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Discipleship is about growing in the character and competency of Christ—and there are many ways to do that. In a digital age—and during a global pandemic with limitations on in-person gatherings—engaging discipleship work via digital platforms is a growing need. Zoom fatigue is real, but there is also real possibility for digital engagement. Here are four ways to do discipleship online that really work, along with discipleship materials that work well online.

Case studies

Alpha Online: building faith during a pandemic

Following the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001, Joan Brussee remembers wondering how to react, and how the church could reach their neighbors in the aftermath. Joan’s director of mobilization at Centerpoint Church (Kalamazoo, Michigan), and when the COVID-19 pandemic reached West Michigan, Joan had a new tool to reach neighbors. Centerpoint Church had already been exploring Alpha Online. Alpha is an evangelism course long used by churches to engage practical faith questions in comfortable settings. Alpha Online takes the same paradigm and pivots it to a digital reality.

With the full blessing of leadership, Centerpoint was able to engage over 200 people and over 25 active Alpha Online groups. Some groups were organized around life stages, while others were based on geography or organic connections. The church even hosted four Alpha Online groups for youth and utilized Centerpoint’s main campus, along with both of their church plants, Centerpoint City and Iglesia Centerpoint. Longtime members were challenged and stretched to share their faith and the whole church celebrated new relationships with Jesus. Digital met discipleship in beautiful ways.

>> Check out Alpha Online

The Monday night group: lament, hope, and spiritual direction

This group of women—and sometimes men—originally began meeting via Zoom to share lament and hope during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to meet weekly, with added elements of spiritual direction and support. Initially strangers to each other, members of the group consider their Monday night meeting the highlight of their week—and they never want the group to end.

>> Read the story

Heidelberg Catechism study group: not your average Zoom call

In the fall of 2020, Sebastian Giminez, pastor of Montreal Church in Hialeah, Florida, launched a class online to study the Heidelberg Catechism, a long-beloved confession of faith. As a new church plant within the Reformed Church in America, Giminez and his leadership team are committed to teaching and preaching Reformed theology. Though the catechism is centuries old and chock full of Reformed doctrine, the online class has drawn over 250 people each week. There has been tremendous response and literal life change because of this online study group.

A Youth Group Across Oceans

Despite an array of time zones, young adults with ties to Bahrain meet online every other Saturday to worship, fellowship, and discuss topics of interest, such as racism and time management. While they are away from their families and home church, the young adults agree that their group, Eklektos, is a meaningful way to stay connected with one another and to their faith.

>> Read the story

Resources for online discipleship and study

Building God’s Church Together

A four-session Bible study on God’s vision for flourishing ministry partnerships between men and women. Available in English and Spanish.

>> Flourish in ministry together

#SheIsCalled Women of the Bible

A nine-session Bible study that looks at the stories of women in the Bible. Each study includes a Scripture passage, reading for a deeper dive, and reflection questions. Available as a downloadable PDF or an online study.

>> Discover women in the Bible

Lectio Divina: read Scripture and share reflections

In Lectio Divina, an ancient spiritual practice, we seek to experience the presence of God through reading and listening, prayer, meditation and contemplation. In a group setting, after each reading, individuals can share what they are hearing as they listen to God.

>> Learn how to practice Lectio Divina

Leading in Holistic Ministry: Walking, Loving, Doing

Holistic ministry engages the whole person (spiritually, physically, and relationally) with the whole gospel. By bringing together word and deed, holistic ministry invites people to experience God’s transforming love more fully. This guide is a great resource for those in church leadership positions to develop and sustain holistic ministry in their church. Available as a downloadable PDF or as a complete online guide.

>> Live out word and deed

Instagram photo challenge

Designed as part of the Jesse Tree toolkit, this Instagram photo challenge is a great way to engage digitally by snapping and sharing photos. The photo challenge can be easily adapted around a different theme or even revamped as a photo scavenger hunt. Invite your church, youth group, friends, and family to join you!

>> Check out the challenge

Looking for ways to facilitate online church services? Head to our Church Resource Center for some of the resources we shared early in the coronavirus pandemic.