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Discipling Group for a Pandemic?

Photo of Bobby HarringtonBobby Harrington | Bio

Bobby Harrington

Bobby is the point-leader of and, both collaborative, disciple-making organizations. He is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN). He has an M.A.R. and an M.Div. from Harding School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 10 books on discipleship, including Discipleshift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman), The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick) and Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level 5 Disciple Making (with Greg Weins). He lives in the greater Nashville area with his wife and near his children and grandchildren.

At we believe that Jesus-style disciple making is the core mission of the church. It includes reaching lost people (evangelism) and forming people into the image of Jesus (maturation).

But how do we make disciples when we are having trouble even gathering with the church? Many people are joining online instead of in person. Participating online is better than nothing on Sundays, but it is not enough. And many are not even regularly watching. There is a big disconnection. What do we do?

For many churches, the answer is Phygital Disciple Making.

Phygital is the concept of using technology to bridge the physical world (phy-) with the digital world (-gital). Here is the basic idea: create disciple making groups that combine monthly in-person gatherings with weekly digital gatherings (through Zoom, Google Hangout, etc.).

We have a specific model to commend to you; watch a video explaining the model by clicking here.

Here is a broad outline of how it works. In the ideal, a disciple-making leader will initiate and lead the process.
  • Form Groups of 3-5 People – This is a specific group size, ideal for the phygital environment. It is best to make it a same-gender group. Hold the formation meeting in person, with social distancing protocols in place, and establish a group agreement.
  • Meet Weekly Online for One Hour – The regularity of the meeting is important (for relationships and spiritual formation) and, if you are careful to keep it to one hour, it is not too difficult. Our group of men met every Tuesday night from 8:30-9:30 PM. They helped get their kids in bed and then easily joined the group without any travel time.
  • Meet Monthly In-person – As a part of our holistic model, we met in person. We observed social distancing, utilized masks, and met to serve those in need or have a meal or Sabbath together.

Our phygital group combines the key elements of effective disciple making: I led the men on an intentional path exploring the teachings of Jesus, we enjoy good relationships (the monthly face-to-face meeting are crucial for relationships), and there was significant spiritual formation.

By the way, phygital describes our cultural future.

We want to embrace Jesus-style disciple making in this environment now because, with 5G technology, we will soon have new ways to disciple people. For example, Facebook is planning to open virtual reality rooms in 2022. Very soon, 5G will make virtual-in-person meetings, with all the elements of virtual reality, as common as Zoom meetings were in 2020.

But for now, with COVID-19 raging, we need an easy-to-adopt disciple making model. We recommend that our readers click the links below to review these two free resources:

-PDF – Starting a Transparency Group Using the Teachings of Jesus

-Video Training – Starting a Transparency Group Video Training (1 hour).