By Avonlea Brown
Every year in mid-September, tables line the first floor of the Stevens Student Center. Students mill by and glance at the books at the front of the tables. Smiling faces get the attention of as many passing students as they can. They all say the same thing: “Join a discipleship group!”
Some students continue walking, some make a beeline to the tables and grab a book, and others approach tentatively. As group leaders explain their books, students pick up one or two of them and flip through the pages. The sign-up sheets fill up fast, from freshmen eager to try something new, to upperclassmen that love the community and fellowship. Participating in a discipleship group is a unique opportunity to dig deeper into the community on campus.
One of the defining characteristics of Cedarville University’s Christian culture is the emphasis on discipleship. Students are encouraged to take part in this by joining one of Cedarville’s many small, student-led discipleship groups. This year, Cedarville’s Christian Ministry department marks its 21st year of student-led discipleship on campus.
Student-led discipleship groups, commonly called D-groups, create community on campus, fostering close relationships between students. These relationships are developed through time spent in fellowship and studying the text together and in prayer.
“In Cedarville’s culture it is so easy to go with the flow, it is so comfortable and easy. Having people hold you accountable, and make you not go with the flow, makes you realize you have to know what you believe in and take a stand for something. It is a stretching experience and helps prepare you for the real world.” Said Elizabeth Novak, a senior Nursing major, and second-year D-group leader. “You have to do life together with people.”
While it is not a required aspect of life on campus, D-groups are a popular co-curricular. They meet once a week and switch between reading their assigned book and fellowshipping together in other ways. D-groups go to TNL together, get dinner at Chuck’s, go to Bill’s Donuts, or participate in CU at the Ville.
“I think the biblical community is really important,” said Brendan Cavin, a sophomore Biblical Studies major. “By not doing something like a D-group you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to have accountability and to grow and to be encouraged by others in your walk with Christ.”
D-groups do not only benefit the students being led, the leaders of discipleship groups also have a chance to grow in their faith. D-group leaders are guided by a smaller group of experienced upperclassmen called the Discipleship Council. The council is made up of 13 students that have led groups in the past, they are tasked with guiding the leaders of discipleship groups toward a higher understanding of what it means to lead others in their faith.
“The most important part of discipleship groups is the student leadership. There is just something about a peer walking alongside you, saying something.” Said Aaron Cook, Director of Discipleship Ministries. “Are there more experienced teachers that we could put up in chapel or lead discipleship? Absolutely. But there is something about hearing somebody your own age teaching the word, and sharing and struggling alongside you.”
By struggling, growing, and learning together, students in discipleship groups become closer as brothers and sisters in Christ. Student-led D-groups have brought a new sense of community to campus since their addition to campus 21 years ago, providing opportunities for students to lead, teach, be taught and grow in their faith together.
Avonlea Brown is a sophomore Journalism student and editor of the Campus News section of Cedars. She loves watching Netflix, traveling, and hiking in her hometown of Southwest Harbor, Maine.