Growing in discipleship with a small group—like joining an exercise group for fitness or a parenting group to grow as a mom or dad—requires practicing every day what one learns when the group gets together. That is why every Monday afternoon, Jeff Pospisil, executive director of finance and administration for the Dakotas Conference, Pastor Kyle Reinhiller, serving Harrisburg United Methodist Church, and Pastor Jerry Stravia, serving Mitchell Downtown United Methodist Church get the band together.
In this episode of The Vital Connection, Pospisil, Reinhiller, and Stravia share their experiences with the band. The band, not to be confused with a rock band, is a proven discipleship model for growing in love through the accountability of small, same-gender groups, was one of the defining characteristics of the Methodist movement started by John Wesley in the mid-1700s.
In reflection on Wesley's class meeting and band meeting structure the Rev. Dr. Kevin Watson and the Rev. Dr. Scott Kisker, wrote “The Band Meeting: Rediscover relational discipleship in transformational community."
Here are some of the key thoughts and ideas that Pospisil, Reinhiller, and Stravia share during the podcast:
Openly address sin. The main focus of band meetings is to address your sin openly and have others who can hold you accountable. The thought of putting sin out in the open and confessing in front of others can be terrifying. The power of sin wants to keep us isolated from everyone else, and we have a lot of fear. But there is freedom in being vulnerable with others. Not only does confessing your sins to others lift a huge weight off your shoulders, but you also have the freedom of knowing that you have someone whom you can reach out to when you are struggling with temptation. “There is something powerful about confessing to someone, and they still like you and love you. Many times they love you more because you are willing to show your worse self and risking that,” says Reinhiller.
Social holiness is about people walking with each other to grow in their holiness, and not struggling to do it on their own. Part of drawing closer to God is to grow closer to other people through deeper relationships. John Wesley believed, “There is no religion that is not social, no holiness that is not social.” Social holiness is about people walking with each other to grow in their holiness, and not struggling to do it on their own. Pospisil prays for both Reinhiller and Stravia on a regular basis, sometimes several times a day. All three of the men see God actively using them in each other's lives. There is strength in knowing that other people are facing the same struggles you are. Stravia shares, “This isn’t about shaming yourself into being better; it’s about accountability, which is positive.” Checking in with each other about goals, being a support system, and having the opportunity to minister to others through your own brokenness is where the strength lies in this practice.
The band is a holistic approach to growth that is rooted in divinity and spiritually. We live in a society surrounded by social media, which allows everyone to show their best face. What we don’t see or show others is the messy and painful stuff. At some point, you get tired of always trying to put on a show for everyone, and you need someone whom you can confide in. Stravia says, “This is an opportunity just to be human. For a second, we don’t have to be the world’s definition of man; we can be vulnerable and just be the broken person that God loves.”
Band meetings work because it is about casting light on and letting go of what is weighing you down. “What we keep secret has power over us. When we bring that to light, the secret loses its power, loses its hold. That is really what the band meeting is: bringing the secret things that hold us captive to light. That is the power of that confession,” says Reinhiller. “If I hate myself because of this sin and I confess it, and they don’t hate me, then I realize God doesn’t hate me, and I don’t have to hate me. That’s the beauty of this as well. You’re precious. You’re valuable. You’re loved for you who are.”
Start a band meeting. While Methodists have fallen away from the band meeting, there is a movement to revive this accountability group. Pospisil, Reinhiller, and Stravia urge church leaders to be a part of something similar to this. If you are interested in getting your own group going, a good place to start would be to read The Band Meeting. Be intentional about starting a band and then just do it. “I thought ‘I have 39 years’ worth of sin and I can’t confess that much, so I am going to confess the last weeks’ worth,’” Pospisil said after his first meeting.
Other small group and discipleship resources:
Reach speaker videos and study guide: Reach! featured a variety of speakers and breakout sessions designed to equip and inspire attendees to reach the next person for Jesus in their communities and contexts. Start your own discussion by watching the videos and utilizing the study guides.
2019 Lenten study — Renovate: Building a life with God: Using the book of Nehemiah, popular author and pastor, Jacob Armstrong explores the physical and spiritual renovation experienced by the nation of Judah. Each week, starting March 6, 2019, one of the six chapters will be highlighted in a video by a member of the Dakotas Conference Cabinet.