One of the benefits of the coronavirus pandemic this year has been to prompt us all to experiment with new ways of meeting together. Martin and Colleen Breytenbach have been leading the first ever Rooted in Jesus group to meet online through Zoom. After successfully working through the first book, they are now continuing with the second – and beginning to prepare some of the members to lead their own groups. Colleen has written the following report, which we hope will both guide and encourage others:
“Martin and I have been running a Zoom Discipleship group during the months of Covid lockdown in Cape Town. Here are some of the comments we received when our group took a break after Book 1:
“I have appreciated the weekly study of the Word and the contact with other in prayer. It has strengthened me, so that when we re-opened the church after the Covid Lockdown, I had a new confidence to lead the church. I felt like I had grown.”
“It is interesting to see that although this material was designed to teach people who are not necessarily literate, that it was malleable enough be used effectively with graduates in the city context.”
“Coming from a Moslem background I never felt like I had a Christian family. I now have a family, and I have a team of Christian prayer warriors who love each other. I fell like I fit in for the first time.”
“It has been a precious experience to be part of a group. It has never been about manipulating people. There has been a measured approach with our leaders preparing very well and not placing on us any dogmatic agendas or pressure to go and start a church immediately. You have reminded me first and foremost that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me. Also, I love being part of a group who prays.“
“The first book took 15 weeks to complete. We favoured depth of study rather than brevity. If the group (who are all graduates) wished to search the Scriptures more deeply, we allowed them to do that. In this way, we ensured that each person drank deeply of the material and were fully satiated.
We took a four-week break after Book 1, during which time we had one social gathering, where we barbecued safely out of doors in line with Covid-19 guidance. We resumed on the 6th Nov and the group expressed great joy to be together again.
- Before we started our group, we spent time discerning what God was calling us to do.
- As we conceived of running one group, many names came to mind from our congregation. We wanted to invite them all! Some of the names were of those who were mature in the faith and we realised that they could potentially be future leaders. We realised that our small group could potentially lead to many groups starting up, and that as we grew in experience in running the first group, we could possibly run a training course for those who would volunteer to run groups in the future.
- We shared our calling with the priest of our church to get permission to run the group and got his support and his assurance of prayer.
- We created a Whatsapp group and invited participants, having first spoken to them each in person and got their agreement to join the Whatsapp group.
“The following Guidelines were sent out on a WhatsApp group, four days before the first meeting started:
- Welcome: Dear all, welcome to the new St Peter’s Discipleship Group, facilitated by Martin and Colleen Breytenbach.
- Etiquette: We have created this group in order to communicate essential arrangements and prayer requests. Please keep responses to a minimum so that we do not spam each other. There is no need to assure each other that we are praying, by sending emoticons. Let us take it as read that we will support one another. Remember that prayer requests are confidential and are not to be shared outside of this group.
- The Material: We will be following the Rooted in Jesus manuals, the first of which we will study over the next twelve weeks. There are four books in total, which lead a Disciple all the way from making a basic commitment to Jesus, to the point of maturity in Christ, where they can train other disciples. After twelve weeks we will take a break before continuing this journey. We aim to fulfil that Great Commission by making Disciples who will make Disciples (Matt 28:19, 2 Timothy 2:2). The course requires one to memorise Scripture verses, so that the Word of God will dwell in you richly.
- Practical arrangements: Our meetings will commence on Friday 29th May 2020 at 19h15 for 19h30 on Zoom. To avoid overloading the Wi-Fi bandwidth, we suggest that if you are a couple, you share one computer. We will end at 21h00 each evening.
- The nature of the evening: The Sessions are designed to be interactive and fun. They contain practical demonstrations, videos, and breakaway conversations in Zoom breakout groups. You will be encouraged to participate fully in discussions and sharing. You will need a Bible and a notebook at your side in which to record your personal notes.
- Final Greeting: God bless you all. We are praying for this journey of faith, and for all the individuals in the group. You may want to ask a friend to support you in prayer during this journey.
- We had to check that every person had enough data or a strong enough Wi-Fi connection to support their audio and video on Zoom. Sometimes it was necessary to have a private Zoom meeting to establish that the individual understood the system and could participate fully.
- We rehearsed Zoom techniques as leaders i.e. Zoom Breakout rooms, and Screen sharing
- We practised using the material. We used our morning quiet times to work prayerfully through the verses so that we were ready spiritually, and had brainstormed some of the questions we might want to ask the participants during the session (that served us well during the actual session because it took the discussion much deeper).
Some thoughts in hindsight
“We needed to be flexible in our leadership. Some of what we prepared never happened. Some subjects were never covered, but we realise that that they may be covered later.
We allowed discussion to go off on a tangent if the tangent was worthwhile and not a distraction. However, we never allowed the group to go completely off the topic. We reined in people who talked for too long, by saying, “Thank you very much for that point. That was very helpful. Let us move on to the next paragraph” (or something like that).
We allowed time for people to share their needs, their fears and distractions. For instance, one couple was very distracted one evening because they were hearing about service delivery protests and riots in their near neighbourhood. They needed immediate prayer support. We stopped the meeting to pray for the people concerned and to intercede for the situation. It was an enriching time and brought the group closer together.”
Posted 17th November 2020.