Like weight watchers, a Bible study group needs a common discipline – a set of goals and
agreements that everyone is committed to. Instead of a weight problem these disciplines
are designed to work on spiritual growth. A study group is not for people who have it
all together. It is for people who know they do not have it all together. For people
who are struggling to make Jesus Christ the Lord of their lives, and readily admit
that they cannot make it alone.

These disciplines form the basis for life together in the group. At the beginning of
each season the group renews the covenant. Anyone who feels they cannot agree to the
minimum disciplines is allowed to get out – with honor. These five disciplines are:

1. Attendance:

This first discipline is basic to all the others. To give priority to the
meetings means that you will be present unless an emergency comes up. If an emergency
does come up, you will call someone in the group and tell this person why you cannot
be there.

To safeguard the group from feeling tied down to this discipline, the covenant
provides for an "exit" at the end of each season – with honor. If you feel that
you have other more pressing matters than the group meetings, you can drop out for
a season and come back when your schedule eases up.

2. Participation:

The purpose of a group is to become a group – to become a spiritual faith
community. It is only as we "tell our story" that people can identify with us.
Reach out. Care. Experience what the New Testament calls "koinonia" – oneness
in the common bond of our faith journey and struggles.

This is why the second discipline is so important. To agree to be in a group is
to agree to participate – to open up your life, your story, your struggles – and
let the group be a part of this story.

3. Confidentiality:

This is not a therapy group, but information will be shared from time to time
that should not be repeated outside the group.

The biggest drawback to sharing in a study group is the fear that someone in
the group will "blab" what you said around the church. The person may be harmed.
The group may be harmed because it will cease to be a place where you can come
with your problems.

4. Accountability:

At the close of every session, an opportunity is given to share new goals
you want to set for your life. When you state a new goal and ask the others in
the group to support you in this goal, you are giving permission to the group to
hold you accountable.

This discipline does not apply to needs that you have not shared. For instance,
a person does not have the right to ask you, "How are you doing with your wife,"
if you have not shared this as a problem. Accountability is not prying into
your life. Accountability is holding you to the things where you have asked
the group for support.

5. Accessibility:

This is the other side of accountability. Here you give permission to members
of your group to call you when they have a problem – even at 3 o'clock in the
morning. In fact, the 3 o'clock in the morning permission is exactly what is
required if a group is going to be serious about their commitment to one another.