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My name is Sam Huizenga and I am taking the baton from Allen to host the small group network site. Sam is actually short for Joyce! Family folklore says that my brother gave me the nickname because he was tired of sisters – I was the fifth! One more sister after me, poor guy.

I work for CRC Home Missions as a goal specialist for Mission Shaped Discipleship. Part of my job is to provide coaching and training in small groups, Coffee Break and evangelism. I have led a small group ministry and have been a small group and Coffee Break leader in my church forever. My goal for the next few months is to:

  1. Get us talking, strategizing and praying about growing congregations full of mission shaped disciples. Small Group Discipleship ministries are a key environment for doing that.
  2. I also plan to invite contributions from guest bloggers who have hands-on experience with different types of small groups or curricula (last month we highlighted Gospel Centered Life).

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?

  • What are we going to grow?
  • What is our environment – sun, shade?
  • What is our plan for the garden – where to plant, when to plant, etc.?
  • How will we care for our garden? Water, fertilize, etc.
  • How will we deal with problems?
  • What do we hope to harvest?

I often use these questions to help leaders get started. They are also helpful in understanding practical issues related to small groups like multiplying small groups, determining life cycles of small groups and more. The question that I am asked the most is: What is the best way to split a small group? My answer, let’s talk about plants. How do plants multiply?

What are we going to grow? Like Allen, I think the first step is describing the goal of discipleship. I like Allen’s simple description of discipleship as following “Jesus so closely that you can't help but point others to him who in turn become disciples themselves.” That’s mission. Disciples stuck to Jesus are characterized by constant communication (prayer), hanging on every word (scripture), unity with other Jesus followers (community) and sharing his presence with others (kingdom mission).

What is our environment? You are probably already doing many things to grow disciples. Before you take a roto-tiller to your ministry or group, ask what are we doing that is growing mission shaped disciples. What different things can we do?

We will talk more about these questions over the next few months but here is one last idea. The garden of disciples will grow in response to prayer. At the recent CRC Prayer Summit in LA, Pastor Jeong from Busan, Korea said that until his church had 1000 attendees, he would pray for every one of them every day. He found that he prayed more for the people in his church who were frustrating to him. Over time, those people changed and he changed. The people grew and he grew in love for them.

What would it look like to daily pray for your small group and small group discipleship ministry?

“I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow?” I Cor. 3:6

Stay tuned…next week guest bloggers Dave and Diane Huizenga will discuss Alpha. It is a potential plant for your healthy small group garden.  


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.


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! 

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