A Redemption Group™ is an intense small group where participants experience the transforming love of God in life’s deepest areas of sin and suffering.
Catalyzing Churchwide Side-by-side Ministry
Watch Mike Wilkerson’s main session talk on Redemption Groups at the CCEF 2015 National Conference.
Knowing Your Redeemer’s Love
Our God abounds in steadfast love toward us, and this is most clearly shown to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Redemption Groups are about personally knowing and experiencing the Redeemer in his abounding love.
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Relational and experiential
Redemption Groups are about your life connecting with Jesus’ life in community. Group participants actively engage with one another: listening, sharing, comforting, and challenging. Group discussions tend to be very candid. The experience tends to help participants grow in how they relate to God, themselves, and others with greater love and honesty.
Sin and suffering
Someone entangled in a habitual sin, like addiction, not only needs delivery from sin, but also to come face to face with a Redeemer who delivers from suffering, pain, and misery. Someone limping from the wounds of abuse is not only desperate to know the compassionate presence of Jesus, but is also in great need of the Word, which discerns the sinful intentions that turn a wounded heart into a wounding heart. Our sins and sufferings are inextricably interwoven and Jesus redeems it all.
Redemption Group curriculum follows the story of Exodus, with the Israelites journeying through the wilderness from slavery to freedom. Along the way, again and again, we encounter our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The curriculum is the book Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry.
Redemption Groups are a form of biblical counseling. The doctrine and ministry philosophy are in harmony with that of the Biblical Counseling Coalition Doctrine and Confession statements. We believe that Christ-centered ministry effectively addresses the way we think, behave and feel. Key influences on the content in the Redemption book include teachers like David Powlison, Ed Welch and Paul Tripp.
Redemption Groups help people with all sorts of struggles to reframe their own stories within God’s story and to deeply experience Christ’s love and work of redemption in their own lives. That makes these groups a vital component in many care plans. We also value comprehensive care, though we don’t provide all of the forms of care that might be needed. So some group participants may also need to seek additional forms of help both inside and outside of the church, including for example: long-term accountability, rehab, medical care, individualized counseling or therapy or medication. Redemption Groups are not a substitute for those services where they are needed.
A Redemption Group is only the beginning—or a way station—in a lifelong journey. Groups are brief, usually meeting only about ten weeks. Participants leave groups armed with new ways of seeing God and themselves, and tools for working it out over time in community.
A Catalyst for the Church’s Community
The ministry of Redemption Groups is tied to the larger community of the local church. We find that they have immense potential to transform the culture of a local church to be more loving and redemptive. A thriving Redemption Groups ministry tends to equip church members who lead and participate in these groups to care for one another more meaningfully in their relationships throughout the church.
One woman told of her experience in a church where Redemption Groups had had this effect. Through tears she spoke of honesty. Though she’d not been through a group herself, she experienced the blessing of honest relationships.
Ideally, Redemption Groups are not run as a separate ministry silo in the church, but as a complement and catalyst to other ministries.
Group Size and Composition
A single Redemption Group is ideally composed of eight people, total. That’s two co-leaders, one apprentice, and five participants. A supervisor may occasionally sit in a group, making an ninth person in the room.
In a given cycle of Redemption Groups, there may be two to ten groups. All of these groups start and end together, all meeting in the same facility for each gathering. Each gathering begins with a main teaching session, usually lasting thirty to forty-five minutes, based on the scope and sequence of the Redemption book. All members of all groups attend this together. Then, there is a group session where each group meets for about ninety minutes. Typically, a church will run this format on Wednesday nights, 7:00pm–9:30pm, or so.
Redemption Groups normally run one session per week, such as on a Wednesday night. A best practice used by most churches is to start each quarter of Redemption Groups with a “weekend intensive”, which covers the first two to four sessions on a Friday evening and Saturday. The typical cycle includes twelve meetings:
- Three sessions in the weekend intensive, covering the three parts of the Introduction of Redemption: God’s Story, Redemption and Worship.
- Eight sessions week-by-week, one for each of the numbered chapters of Redemption.
- A celebration service.
On a calendar, this works out nine or ten weeks from beginning to end.
Redemption Groups are usually “closed groups”. This means that select leaders and members are placed together in a group at the beginning of the cycle and they remain together without adding any one new for the duration of the group cycle.
We prefer not to mix men and women in these kinds of groups. All men and women meet together for the main teaching session, but their groups are either men-only or women-only.
Redemption Groups are designed to include people with problems of all kinds in a single group. So, in a group of women, one woman may be hurting with the wounds of past abuse, another may be battling a pornography addiction, another may have a troubled marriage, and another may be experiencing symptoms of depression.
Discussion Within Groups
The group discussions broadly follow the corresponding themes of each session’s Redemption teaching, but leaders have significant flexibility on how they plan and use their time in group. In the first few sessions, every member of the group tells a small bit of his or her story, enough to let the group know “why I’m here”. In the remaining group sessions, leaders organize the group’s time and activity around connecting truth to life. This involves further drawing out individuals in the group with questions and eventually speaking into their lives, at times with words of comfort, at times with words of confrontation. But it’s not just the leaders who counsel individuals in the groups; leaders strive to help the group come together as a group to learn and grow, to work through conflict, and care for each other.
Redemption Groups are fixed-length in their duration. For example, they might last ten weeks or eleven group sessions, but they are not ongoing—participants do not participate indefinitely.
Co-Led by Volunteer Biblical Counselors
Groups are usually lead by two co-leaders and one apprentice, a leader in training.
Group leaders are equipped for, at least, basic, volunteer-level biblical counseling. Probably the single greatest factor contributing to a successful, fruitful Redemption Group is the readiness of its leaders.
However, Redemption Group leaders are usually not professionally trained or licensed counselors. Even if they are, they usually minister under the umbrella of a church’s volunteer counseling ministry. Redemption Groups are not a substitute for licensed, professional counseling.
Redemption Groups are not…
Not every group that uses the Redemption book should be called a Redemption Group. For example, a small group Bible study whose members elect to read through and discuss the Redemption book together is not a Redemption Group.
History of Redemption Groups and Redemption Group Network
The Redemption Group Network was founded in 2011 by Mike Wilkerson, author of Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry to promote the development of Redemption Groups at local churches and other ministry sites. Redemption Groups were first developed at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington where Mike worked on staff as a pastor with key contributors Bill Clem and James Noriega. More history can be found in the Preface of Redemption.
In mid-2014, Mike moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he re-structured Redemption Group Network as a nonprofit and formed a fiscal sponsorship with Live at Peace Ministries. Much of the Network “fasted” from running groups during the winter quarter of 2014–2015 for self-examination, repentance, and awareness-raising to address the sinful cultural traits that we believed had crept into some Redemption Groups, as evidenced by some of the stories we heard from people who had experienced groups at Mars Hill. This time of correction culminated in March 2015 with a leadership summit in Seattle. A primary outcome of that summit was a renewed focus on core commitments that we believe will foster healthy ministry in the Network as it continues to grow, most notably the values of gentleness and grace. In mid-2015, Mike moved back to the Seattle area to focus on Redemption Group Network full time.
Redemption Group™, Redemption Groups™ and Redemption Group Immersion™ are trademarks of Redemption Group Network and may not be used without a licensing agreement. To learn how to start Redemption Groups at your church, head over to our start page.