What will DC do for me (as a DC’er)?
What will DC do for my congregation (as a pastor)?
How is DC different from other Bible studies?
How is DC different from other “discipleship” programs?
Is it a problem that DC is a “program”?
Does DC include accountability?
What do you mean by the 100, 200, 300 and 400 levels within DC?
Why is there teaching in DC?
Why do you use articles and other books within DC?
What are your standards for the Bible Memory?
What is the difference between Bible Reading and Bible Study?
How did you choose the topics for the Bible Study portion of DC?
Does DC focus on building up knowledge?
Why so much emphasis on the Bible?
What is the role of prayer in DC?
Why do you use co-leaders?
Why do the leaders facilitate instead of “teach”?
Why is “time management” such a big deal in the group meetings?
Why do you meet for 1.5 hours?
Why do you insist on all DC’ers speaking about the same amount?
What is the Leader’s Guide (LG)?
When and where do groups meet?
What if a DC’er needs to miss a week of class?
What about co-ed groups?
What about having multiple groups or starting new groups later?
What about using DC at a more modest pace?
Why do you go so long without a significant break from DC201-301?
What about using DC in a college/university setting?
What does DC cost?
What is the Administrative Fee?
Is DC really 21 months long?
Why do you offer a Spiritual Disciplines Retreat (in DC101)?
How can I spend five hours per week studying?
Who/how do I invite people to join me in DC?
This sounds great, but my church/ministry is not ready for this yet. What should I do?
If you’ve been a disciple of Jesus for some time, DC will sharpen you and provide you with an opportunity to deepen and broaden your Kingdom knowledge and skills—in the context of the accountability inherent in a rigorous small group format. You’ll learn (more fully) what you believe and develop more confidence to share your faith in ministry and evangelism. If you’re new to the faith, but have sufficient discipline and desire to invest deeply, then DC can be a period of tremendous, life-changing growth. In any case, DC will give you a greater understanding of God’s character, a better sense of Jesus’ ministry; and it will help you let Holy Spirit have more control of your heart, mind and life.
It will sharpen those who have been disciples and in positions of leadership. But the biggest win is the emergence of “back-benchers”—those who have been solid citizens and nice people, but not especially active in Kingdom work and disciple-making. Most of them will emerge with the confidence and competence to be shepherded within significant leadership positions. Putting it another way: we constructed DC with an end in mind—to sharpen some and “create” others who would be elders and deacons in the local church. What is your plan to develop a biblical worldview in your flock and to make disciples who can make disciples?
Of course, there are many excellent “serious” Bible studies available. But beyond a deep study of Romans or an in-depth study of evangelism or spiritual gifts, DC is meant to be a “program” of study—where one picks up skills, knowledge, disciplines, and so on—to become a more effective disciple of Christ AND to become more competent and confident as a lay-leader within the Church.
Two things here. First, DC is “higher-end” discipleship. DC requires a lot more than most programs (e.g., five hours per week of study and weekly meetings over 21 months); it’s not for everyone! We cover topics—particularly doctrine—that are generally untouched. And we work on skills and offer experiences that are generally unaddressed. Second, DC is more about “lay-leadership development” than discipleship per se. (We initially abbreviated DC from “discipleship curriculum” before we figured this out!) From II Timothy 3:16-17, we want DC’ers to be “Thoroughly Equipped for every good work”. This includes effective lay-leadership of some type. From II Timothy 2:15, we want workers who “correctly handle the Word of Truth”. This involves broader and deeper study—and developing skills to research and present. From II Timothy 2:2, we want to develop generations of disciples who can make disciples.
We’ve read writers and heard speakers on discipleship who worry about this—and then they propose nothing or they propose…a program. But we know what they mean: discipleship is a somewhat organic process, based on the strengths of the leader, the needs of the followers, and the context in which discipleship takes place. Anything that requires rigidity may devolve into something that is far from ideal. That said, discipleship requires purpose and structure, so something like a program is unavoidable. DC provides a lot of structure, but also a lot of flexibility—the guided self-study for individuals, facilitation vs. teaching in the meetings, the open-minded coverage of doctrinal issues, and so on. To make disciples who can make disciples, you need a plan—if not a “program”. What’s your plan?
Not directly. There is no explicit accountability component within DC. But accountability is a by-product of the process—in terms of the spiritual disciplines practiced within DC, the discipline developed during DC, the spiritual growth enjoyed by individuals, and the depth of relationships developed in such a group.
DC is purposefully structured. In DC101, we want to build a foundation of knowledge— basic theology and a thorough overview of the Word. In DC201 and DC202, we spend time on basic applications in Christian living, getting on the same page with respect to
important topics, getting to know each other, learning how to find our voice as DC’ers and as a group. In DC301, we want to learn how to agreeably disagree with each other—an important skill as we move into the 400-level (and in life!). And we turn the corner toward building leaders, through an emphasis on approaching the Scriptures through the eyes of a teacher. Finally, in the three semesters of the DC400 level, we talk about heavier doctrinal issues and other important topics (Christian History, Cults and World Religions, Denominations).
“I’m not going to be a teacher!” Well, yes, you are; all of us teach—in some capacity! You may not ever be a stand-in-front teacher or preacher. (Then again, maybe you will, but you can’t imagine it yet. Don’t limit God!) But all of us teach—through parenting, work, and…..well, life. Teaching is the thoughtful and effective communication of Truth. Wouldn’t you like to get better at that?
The articles bring another knowledgeable perspective to accompany your guided selfstudy of the topical parts in DC. Think of the author as a partner to help you chew on the topic for that week. As for the required, supplemental books, we’ve found two books that concisely help with two of our larger topics (Gomes on Cults of Christianity and Jones on Christian History); a book that helps with teaching (Hendricks); a book that presents all legitimate sides on thornier doctrines (Boyd & Eddy); a book that will be life-changing for some and help the group learn how to have more profitable discussions (Crabb); and a book with tremendous truths about Spirit-filled living (Thomas).
The default/standard is that DC’ers will know the new and review verses each week. That said, people will not be perfect from week to week. The challenge is holding people accountable without putting them on-the-spot too much—often, a delicate balance. It is a gray area to decide when to intervene if a memory verse is not relayed perfectly. You don’t want to encourage error by not saying anything. But you don’t want to be so legalistic that the focus turns from the larger purpose to nit-picking.
You can expect some grumbling about the (perceived) difficulty of memorization. Plan to address it by pointing out the benefits of doing Bible memorization, the many means of memorization provided, the need to spend some time in starting a new (spiritual) discipline, your willingness (or those in the group) to provide them with some accountability, and so on.
The former is reading for some combination of pleasure, meditation, occasional insights, and an overview of the material (forest more than trees). The latter is reading for some combination of retention and digging into the details of the text (trees more than forest). Both are important. In the reading, some people will tend to make relatively technical comments or asking relatively technical questions—and you’ll want to re-direct most of these by asking for a personal application.
Kurt and I wanted to start with basic doctrine, cover basic applications, discuss deeper topics (e.g., Christian History) and wrestle with difficult doctrinal issues (e.g., eternal security). We see these as the set of topics with which layleaders should have some familiarity. And we want DC’ers to develop skills to find and communicate answers—word studies, research, and presentation.
Yes and no. Going through DC will greatly enhance your knowledge. You’ll learn (more fully) what you believe. Beyond that, it will help you develop your skills in ministry andevangelism—using greater knowledge to greater ends. In a word, you will exit with greater competence and confidence. But building up knowledge without building up love might easily make you worse off!
While building up knowledge in DC, you should also be gaining humility, as you realize how much more that you don’t know! You’ll develop a greater heart for evangelism, ministry and discipleship. You’ll gain empathy as you study the various sides of many concepts. You’ll develop disciplines that will help you be more patient. And so on. There are also at least three opportunities (within the longer semester breaks) for service
projects. And we have a strong emphasis on “shepherding”—building up relationships
between co-leaders and DC’ers.
We believe that the Bible is God’s revealed Word and is eminently useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. We believe that Bible Memory is important for putting the Word in our hearts. We believe that Bible Reading is important for pouring the Word over our minds. We believe that Bible Study is important for understanding who God is and what He wants for us and from us. We believe that doing anything for 21 months will change you; that doing anything good for 21 months will change you for the better; and that studying the Bible for 21 months will change your life.
In DC101, you’ll be hard-pressed just to cover the weekly material within 1.5 hours. You’ll want to encourage DC’ers to share “serious” and timely prayer requests in class, while handling more mundane requests through email or a list circulated during class. In DC201 and 202, there is more time for in-class prayer. It is most appropriate given the topics we’ll study and you will be asked to focus on it there. In DC301 and beyond, going beyond minimal prayer is possible at times, but more difficult given time constraints. Bottom line: We want DC’ers to be stretched in their prayer life, especially in DC201- 202. As such, we don’t want DC’ers to do the common ten minutes of “go-around-theroom-for-everyone-to-think-up-something-laundry-list” of prayer requests.
Many reasons. For one thing, Jesus sent them out two-by-two, so that seems to be a relevant ministry model! Specifically:
One or both leaders may have scheduling constraints—where weekly attendance would be difficult or impossible.
Two leaders can alternate “top” leadership responsibility for each week, lessening prep time.
Two leaders will combine to have a greater pool of knowledge and wisdom.
The “secondary” leader plays a vital role as well, especially in taking charge of time management (moving the group along) and class participation (aggressively bringing in the quieter DC’ers).
A relatively strong or experienced leader would have an opportunity to mentor a relatively weak or inexperienced leader.
Two leaders are in a much better position to divide the group and form deeper relationships with (shepherding) those in their group.
DC co-leaders are more facilitator than teacher; DC’ers should be talking (much) more than co-leaders. Since DC’ers have completed their work, co-leaders should mostly introduce material, redirect some comments and questions by allowing others to followup, respond to some comments (as useful), ask provocative questions (especially if answers are vague or shallow), articulate a few key points they don’t make, and wrap-up with a summary. That said, co-leaders are still teachers/leaders. At times, they will make value-added comments, actively promote a vision of lay-leadership, lay hands on someone in prayer, exhort them to step up their effort, help them think strategically about getting something done, etc.
DC is a “guided self-study”. So the bulk of the work is done by DC’ers outside of the group meeting. But there is tremendous value in coming together to discuss the material—learning from others, fellowship, accountability, etc. The job of the co-leader is to provide accountability by doing the Bible Memory thoroughly, to hit the highlights of the Bible Reading as experienced by the DC’ers that week (especially in the 100 and 200 levels), to cover the Bible study where the value-added is the most, and to use any articles to supplement that discussion. Doing all of that—limiting tangents, moving things along, making decisions about when to stay on a topic and when to go—is vital to maximizing the time together in the group.
Some people have asked us about shorter meeting times, but it is difficult to give adequate time to all of these areas in anything less than 1.5 hours. In fact, our experience is that DC’ers wish there was far more time to talk about the material at the meetings. (Some people have asked us about longer meeting times. If your schedule allows it, we can see extending the time to 2 hours. But if you’re running a tight ship—avoiding tangents, etc.—1.5 hours should generally be more than adequate.)
Remember that our top goal for DC is layleadership development. And leaders will not develop unless they learn to talk and to listen. For DC’ers who tend to be quiet, this will require learning to express themselves about their faith, building confidence, finding their voice, risking as they explore what it means to follow God. For “big talkers”, this will require listening more and participating in the process of drawing out those who are quieter.
Likewise, DC is not to be taught nearly as much as it is to be led and facilitated. If a leader does the bulk of the talking, the focus is on (attempted) information dissemination rather than leadership development. What are your goals? There is certainly a place for passing along information, but DC is an opportunity for intentionally developing layleaders for your church, the Church, and the Kingdom.
The LG is a free on-line resource to help you handle the administrative details of running a DC group and to provide some assistance in discussing the DC material. The LG has eight parts—an Intro section and one for each of the seven semesters. You will save yourself a lot of headaches—and improve your experience with DC—by reading it thoroughly and using it as a resource. The Intro section is useful for setting up a DC group. The other seven parts are useful for running a group, semester-to-semester and week-to-week. If you have further questions or suggestions on how to improve the LG, please feel free to contact Eric at email@example.com.
We have always started our DC groups during the second full week in September. But alternative schedules are certainly possible. We’ve typically offered groups for most weekday mornings (6:00-7:30) and evenings (7:00-8:30). Some years, when there has been sufficient interest, we’ve had groups on Saturday mid-morning and a weekday group at noon. At some other churches, DC groups run alongside a Sunday School time period. In terms of location, most groups meet at a church, but we’ve had a handful of groups meet in private businesses.
If a DC’er is unable to attend for a good reason (e.g., adopting a child in China, traveling all week because of work/vacation, so sick you’re not going to work), it’s not a big deal to miss a week here or there. If it’s not for a good reason (e.g., sleeping late): it’s far from ideal, but things happen sometimes. If attendance is a general problem, you may need to redo a (ten-week) semester or you should return to DC when your schedule is more manageable.
Because of the size of our church, we’ve always done men’s groups and women’s groups. We can imagine effective co-ed groups that would be different rather than better/worse. (In fact, we would probably advise that if the choice is one co-ed group of 8-10 vs. two single-gender groups of 4-5.) We’ve also considered a couple’s group, but worry about some practical concerns: Are the husband and wife balanced in terms of faith, commitment, ability, etc.? Would there be problems for couples with disagreeing in public? Will they be able to make consistent and inexpensive child care arrangements? And can they properly balance family, work, and other commitments with DC?
Both of these help with attendance issues. If you have multiple groups at your church or in your area, you have a lot more flexibility. For example, if a DC’er misses your Tuesday morning class, he can go on Thursday evening instead. If you start one group in the Fall—and then another group the next Fall—then someone who needs to step out for awhile could rejoin DC one year later, instead of two.
On occasion, we’ve had people use DC at half pace, splitting one week’s material over two weeks—e.g., with memory and reading one week; and article and study another week. This reduces the weekly load by half, but extends the program to 42 months. We had one group that started at half pace—and then moved to full pace at the 301 level, after building up some “muscle”. Whatever works for you!
First of all, that choice is simply one option among many. You have freedom to set up the calendar as you see fit. For example, you might want to take the summer off, especially if attendance is going to suffer tremendously. (Likewise, you have freedom in how you handle holidays—taking a week off, rescheduling for a different day, reducing one of the longer breaks, etc.)
That said, it’s a nice fit for the calendar to start in September of year 1 and finish in May of year 3—with long breaks over Thanksgiving/Christmas and in August and early September. We also like our calendar because it is a bit of a grind from January through July. In most contemporary contexts, Christians are not a particularly persevering people—and this long stretch promotes the idea that we need to develop that discipline. It also helps that 301’s material is so different.
We love this idea but have not seen it implemented yet. Ideally, freshmen and sophomores would be in groups which are co-led by juniors and seniors and shepherded by a disciple with more maturity and experience. Wouldn’t it be awesome to “produce” disciple-makers at this stage of life? College is a busy time. Then again, every stage of life can be busy—arguably, much busier than college. So, it’s not at all clear that college students have less time. And they’re certainly in the mode of “studying” to become “thoroughly equipped” for their careers. For most of them, a “course” like DC will fit comfortably with their other work.
A lot of time, primarily! Group members tell us that they spend, on average, about five hours of week in preparation. Then, your group will meet weekly for 1.5 hours (except for the three 6-8 week breaks). In terms of money, the first semester is usually the most expensive (by far)—since you’re paying for a DC101 book, a supplemental book, any administrative fee, and typically, an overnight Spiritual Disciplines retreat. After that, over the remaining 18 months, the other three DC books (covering the last six semesters) cost $75 and the other required books cost about $70. Overall, it’s about $10 per month, including the Spiritual Disciplines retreat.
At Southeast, we add an admin fee to cover the costs of the program, given the way we run it. This pays for a copy of the DC books for the co-leaders. (If they’ve already been through DC, they still may want a clean copy of the books, since co-leaders typically organize their books differently than DC’ers.) We pay for the co-leaders’ Spiritual Disciplines retreat; we have a few trainings with food; we have had a graduation ceremony with gifts and dinner; and so on. You don’t need to use an admin fee, but you’ll want to at least think about a budget. If you spend money in support of DC, it will come from somewhere!
Is DC really 21 months long?
Yep. DC is divided into seven “semesters”—each about ten weeks long. We ask people to commit to DC101 (the first semester—to see what it’s like) and then to recommit each semester afterwards. Of those who complete DC, most go straight through the program. But some step out for awhile and return later. Life happens, so some people cannot complete DC in one fell swoop.
Another option: consider DC28:20—Getting Equipped. It’s only 36 weeks long, requiring two weeks of study per week. It’s mostly a reduced version of DC101-202.
It covers terrific material on the why and how of Spiritual Disciplines—a vital set of topics—and it allows an early opportunity to build individual relationships and group chemistry. We strongly encourage you to make arrangements for the Retreat within or just after DC101. (Best options: the weekend between the 5th and 6th meeting; the weekend between the 6th and 7th meetings [given less material coverage in those weeks of DC]; or in the semester break between DC101 and DC201.) Ideally, the Retreat will go from Friday evening through Saturday at noon—overnight, to build additional camaraderie. (Another option would be an all-day or four-hour evening format.) For us, attendance is mandatory—and we build the cost of the retreat into the registration fee. (There is a separate part of the Leaders Guide which addresses this.)
In part, presumably, DC will replace other study and devotional time that you’re already spending. (If you’re not spending a chunk of time on that now, you’re probably not ready for DC!) Beyond that, DC will mean sacrificing some other activity. The most common choice is to reduce television viewing. For many people, the trade-off is as simple as two letters: DC vs. TV! We don’t want you to give up substantial time with family. Your first priority should be your spouse and children. But most people have “fat” in their schedules that can be pared away to make room for DC.
Generally, you’ll want to invite prospective DC’ers prayerfully and personally. Obvious candidates include those who have already completed at least one relatively rigorous study. Make sure to communicate appropriate expectations—in particular, the work load involved and the attendance expected. Ask them to commit to the first 10-week semester, but make clear that it’s part of a 21 month program. (If you’re casting a wider net, set up an opportunity for them to learn more about what they might be getting themselves into.) Two other considerations: Be careful not to push the invitation too strongly; inappropriate motives for getting into the group may well cause more harm than good. And strongly consider asking them to commit funds up front (for materials and hopefully a retreat on Spiritual Disciplines), especially if space in your groups will be limited. In our experience, there’s often a big gap between those who say they’re in and those who are really in.
A coherent approach to discipleship and lay-leadership development requires an array of opportunities—meeting disciples where they’re at.
The two biggest chasms for prospective disciples: 1.) leaping from a large-group anonymous experience (e.g., church or a big Bible study group) to a small group; and 2.) moving from passivity to activity (i.e., doing something outside of the meeting time—reading the Bible or a Christian book).
To address the first gap, you need something friendly to encourage people to take the risk of moving from anonymous to intimate. To address the second gap, you need a range of “lighter” to “heavier” groups/studies. There are innumerable examples of light studies and we provide a list of prospective heavier studies here.
Putting it another way, you should work toward regularly offering opportunities, ranging from “100-level” to “400-level”.
100-level: a church service or large group Bible study with relatively light material and little intimacy or commitment
200-level: a small group component (perhaps within a larger group) with relatively light material (but heavier than 100-level) and participants are expected to do something outside of the meeting (read, study, or memorize something)
300-level: a small group with heavier material and some vision-casting for disciple-making, expecting participants to do something substantial outside of the meeting (e.g., 2-3 hours of reading or study)
400-level: a small group setting with heavier material, heavy preparation (e.g. 4-6 hours of reading and study), and significant vision-casting for disciple-making
If you use DC, know that not (nearly) everyone is ready for DC now, but you should have a plan where most people in your church could be in a position, spiritually, to take DC down the road.