The Institute for Discipleship (IFD) at Southwestern College is devoted to providing Christian resources and education that build disciples and strengthen ministries. Since its founding in 2001, IFD has developed a specialty in distance learning, providing a wide variety of ecumenical studies, courses, and workshops for both clergy and laity.
Recognizing the church is now in a new era of seismic upheaval and transition, IFD has launched a tool this year that combines the power of traditional small-group study with the dynamism of digital technology. The BeADisciple Study App allows any Christian, anywhere, anytime, to engage in an interactive small-group study on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Using the electronic devices that have become essential to our 21st-century lives, this new resource has the capacity to deepen faith, nurture congregational community, strengthen ministries, and motivate disciples to make a meaningful impact in the world.
John Wesley built his Methodist movement in 18th-century England on the potency of small groups who met to study Scripture. IFD’s founders, United Methodist Bishop Richard Wilke and his wife, Julia, looked to his example to create Disciple Bible Study, a hard-copy series introduced in 1987, that transformed millions of lives—and countless churches across denominations—through in-person meetings. Now, the BeADisciple Study App offers the next generation of small-group study, capitalizing on the popularity of video conferencing, particularly since the COVID-19 outbreak, to offer virtual meetings on Zoom. The app’s first studies are from the Disciple series, with many more planned from other Christian publishing sources.
Around the world today, churches are searching for ways to reinvigorate their congregations amid waning interest in traditional religious practice and the isolating after-effects of the pandemic. Small-group participation is still the time-tested catalyst for growing community, mission, and leadership capacity—but too often today, for any number of valid reasons, people are unable to meet in person. The BeADisciple Study App overcomes the hurdles of schedule and distance, opening the way for participants to hear God’s call through Scripture and form intimate connections through online meetings and 24/7 interactive technology. By eliminating the need to meet in person, the technology also offers an opportunity to reach across economic, racial, cultural, and geographic boundaries, bringing together more diverse groups of participants.
This app is now in position to enable congregations to make a paradigm shift to digital Christian education. We are convinced it also holds the potential to revitalize faith communities, filling them with recommitted and reconnected disciples of Christ.
What early users are saying …
“Because my church’s group met remotely, we were able to attract young adults as well as older, professional people from our congregation. Everyone was able to express their deep spiritual feelings over Zoom. It was never an obstacle. We’re all Zoom people now because of Covid.”
– Rev. Vic Casad, DISCIPLE alpha group participant
“The app’s design made it easy to navigate, and the discussion board and prayer wall really helped our far-flung group become a friendly community. I found it to be a meaningful way to not only study the Bible, but also to engage with fellow learners from a variety of backgrounds and locations.”
– Lori Borger, DISCIPLE alpha group participant
“What I liked the most about the app was being able to have the whole experience in my hand — the study readings, the Bible, and the group discussions. Zoom was a great way to create fellowship. The enrichment for all of us was more than I ever anticipated.”
– Mary Ann Moman, DISCIPLE alpha group co-leader
- Convenient, easy, small group interaction and prayer (virtual or in-person)
- Excellent Christian education content, reimagined to inspire regular study and reflection
- All class materials, including the CEB Bible, delivered to smart phone, tablet, or computer, with note-taking ability and audio options
- One-click embedded videoconferencing for online meetings
- Participant study notes automatically consolidated for ease of use during virtual live meetings
- Self-paced leader training and all materials provided for very easy leading of groups.
The benefits of the app will include:
- All assignments delivered daily on your phone or tablet, including the entire text of the CEB Bible. No more printed materials to manage.
- Choice to read and/or to listen to assignments, including Scripture and to text or record answers to questions, notes, and comments.
- Community with small group members through
- mid-week discussion boards and 24/7 prayer board
- access to group roster and member-supplied contact info for easy communication between group members
- small group and 1:1 discussion through either videoconference or in-person gatherings
- Deepened prayer life through guided prayer and easily accessible small group prayer request chain. Members can be updated on prayer needs immediately!
- Ability to be in small groups that can include members around the world or allow those traveling not to miss a class session.
- Leaders can easily communicate to their small group on the message board and can adapt the schedule as needed
- For content owners – Ability to add features and modify content easily