Grafted Life Ministries partnered with Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church to bring church-wide spiritual health and vitality through small groups.
“Grafted Life provided a place for me to connect with like-minded people who understand spiritual formation and discipleship—and who I believe will help heal the relational brokenness in all of us by helping people to live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.”
Brian Owen, Discipleship Pastor, Grace Fellowship UMC
Grace Fellowship UMC is a thriving church, averaging 2,800 worshippers a Sunday. Located in Katy, TX, in the energy corridor of west Houston, Grace Fellowship serves a population of primarily suburban families led by working professionals.
Grace’s founding pastor, Jim Leggett, has been at the helm since its inception 18 years ago. They have 11 full-time pastors out of a staff of 60, coming from a range of Christian backgrounds from Bible church to charismatic.
In 2009, on Brian Owen’s first day as pastor at Grace Fellowship, he became aware that while the church was active and growing, well over a hundred people were exhibiting signs of deep relational crisis. In his words,
“I was sobered by the reality that as much as we do in the local church—for all our Bible teaching, small groups, and prayer—there is still a lot of junk underneath the surface that is not getting addressed.
“I knew what I wanted to see happen: people learning how to have a really rich walk with Jesus, learning to love Him and others well. We’ve got people that have been in Bible Study Fellowship for 20 years. They have a lot of information and knowledge. They’re good people and dutiful. I just think God has more for them.”
“We get so caught up sometimes in training for small group mechanics that we forget to talk about the relationships within the group, and how to relate to the Lord as a group. Grafted Life gives concrete steps to help leaders understand that.”
A year ago, Owen began to notice a common theme emerging from conversations with both his staff and church members: that church members were ready and longing for more in their walk with God. Owen shared with Grafted Life his sense that the time had arrived to intentionally offer our shared vision and proven pathways to deeper spiritual growth.
Owen invited a select group of staff and small group leaders to hear Debbie Swindoll, Executive Director of Grafted Life, speak about Grafted Life’s philosophy on practical spiritual formation. Out of that event, 7 small group leaders entered the certification process to lead Grated Life’s Life with God discipleship curriculum series. Grace Fellowship then launched their first six Life with God groups, with a total participation from their congregation of 57 people.
Feedback from the inaugural Life with God groups was so positive that when Grafted Life released The Art of Spiritual Leadership (ASL), a manual-guided, 6-week small group leader training, Owen and his team knew that it would be perfect for the rest of their small group leaders. They offered ASL during the summer break and 63 small group leaders signed up.
Grace Church Leader’s Survey Feedback
63 small group leaders trained
92% said their training showed them how to better love their group members
93% recommended that Grace Church continue offering ASL in the future
Through the Life with God curriculum and The Art of Spiritual Leadership, Grace Fellowship’s small group leaders and members are experiencing that deeper walk with God and others that they have been hungering for.
Owen reports that leaders are now acting as “faithful stewards of God’s grace” (1 Peter 4:10): “The people in Grafted Life groups are learning to listen and attend to the Spirit. We talk about abiding in Christ and Grafted Life has given people a space to practice and experience that. It’s changing their lives. It’s changing their families. It’s changing the way they lead their groups. And it’s affecting how they minister.”
Going forward, Owen plans to offer The Art of Spiritual Leadership regularly to his small group leaders. He sees Life with God as an essential piece of his small group offerings, particularly for those who are ready for a more intentional discipleship process. Grafted Life’s influence is rippling through Grace Fellowship, as participants from both Life with God and ASL are sharing these concepts in other ministries, such as mothers of preschoolers, Alpha, and the youth group.