Within Threshingfloor we have structured things to call people towards living as disciples of Jesus in all of life. We’ve called this structure the four spaces – the spaces being, 1) day-to-day life, 2) DNA groups, 3) Communities, and 4) All-Community Gatherings. DNA groups play a crucial role in delving into the intensive discipleship that helps us apply the Gospel to the hard parts of our life. By connecting regularly with 3-5 people of the same gender with the intent of learning together, dealing with sin, and growing in faith, DNA feeds into both day-to-day life and strengthens the larger community.
As we move out of summer and into fall there are DNA groups starting up for the first time, picking up after taking the summer off, or renewing their focus. If you’re leading (or thinking about leading) a DNA group, here are six tips for leading it well.
Set the expectations
Don’t pass this thing off as casual – set high expectations. If there’s reading or homework, make it clear that people need to do it before showing up. Insist that the DNA group is high priority on the schedule, not just a show-up-when-it’s-convenient event. If you want to go deep with your group everyone needs to be committed and know what’s expected of them.
Worth noting under this heading – a DNA group isn’t just a Bible study. It’s aimed toward multiplication. Make it explicit that you expect the people who are in the group to, at some point within the next year, launch out and start their own DNA group.
Keep things simple
If you want to multiply, let your structure be something that anyone can remember. Whether it’s a specific curriculum such as the Gospel DNA, or a study of a book of scripture, build in simple, memorable rhythms that are done each meeting. After several meetings, start passing off leadership of meetings to help others build skills.
Ask hard questions
Don’t settle for surface answers. Ask hard question – hard to answer because they require thinking AND hard to answer because they expose emotions/thoughts/faulty operating systems. When someone answers, ask follow-up questions on their answers. If you’re studying a section of scripture and someone answers with a “Well, I think that…” kind of statement, ask them where they see that in text. Doing so will help emphasize that God’s truth is more important than our ideas. There are some great tips for questioning at Michael Hyatt’s blog here.
Get at the heart matter
Help people identify what lies they’re believing and what stories they’re telling themselves that don’t align with God’s story. Dealing with the heart matter is what works – not changing actions. Here’s a couple examples of how this might look
- A girl in the group struggles with anxiety. A surface-level focus tries to get her to stop being anxious. Heart-matter focus digs into what stories she’s telling herself about who God is (or isn’t) and who she is (or isn’t). Those stories feed that anxiety. Help her align the stories she’s telling herself with the true Gospel story of God.
- A guy is in a relationship that’s leading him towards sin. Surface-focus tries to get him to just cut out the relationship but doesn’t deal with why it was there in the first place. Heart focus delves into the why, working to uncover what he was trying to find in that relationship and what lies he’s believing about God and about himself.
Follow the Spirit’s lead
Pray as you prepare for DNA. Pray as you’re on your way to the DNA meeting. Pray with the DNA group. Not the kind of prayer that’s just talking to God, instead build in space for asking God questions and listening for the answer. When the Spirit speaks, whether it’s through an inner prompting, another person’s words, or the scripture, act accordingly. Sometimes this means stepping outside of your normal groove. It might mean that while you’re praying to start DNA group you feel prompted to stop and talk with people at the table next to you in the restaurant where you’re meeting. It might mean that you’ve spent hours preparing for this week’s discussion and on the drive there God prompts you to change subjects. Go with it. Follow the Spirit’s lead.
Seek obedience, not knowledge
Structure your DNA in a way that it presses people to live out what they’ve learned. Hold people accountable to applying what you’ve discussed. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is to end each meeting by asking the questions, ‘What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” Have each person answer the first question, then take a moment to each pray silently and ask God what he wants you to do. Each person should share their action plan – a specific thing or things that they will do before the next meeting to apply what God is teaching them. Start each meeting by asking people to report in 2 minutes or less whether or not they completed their action plans.
Following these six tips, especially number five, will help you lead a DNA group that leads to powerful discipleship and lives transformed by Jesus. My prayer for this fall is that our DNA groups would become places where people encounter God in ways they never have before, discovering freedom and joy that they thought was impossible. By the grace of God, it will be so.