Embrace, a local church, has recently adopted a new form of small groups called discipleship bands.
According to Embrace’s website, discipleship bands are “a group of three to four people who read together, pray together and meet together.”
Their goal is to “become the love of God for one another and the world,” they said.
Once a church plant from Cornerstone Church in 2012, Embrace became independent in 2016. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the church had to get creative.
“We felt like now, during this pandemic time … it’s not exactly the best time to have 15 or 20 people in someone’s home,” said Amanda Hammett, the communications coordinator at Embrace. “We really have had a heart for micro-church groups like this for a while, but this felt like the right time to step into it.”
Embrace adopted the discipleship band idea from Seedbed, an organization in Franklin, Tennessee. The churches use the word “band” because it symbolizes the act of holding one another.
“We are equally in it together,” Hammett said.
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The bands are likened to the way Jesus interacted with his disciples, as well as the manner churches met in the early years of Christianity, she said.
These early Christian churches were typically characterized by “deep roots with a few people,” Hammett said.
“It’s not a novel concept really,” Hammett said. “We say a discipleship band is really just people who are coming together for the sake of loving each other and being the love of God to the world around them.”
Each group strives for empathy over sympathy. Hammett said several groups have recorded positive impacts from simply “holding space” for one another to share what is on their heart.
“One of the first questions for each of the band meetings is, ‘How is it with your soul?’” Hammett said. “We are all so busy, and our world moves at such a fast pace that sometimes getting still and quiet is not a spiritual practice that a lot of us have. This band meeting puts you in a rhythm of evaluating your own soul.”
One aspect of the groups is there is no specific leader. Embrace did not want people in the groups to feel as if they have to counsel one another, she said.
“There is only one counselor in this, and it’s the Holy Spirit,” Hammett said as she remembers what a representative at Seedbed told her.
Additionally, there is no required reading plan.
“It’s a little different than what a lot of people are used to in a small group or a Bible study group where that content is what the meeting forms around,” Hammett said. “The band meetings really have a lot more to do with each person’s individual heart.”
While there is no primary curriculum, she said Embrace does encourage new bands to download the discipleship band app from Seedbed. There, they find “Discipleship Bands, A Practical Field Guide,” which helps the group settle in and includes a 28-day reading plan.
Hammett said Embrace also recommends Bible reading plans such as the Moravian Daily Text, He Reads Truth and She Reads Truth.
“[The hope is] people are doing something together but leaving space for him to personally interact with each person,” Hammett said.
They started the discipline bands in early August and now have nearly 20 groups in the making.
“The reality is, it’s not a church program,” she said. “This is just sort of like a personal life decision.”
Hammett said anyone who is interested can join and can find resources on their website.
Embrace is also currently doing a “Banding Together” series that can be viewed on YouTube, and it holds Sunday mornings worship at 10:30 a.m. on North College Street.
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