Thank you for considering serving as a Phoenix Group leader! This is one of the most significant ways you can invest in the lives of students at Bama Wesley during their time in Tuscaloosa. Phoenix Groups (which are modeled after the Band Meetings led by John Wesley that were instrumental in the earliest days of the Methodist movement) represent the most intensive opportunity for discipleship at Bama Wesley, and are an opportunity for students to ask and be asked difficult questions in the pursuit of becoming who God created them to be. Phoenix Groups are not traditional Bible studies, but rather are focused on helping students discover their God-given identity and purpose through a small, trusted group.
As a Phoenix Group leader, you have a unique opportunity to speak into students’ lives during some of their most formative years as they have experiences and make decisions that will influence the rest of their lives. We consistently hear from alumni who have participated in these groups that being in a Phoenix Group was one of the most impactful parts of their college experience and, just as often, of the profound impact that their Phoenix Group leader had on them.
This page lays out what we ask of you as a Phoenix Group leader and what you can expect if you choose to lead a group. At the beginning of each semester, before you start meeting with your group, we’ll find a time for both new and returning leaders to meet with Wesley’s executive (pastoral) staff to go over all of this in more detail, answer any questions you may have, and share some helpful tips and best practices based on our experience. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Executive Pastor, Rev. John Fleischauer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (205) 758-3502 ext. 6684.
Who is in a Phoenix Group?
Phoenix Groups consist of 2-4 students of the same gender who are generally in at least their third year on campus. These students have also been part of an Ember Group (which we view as a preparatory step to Phoenix Groups) for at least two semesters, have completed a self-assessment, and met with our staff as part of the application process. For more details on the requirements for students to participate in a Phoenix Group, click here.
What is involved in Phoenix Group meetings?
Phoenix Group meetings typically last up to two hours per week, and are centered around the five historic Wesleyan questions:
- How is it with your soul?
- Where have you seen God this week?
- How have you been tempted this week? Share the story.
- What questions do you have about life or faith?
- How have you shared your faith this week?
- How are things going with the group you lead?
When we meet at the beginning of the semester we’ll go over these in more detail, including how much you should share as a leader. Generally, though, each meeting will consist largely of these questions being asked of and answered by each member of the group.
A Word About Location
While you are welcome to meet at Wesley and we will happily make space available for you, we typically suggest that groups meet somewhere other than at Wesley. Most leaders host their group at their home, though doing so is completely up to you. Primarily, this is because we’ve found students to be more open and vulnerable when they aren’t worried about their peers being just a (very thin) wall away as is often the case at Wesley. Meeting off-site creates a sense of privacy and confidentiality that aids students in being more willing to speak freely.
What is expected of Phoenix Group leaders?
The main thing we expect of Phoenix Group leaders is that they will meet with their group for approximately two hours once per week while classes are in session. Leaders are welcome to meet with their group as a whole or one-on-one with members outside of that time, but doing so is certainly not required.
Outside of the time commitment, as mentioned earlier, one of the biggest things we ask is that leaders be willing to allow students a glimpse into their own lives. This may sound intimidating at first, and to a large degree is something we leave to your discretion. However, we frequently hear from students that the most influential leaders are the ones who are open and authentic with the students they lead. In fact, this is another reason we suggest hosting your group in your home, as doing so allows students to catch a glimpse of what it looks like to live out one’s faith outside of the “bubble” that college (and Wesley specifically) can often create. This may mean students walk into carpet not being vacuumed, dirty dishes being in the sink, and maybe even a bottle of wine on the counter – and that’s ok. Time and again we’ve heard from students that the most influential leaders are the ones who are open and authentic with the students they lead and let them know that it’s ok for life to be a little messy sometimes.
We also ask that leaders have a mature, active, and growing relationship with God. Most likely if we’ve asked you to consider leading a group we know you well enough that this isn’t a concern, but we do ask that you let students see you living that out.
Finally, a word about what we don’t expect of you: we don’t expect you to be biblical scholars, counselors, or anything else you’re not trained for. There can and will be times when you need to refer a student to one of our pastors, or to reach out to one of our pastors yourself for guidance – and that’s ok. Our pastors are available as resources for both you and the students you lead, and we fully expect that there will be times when the best thing you can do for a student is to refer students back to them.
What is expected of students?
In short, our expectation of students who participate in a Phoenix Group is that they demonstrate a commitment to the group and to the process. This means both attending meetings and actively participating in them.
Of course, sometimes academic and other obligations interfere with the group’s normal meeting schedule, and we ask that you be as flexible as possible in accommodating those obligations without sacrificing the group’s purpose. However, we make clear to students when they apply for a Phoenix Group that they should not expect the group to change its meeting schedule to accommodate their other commitments and that doing so is at the leader’s discretion.
Similarly, we expect students to be committed to the process of Phoenix Groups, meaning we expect them to make an effort and being open and vulnerable with the group. Of course, this won’t happen overnight, and for most new groups it takes at least until the end of their first semester together for this to be fully realized. However, we do expect students to steadily become more open with the group as the level of trust within the group builds.
Outside of the group itself, students are expected to also lead either a Spark or Ember Group, and part of the Phoenix Group’s meeting each week (through question 6) is a check-in to discuss how those groups are going.