What you choose to do with an hour and 15 minutes each week during discipleship group has the potential to change someone’s life in a positive way. Will you rise to the challenge and engage with your group members or will you zone out and give the bare minimum input?

Dr. Steven Pettit, president of BJU, is passionate about refocusing the ministry of discipleship groups to give students hands-on experience in fulfilling Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations. These close-knit gatherings provide opportunities to build healthy, edifying relationships.

Pettit believes the best way to lead a discipleship group is by being a servant. “A leader is a disciple maker, and a disciple maker is a servant,” Pettit said. “When you love and serve people, that gives you a right to lead.”

How can your discipleship group grow together? Building relationships requires time and effort. While traveling with his evangelistic team across the U.S., Pettit discovered the “four A’s” that nurtured an atmosphere of brotherly love.

First, accomplishments—working together—unifies a group of people. For a discipleship group this could include diligently studying the Bible during group times.

“We’ve made Scriptures the glue of discipleship groups,” Pettit said. “You grow spiritually through the knowledge of Christ.” Group leaders and assistant group leaders especially need to know the passage of Scripture to communicate it.

Second, adversities. Sharing burdens, sorrows and prayer requests encourages empathy and understanding within a group.

Third, activities. Building relationships requires time and effort; it doesn’t happen automatically. Evan Smith, a senior Bible major and group leader, said that spending time outside of discipleship group with each other is important. Smith encourages planning group activities in addition to having meals together.

The final and most often overlooked “A” is appreciation. Showing and expressing gratitude is of the utmost importance. If someone in your discipleship group offers prayer, food or just a listening ear, you should verbalize your thankfulness in return.

The purpose of discipleship groups is to build relationships and faith through Scripture and edification. “You can’t just run a Bible study without a relationship,” Pettit said. “It isn’t real or genuine.” Pettit challenges the student body to take seriously the commands to love and to serve.