Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
Claudia E. Dempsey
discipleship, spiritual, formation, virtual, discipline, video, group
Mansfield, Austin Stephen, "The Impact of Virtual Technology on Discipleship Training in a Small Group Context" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3876.
Many contemporary churches face the difficulty of implementing the Great Commission’s mandate for making disciples (Matt 28:19-20). Occasional church attendance and a lack of participation in fellowship and ministries beyond the Sunday worship service reflect this difficulty. Discipleship has become even more challenging in the current climate of social distancing that has resulted from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Being separated physically from others exacerbates a growing predisposition to spiritual isolation, which in turn hinders development of discipleship; physical interaction has always been the main model for making disciples. The Great Commission’s description of discipleship (making disciples through going, baptizing, and teaching) is an observable, physical aspect of spiritual formation. Hence, the use of digital technology for virtual relationships for the purpose of making disciples is a new approach. This research project will propose a plan to enhance discipleship in the context of a small Anglican church in Yuma, Arizona. An integrated strategy will be used during this six-week video conferencing exercise to facilitate virtual fellowship, provide discipleship training, discuss spiritual formation processes, cultivate a posture of routine prayer, and encourage meditative Scripture reading. A Spiritual Fitness Test will be completed by the thirteen participants at the start and conclusion of the project to measure receptivity and growth. The project addresses a common discipleship problem with the added wrinkle of a global pandemic’s influence on the process. Although the project is based in one Anglican church in Yuma, Arizona, the results are expected to have wide application as modified to local needs and geography. The results demonstrated clear increases in spiritual formation in all categories and included requested for continued daily morning and evening prayer sessions. Those sessions have been continuing for more than a year following the project’s completion.