Ask the UMC: What 'methods' might Methodists use?

A small group meets at McKendree United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications
A small group meets at McKendree United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

Methodists use "methods" to practice spiritual growing in the same way Jesuits use "exercises." Can you tell me a method Methodists might use?

The “method” of Methodism is shaped by the Methodist rule of life, known as the General Rules. Click here to learn about the General Rules.

The Methodist rule of life is simple and practicable. It is intended by John Wesley to help Christians obey Jesus’ teachings, summarized by him in the Great Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. … and You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Methodists were helped to live the Christian life, shaped by the General Rules, when they met weekly in their small group, known as a “class” or “class meeting.”

The Classes were 12-15 Methodists, men and women, with the guidance and role model of their class leader. The class leader was a layman or laywoman who was a mature disciple of Jesus Christ and whom the leaders of the Methodist society believed could be trusted with guiding others in the pursuit of holiness of heart and life. When the class met, the leader always began by giving his or her response to the question, “How does your soul prosper?” Today we rephrase the question: “How is it with your soul?” The class meeting was also how Methodists followed Jesus’ “new commandment” to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35).

Their account was shaped by how their life was guided by the General Rules. After they shared how they followed Jesus’ teachings in the world during the week, the group prayed for him or her and then sang a hymn. This process was repeated for each member of the class.

Today this “method” of Methodism is adapted in Covenant Discipleship groups and the General Rule of Discipleship: “To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

Learn more about Covenant Discipleship.

— Rev. Steve Manskar, Director of Wesleyan Leadership, Discipleship Ministries

Get Your Spirit in Shape: Everyday Disciples

The method of early Methodism: The Oxford Holy Club


Have questions? Ask the UMC. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

First published February 21, 2017.

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