Relational approaches to spiritual formation (what some call organic approaches) are those that start with the audience and then move to the content. The basic assumption is that each person who follows after Jesus is headed for the same spiritual destination (the increasingly unmistakable image of Jesus) but is moving from a unique place on spiritual quest and at a personal pace.
While there may be many relational models, we have narrowed our focus to three:
One-on-One approaches (mentoring) pair a more mature follower of Jesus with someone newer on the path. The seasoned Christ-follower loves, shepherds, coaches, mentors, and challenges the newbie. The person newer to this life provides a kind of accountability for the mentor, challenges with questions, covenants to be teachable, etc. The ideal of the model is that, as the relationship achieves agreed goals, both parties can move on to invest in the journey of others! While many fine strategic resources exist for such a model, we are happy to partner with Living Faith Ministries in encouraging a one-on-one approach to spiritual formation.
Triad approaches are groups of three, at different places on spiritual quest, investing in each other, framed by a common desire to know God and each other, and to be known. Usually one of the three is more experienced in living the Christ-life. The goal is to develop relationships and habits, master some basics, and reproduce by moving on to carry others through the same process. Any number of fine resources can be used to accomplish this. We are currently recommending Transforming Discipleship – a model championed by Greg Ogden – because of the comprehensive nature of the process and the inclusion of the triad model as foundational to the process.
Micro-groups are groups of two that grow to three and, once to four, multiply to two groups of two. This model merges some of the elements of the one-on-one and triad approach, using a Bible reading process, accountability questions and reproduction occurring during, rather than following, a pre-determined journey. The members of micro-groups can be at similar places on spiritual quest, or scattered across the continuum. There is no one person who is the answer guy/gal. Rather, there is a specific approach to Scripture that invites Holy Spirit to play that role. We are recommending the process called Life Transformation Groups, championed by Neil Cole, as instructive in this process.