege of discipling many others with the material over the years. A little history might help: The 'Sonship' curriculum was created over 20 years ago and in many ways is dated.... and is certainly not at all slick. The title is based on Romans 8:15. When the curriculum was created the NIV and many other translations of Romans 8:15 said: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "ABBA", Father." Since that time World Harvest has created newer discipling curriculum such as `Gospel Transformation' and `The Gospel Centered Life' that do not use `Sonship' in the title. The thinking was that the `Sonship' curriculum might eventually be retired and replaced by these newer excellent curriculums.And indeed these newer curriculums are becoming very popular as discipleship tools. However, people keep using the 'Sonship' course. Even though it is somewhat quirky and could use revision, the gospel applications it contains are  profound and practical for walking daily with the Lord. Many lives have been positively changed by the focus on adoption, learning how to repent of sin and what the righteousness of Christ means in day-to-day relationships. On a personal note It was during my time of using the `Sonship' course that i became convinced  and convicted to adopt an egalitarian position on women for church leadership.  The `Sonship’ course is best used one-on-one in a deep mentoring relationship and takes almost a year to complete.  The ‘Gospel Centered Life’ curriculum is easier to use in a small groups, is user friendly and also has more current language and sensibilities.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I agree that adoption does include everyone and that the title `Sonship' is not inclusive. My ministry for 18 years was with the organization, World Harvest Mission, that created the `Sonship’ discipleship material. I have been discipled and deeply impacted by the material and have also had the privilege of discipling many others with the material over the years. A little history might help: The 'Sonship' curriculum was created over 20 years ago and in many ways is dated.... and is certainly not at all slick. The title is based on Romans 8:15. When the curriculum was created the NIV and many other translations of Romans 8:15 said: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "ABBA", Father." Since that time World Harvest has created newer discipling curriculum such as `Gospel Transformation' and `The Gospel Centered Life' that do not use `Sonship' in the title. The thinking was that the `Sonship' curriculum might eventually be retired and replaced by these newer excellent curriculums.And indeed these newer curriculums are becoming very popular as discipleship tools. However, people keep using the 'Sonship' course. Even though it is somewhat quirky and could use revision, the gospel applications it contains are  profound and practical for walking daily with the Lord. Many lives have been positively changed by the focus on adoption, learning how to repent of sin and what the righteousness of Christ means in day-to-day relationships. On a personal note It was during my time of using the `Sonship' course that i became convinced  and convicted to adopt an egalitarian position on women for church leadership.  The `Sonship’ course is best used one-on-one in a deep mentoring relationship and takes almost a year to complete.  The ‘Gospel Centered Life’ curriculum is easier to use in a small groups, is user friendly and also has more current language and sensibilities.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I took it as referring to "Son" as in Jesus and not referring to male children in general. I have to admit I did roll my eyes a little bit though - reminds me of singing "A Sonbeam, a Sonbeam."

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I would never use it and am surprised that you are recommending anything with the title "Sonship".

Seriously. . .do we still need to have the conversation about how language "speaks", and how this title disenfranchises and demeans half of the population?

I'm sorry if this seems antagonistic, but this kind of thing matters. And it matters because of the Gospel! It's not a side issue, something - despite the Gospel - to which we can continue to turn a blind eye. Adoption means everyone. Sonship means only those with a. . . male anatomy.

posted in: What is "Sonship"?

I just checked out Faith Alive Resources and found many books on sale.... thank you for posting the link.

Each church has a fellowship or welcoming committee I think?

When people are welcomed weekly, the committee should focus on identifying members and visitors areas of interest and actually keep a running list of where folks might want to serve or be involved. Especially with new members and visitors this 'first impression' makes a tremendous difference psychologically and is living our call to be a welcoming church.

The sooner people can be involved at the small group level the more 'at home' they will feel.

posted in: It's Your Page

Good one.  I know there are a lot of churches out there with such groups or churches that started many groups under the formerly supported small group model of Principle Based Small Groups.  In that model anything could be a small group as long as there were a few people involved.

posted in: It's Your Page

That's a great topic, Jan. In my own church, we've often remarked on the same phenomenon. What are the similarities between those groups and what we more typically think of as a small group? And what are the important differences? And what can each type learn from the other?

posted in: It's Your Page

I do think small groups are at the heart of successful church life -- I'm wondering about how already existing groups can and do function as small groups even though they weren't established with that in mind, a church choir, for instance.  What do you think? 

posted in: It's Your Page

Good stuff here,

One thing I would suggest is that your SG Coordinator get some coaching.  And since you're in Jenison MI I would suggest contacting  Sam Huizenga at the CRC Home offices who can set your director up.  I would also encourage the church to expand the library to include some of the books -- or all of the books -- suggested in the Forum discussion Small Group Resources.  If your director was very involved in Coffee Break I would suggest some broader reading to deepen a SG philosophy for the whole church.  

I'm also available for consultation with her online, by phone or skype.  Just let me know.


Yes! Very, Very familiar with Jenison....In fact, I volunteered at Community CRC before coming to Calvin in the late 70's. The pastor there, PAstor Dave Struyk was my roomate at Calvin and we still keep in touch. The small groups definitely works better in a suburb to rural area where there is an extreme amount of disconnect throughout the congregation due to distances. 

And now that I'm rested, the authentic community thing is something I don't have to tell you, but it's because 2 things primarily. 1) Due to our fallen nature we daily regress toward our selfishness and wanting to be our own God, meaning we become independent and don't need other and 2) because society as a whole is marketing in a way that continues to drive us to be impersonal beings in relation to others (eg social media, online education, computer marketing) Anything and everything that entices us to not speak, see or relate to other people.

However, the biggest way to combat that (and don't set your goals to high, because it is a slow uphill process) is realizing, accepting and understanding it is happening and consciously and intentionally planning ways that bring people together. OK, there's something to chew on for a while....PS I'm in PEI, Canada....presently at a CRC.

We're in Jenison, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids.  Lots of CRC's around here-- some of which are still isolated from their broader communities.  Glad to hear that you're being nurtrured in your home faith community and that God is blessing the work there!  


Not sure what the make-up of your church is; since I came from a CRC background, 40 yrs ago we were still in isolationist mode....however, the small groups that was started in a small evangelical church I attended after we moved to an area where there was no CRC. (I know, hard to believe, eh?) so the hesitancy was all mine, most likely from my upbringing.....but having married a dynamic non-Dutch CRC person, I was dragged "kicking & screaming" - sort of how God does it to us selfish sinners who love our sin like a pig in the mud -  and I am a better person because of it. As an aside, our church grew during those years from 125 members to over 800 members. I'm not saying that it was due to the small groups, but I'm sure it was an critical ingredient to it's success, in how we formulated our relationships amongst a core group of family ties.

Authentic Community is tough, because it takes time and that's the one commodity that we guard. That would be another lengthy conversation and I've been up since 1:30 am PEI time, so I'm signing out.....Ok, I admit it, I'm guarding my time ....LOL wishing you lots of luck with your small groups...jsut curious where the church is located?

Thank you Albert!  Your comments on the skepticism you had initially leads me to wonder:  Why is it that we are so often leery of the very thing that God created us for:  Authentic Community?   That's a conversation that I'm having with our new Small Groups Ministry Coordinator-- hoping to uncover some insights and some ways to overcome that hesitancy in the people in our church who aren't involved in SG's.  

Dave: I didn't read everything....sorry!

You're Coordinator is a she, so I messed up there, and I see someone else suggested this resource also.

I was very skeptical 20 years ago when we begin small groups and my wife even had to drag me kicking in screaming (in typical Dutch stubborness....but I survived and I must say it was probably the best experience I and my family have had!!!