Phoenix Groups at Bama Wesley are the most rigorous form of discipleship available to students, and are our best way of helping students to strive toward what John Wesley referred to as “holiness of heart and life”. It is in Phoenix Groups that students do the hard work of asking and being asked questions about the state of their heart and soul so that the image of God in which they are created can be restored, and this inward grace can be manifested in students’ outward actions.
Phoenix Groups are not Bible studies. Through Wesley @ Home groups, students have plenty of opportunities to learn more about the Bible, theology, and related topics. We often refer to these types of offerings as informational discipleship, whether the goal is to grow in knowledge. Phoenix Groups, by contrast, are what we refer to as transformational discipleship. While scripture and theology will inevitably be discussed, the goal is not growing in knowledge but being more fully transformed into God’s image.
Creating and Joining a Phoenix Group
Phoenix Groups are made up of 2-4 students who share in leadership of the group and meet on a regular basis (most groups meet weekly for 1-2 hours). We leave it to each group to work out the logistics of when and where to meet.
In forming your group, we strongly encourage you to develop a group covenant that sets forth expectations for the group and members. This will be unique to each group, but a few things we recommend including are:
- When and where the group will meet
- Attendance expectations for members, including acceptable reasons for a member to miss a meeting and whether someone not being able to attend will cause the meeting to be rescheduled
- Expectation of confidentiality
- What shared leadership looks like: will each member lead the meeting on a rotation? Will members have different responsibilities such as leading discussion or hosting the meeting? Some other model?
- How conflict will be handled within the group
- How the group will create a safe environment to be open and vulnerable
- How the group will check in and maintain accountability between meetings
Should I Join a Phoenix Group?
While Phoenix Groups are open to any student who wishes to be part of one, not everyone is ready to be part of one – and that’s ok. Before joining, we encourage you to prayerfully consider the following questions:
- Do you have forgiveness for your sins?
- Do you have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?
- Do you have assurance you are a child of God?
- Is the love of God alive and growing in your heart?
- Does any sin have mastery over you?
- Do you desire to be told of your faults?
- Do you desire to be told of all your faults, those both public and private?
- Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in our hearts concerning you?
- Do you desire we should tell you whatever we think about you, whatever we fear for you, whatever we hear regarding you?
- Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the core, and search your heart to to the bottom?
- Is it your desire and design to be on this and all other occasions, entirely open with your group, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?
The Group Meeting
Phoenix Groups will generally meet for 1-2 hours (any less and chances are the discussion hasn’t been as thorough as it should be, any more and the group has likely gotten bogged down along the way and could streamline the meeting). Of course, this will vary from group, especially if the group plans other activities around the meeting.
Where to Meet
Where the group meets is up to you, but we encourage you to meet in a home, dorm, apartment, or other private place where you can maintain privacy and confidentiality. Most groups will meet either in a particular member’s home each week, or will rotate between homes.
The format of Phoenix Group meetings is simple, and is largely driven by the Five Wesleyan Questions (see below) with prayer at the beginning and end.
The heart of Phoenix Groups is the Five Historic Wesleyan Questions that are based on those asked by John Wesley to the bands that were the basis of the early Methodist movement. These questions, which are asked during each meeting, are:
Question 1: How is it with your soul?
The meeting begins by asking members how it is with their soul. This is more than just “how has your week been?”, but asks the group to honestly consider the state of their soul and their relationship with God since the last meeting. Some groups may find it helpful to provide further structure to this question such as scoring the state of their soul from 1 to 5 (1 being they have been very distant from God, 5 being very close), sharing the high and low point of the week, or some other format that works for the group.
Question 2: Where have you seen God?
The next question asks members to share where they have seen God at work since the last meeting. This should be more than simply sharing the best part of your week, and should go deeper into where you have seen God at work in your life.
Question 3: How have you been tempted? Did you fall to it or overcome it? Share the story.
This question is perhaps the most challenging, and asks group members to share how they have been tempted since the group last met. Note that the question is not how you have sinned, but rather asks you to take a step back and look at where you were tempted regardless of whether that led to sin. In sharing how you have been tempted, you should also share the story of what led to that temptation so that, together, the group can help identify how you can overcome it in the future. This can also be an opportunity for group members to find ways to support and hold one another accountable between meetings.
Many groups find it helpful to proclaim forgiveness over one another after each member has shared, offering words similar to “Scripture promises us that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive them and remember them no more. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”
Question 4: How have you shared your faith?
As part of the group meeting, members should share how they have shared their faith since the last meeting. Ideally this will be with someone who is not part of Wesley or another faith community. There are a range of answers for this question including serving the campus or community, having a one-on-one or small group conversation with a friend or classmate, and more.
Question 5: Do you have any questions?
Finally, the group ends by asking whether there are any questions. Originally, this question was an opportunity for the group to discuss whether a particular action was a sin or not. However, while it can certainly be used for that still, we find it to be a good opportunity to ask whatever questions the group may want to discuss about life or faith. Note that you do not have to be an expert or find answers here, and this can be a great opportunity for a group member to do some research and bring their answers back to the group at the next meeting.