Covenant Group Reflection and Sample Agreement
By Charles Graul
I came upon a scripture during my devotional time this week that perhaps we can reflect upon as I share my thoughts on Covenant Groups.
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples
20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.
My reflection on the above passage:
Here is a leader of a church (synagogue) who has a problem that only Jesus can help with: his daughter has died. Jesus is asked to come and his disciples go with him. Maybe this was the first covenant group. What I also notice is that other people, besides those in the group, get helped as well. (bleeding woman)
We all have problems as pastors, from sickness and death in our families, to divorce, tragedies, etc. It is good for us not to go alone during these events. The problems we face as pastors occurs in addition to caring for the churches we serve. Having Jesus go with us through other disciples sure makes the journey easier.
Personal participation in covenant groups:
Most covenant groups that I have attended the past 13 years are much smaller than occurred in this passage (13+), typically anywhere from 2 or 3 to about 6 or 7. Needs are shared and prayed for because within the group there is trust. It is a matter of confidentiality: what happens in the covenant groups stays in the covenant group. We stick with each other and pray for one another. The groups I’ve attended meet regularly: monthly, every other week, or weekly. Some of the groups I’ve been a part of meet with other United Methodist pastors only, pastors/priests of other denominations. Some groups study a book or topic together, lectionary scriptures, or just meet at the local restaurant for a cup of coffee or a meal. Some covenant groups even meet by teleconferencing, I have been told.
My job as a care guide:
As a care guide for Vermilion River District, I asked the district secretary to send out an email asking whether the pastors in our district actually attend a covenant group or not. If they did, when and where and if they didn’t attend a group, we asked if they would they like to. Approximately 75 percent do attend, 20 percent would like to but haven’t found one yet, while a few are not interested at all. Covenant groups meet throughout our district so getting to one should not be a problem. What really concerns me are those who refuse to attend. Just what has happened that has caused them to make that decision?
I have been asked by my District Superintendent, Leah Pogemiller, to visit pastors who are experiencing life/career changing/traumatic events in their lives. I also attend meetings in Springfield as a care guide to help plan the Covenant Keeper event and Annual Conference.
In my first year of ministry there were events around the Conference to discuss the SOMA (body) reports. What I heard there was that many pastors were experiencing hurt feelings/lack of trust issues between other pastors. A clergy meeting at Annual Conference went into the early morning hours of the night discussing what was troubling them. Someone else beside me will have to fill us all in, just exactly took place that night. Covenant Groups, it is my understanding were birthed as a result of the findings of those SOMA reports.
The ideal covenant group, in my opinion, would include elders, deacons, local pastors, part-time local, and retired. Many groups I am sorry to say are only made of just one type of the above. How can we have conversation and as a result ‘healing’ between us if we choose not to meet with ‘others’?
What I also notice in the above passage is that Jesus went along with the synagogue leader and his disciples came along too. If Jesus could say yes to being part of a healing of that little girl’s body, perhaps it is time you and I can be a part of the healing of the body of Christ (our comrades in the faith) too!
Below you will find a copy of the covenant that our Route 24 group uses presently. It helps us focus on what we believe are the main things a covenant group should focus on. Please add/delete what your group decides they want and use it.
Jesus promised his disciples that if two or three gather together, He would be with them. Let the healing begin!
Covenant of Discipleship
Knowing that Jesus died that I might have eternal life. I herewith pledge myself to be God’s faithful disciple, holding not back, but yielding all to the gracious initiatives of the Holy Spirit. I pledge my time, my skills, my resources and my strength to search out God’s will for me.
I will begin and end the day with prayer; and pray daily for each member of this covenant.
I will read and study the Scriptures each day.
I will worship and observe a Sabbath and, if possible, attend Sunday School.
I will receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion whenever offered in worship, even where I am visiting.
I will heed the warnings of the Holy Spirit not to sin against God and my neighbors.
I will prayerfully care for my body; exercising daily and I will Fast one meal each week under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I will be faithful in my stewardship of God’s resources, tithing my wealth, and will seek to further the coming of God’s new age on earth.
I will prayerfully plan my work and study time.
I will maintain confidentiality with other members of this covenant.
I will share in Christian fellowship, meeting each week with the members of this covenant, where I will be accountable for my discipleship.
I hereby make my commitment, trusting in the Grace of Jesus Christ to work in me that I might have strength to keep my Covenant.