DNA Groups

Smaller groups of committed people who meet on a consistent basis to Discover, Nurture, and Apply Christ together until He is all in all.

What Is a DNA Group? 

According to Scripture, every Christian is called to be both a disciple and a disciple-maker (Matt 28:18-20).  Disciples of Jesus are to be busy making disciples of Jesus.  We are to be both following Christ and helping others follow Him as well.  Discipleship, in one way or another, should be happening at every level of the church (and even beyond it as we engage our unbelieving neighbors and friends with the gospel).

But, sadly, it often isn’t.

We don’t want that to be the case at Mercy Hill!  At Mercy Hill, our aim is to develop and support what you might call a “culture of discipleship.” What we mean by this is that we want it to be a normal thing here for people to be engaged meaningfully in each other’s lives, pursuing Christ together, and inviting unbelievers to join in on the journey.

One of the ways we are attempting to promote this culture of discipleship is through what we call DNA Groups. We define these groups as follows:

A DNA Group is a smaller group of committed people who meet on a consistent basis to Discover, Nurture, and Apply Christ together until He is all in all.

Discipleship to Jesus, we learn from the Scriptures, is really the process whereby we are saved by Him and slowly, progressively renewed in His image (cf. Luke 6:40; John 20:21; Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:17-24; Col 3:5-10). 

When you think about it, as Jesus set out to make disciples, what was He doing? He was calling people out of darkness—away from their broken way of life and the realm death—and He was inviting them to follow Him, learn from Him, and begin to live and look more and more like Him.  In other words, discipleship to Jesus, we could say, is His way of rewiring our DNA.  His grace touches the deepest places of our being and transforms every aspect of our lives. 

DNA Groups at Mercy Hill exist to foster and facilitate in our church this ongoing process of growing up more and more into the image Jesus.   That's the sort of church culture we're going for—one where we're all running hard after Christ and finding renewal in Him together!

Unpacking the Definition

If you're curious what our definition above really means, we've broken it down for you below bit by bit.

Discover, Nurture, and Apply

Let's begin with those three key words that form the basis for our acronym: Discover, Nurture, and Apply (i.e. DNA).  As we approach this idea of Discovering, Nurturing, and Applying Christ, it might help you to imagine us going on a journey from head, to heart, to hand. Let’s look at these one by one and you’ll see what we mean.

DISCOVERING CHRIST  |  HEAD

Discovering Christ simply means that we come to see more of Him—who He is, what He has done, what He teaches, what He promises. We uncover more of the glory of His person and work. We explore the width, breadth, height, and depth of His love for us at the cross. We get knowledge of Him in our heads.

Nurturing Christ  |  Heart

Nurturing Christ takes the things discovered about Him and attempts to draw it all down into our hearts. We are not satisfied merely knowing truths about Christ with our heads, we want to relate to Him, trust Him, love Him, worship Him with all of our hearts. Here is the place where we repent of our wanderings and our idolatries and our false alliances, and we re-root ourselves by faith in Jesus. Here is the place where we cry out with that man in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Applying Christ  |  Hand

Applying Christ looks to move all of this out into our lives. True and vibrant faith in one’s heart leads to love and obedience in one’s life. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:5).

We are not satisfied to only know Christ with our heads—that would be mere intellectualism. Nor are we satisfied when once His truths have reached our hearts—that would be mere sentimentalism. The full range of religious motion should move from the head through the heart to the hands. Remember: discipleship to Jesus has as its end conformity to His image. He doesn’t save us by grace so we can remain in sin. He saves us to renew us. Grace transforms. As we follow Him we start to reflect Him—we start to look more and more like Him.

Smaller Groups

DNA Groups, for the most part, will be intentionally kept small. Because these groups aim for renewal in Christ at the “molecular” level, each member of the group must have space to Discover, Nurture, and Apply Christ for him/herself. There is a deeply personal aspect to our faith. It is your head, your heart, and your hand that must be realigned with God. If each member is to personally engage with the Lord and one another at this deep level, the groups must be kept small to provide both the time and intimate atmosphere appropriate for such work.

Committed and Consistent

We must face here the simple fact that, unless this small group of people is committed to and consistent with one another, little growth can take place.

To be clear, when you join a DNA Group, it's not as if you are signing on for life.  Each group is encouraged to have regular checkpoints where members can prayerfully evaluate whether they feel God is calling them to continue on or not.  Some groups will have clear finish lines (e.g. if you are meeting to go through a book or some other resource and you've come to the end of it).  Other groups will be more indefinite (e.g. if you are meeting to simply talk about life and pray together).  But every group will likely have its own "life cycle."  And that is okay.

The most important thing is not that you stay in one group for years on end, but that, however long you are in that group, you are fully present and engaged—you're all in.  Be committed.  Be consistent.  And watch what Jesus will do!

Together

With this word “together” we have something quite important in mind. Too often, in our opinion, with discipleship there comes this sort of top-down, one-way approach, where one person is “making a disciple” of the other and not the other way around.

While, certainly, discipleship does involve more mature believers pouring into younger ones, to say that this is merely a one-directional process is a gross oversimplification and even a dangerous reduction of what Jesus intended. Far better, we think, than the “me-over-you” model of discipleship is the “me-with-you” model that we see in the Scriptures. We are co-travelers—young and old, novice and mature, fresh and seasoned—behind Calvary’s King. We are not making you our disciples. We are inviting you to follow along with us as His disciple!

Until He Is All in All

Too often, it seems, we segregate our religious/spiritual lives from our normal/everyday lives. As such we are prone to reduce what salvation and discipleship to Jesus really means. We get that the gospel covers our past sins and failures, we are assured that the gospel secures our future entrance into the gates of heaven, but we are often at a loss for how the gospel really touches things in the here and now. O sure, we talk and think of it on Sundays, but we have really no idea how it connects to our Mondays.

Here is where we must remember that God’s redemption is co-extensive with His creation. By this we simply mean: His redemption will one day encompass everything—from soul, to body, to nature; from marriage, to family, to friendship; from sleep, to work, to hobby; and so on. There is no divide in our lives between things that are “sacred” and things that are merely “secular”—between things that Christ cares about and things that He doesn’t. He cares about it all. He died to bring transformation to it all.

Christianity is not merely another religion, it is a new way to be human (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). And we take this new humanity with us into everything that we do. This is why Paul can say to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “[W]hether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” There is nothing in your life beyond the bounds of Christ’s kingdom. There is nothing in your life so mundane, so menial, so commonplace that it cannot be redeemed in Christ and handled in such a way so as to bring glory to God. Every aspect of a disciple’s life ought to be increasingly brought under the Lordship of Jesus and transformed by His Spirit and grace!

So DNA Group members get into each other’s lives and ask: what does this “all” Paul speaks of look like for you?! “[W]hatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” How can Christ be all in all?! How can Christ be glorified when you’re working in a cubicle, or changing a diaper? How does the gospel change the way you sit in rush hour traffic, or relate to your neighbors, or drink a cup of warm coffee on a cold morning? Discipleship to Jesus should touch and transform every part of our lives!

DNA Groups exist to help us make these connections that we might integrate our lives into a composite whole united and marching under the banner of God’s glory! 

 

What Exactly Do These Groups Do?

Surely, at this point, you are wondering what exactly these DNA Groups do.  While each group will certainly have its own flavor (we give a lot of freedom to Facilitators to craft their own vision), you can get a sense of what they might look like by checking out what we call the three DNA Group “Frameworks.”

We’ve developed these frameworks as a way of providing structure and direction for DNA Groups to make use of if they so desire. Each of the three frameworks designed for use in Mercy Hill’s DNA Groups utilize carefully crafted questions as a way of guiding the process of discipleship to Jesus and renewal in His image. They all have the same end goal (to Discover, Nurture, and Apply Christ until He is all in all) but they come at it from three different angles or starting points.

Framework #1: Life

The Life Framework takes each member’s life as its starting point and moves towards God and the gospel together from there.

We share about the ups and downs of our lives since the last meeting—where we’ve seen God at work, where we’ve felt His absence, how we are processing these things, how Jesus has been leading us faithfully through it all. Every person is heard and cared for. We minister to each other from the Scriptures. We make space to pray for one another with honest empathy. We find help to carry on in the way of discipleship. We look more and more like Jesus.

To help you get a sense of the types of questions asked within this framework, here is what we call the Life Framework Cue Card:

Framework #2: Scripture

The Scripture Framework takes the Scriptures as its starting point and moves towards the heart and life of each member from there.

Verses are read from the old Book. Questions are asked. We seek understanding together. We seek God’s face together. We seek the good news of Jesus together. And then we repent and re-root ourselves in these realities. We seek to draw clear and crisp lines between the truths of Scripture and the details of our daily lives. We find God’s word to be more relevant than we ever could’ve thought and His Spirit to be more present than we ever could’ve hoped. We minister to each other from the Scriptures. We make space to pray for one another with honest empathy. We find help to carry on in the way of discipleship. We look more and more like Jesus.

To help you get a sense of the types of questions asked within this framework, here is what we call the Scripture Framework Cue Card:

 

Framework #3: Resource

The Resource Framework takes some other Christian resource (e.g. a sermon, book, article, etc.) as its starting point and moves towards Jesus and the transformed life from there.  (For help in finding good resources to use, check out Mercy Hill’s Recommended Resources.)

A resource is chosen that seems particularly pertinent to the group (e.g. a book on parenting, a sermon series on the doctrine of vocation, etc.). The resource is engaged and understood. Lines are drawn both back towards the Word of God and forward towards the heart and lives of each member. We feel like we are being challenged and growing in matters where we’ve long felt stuck. We minister to each other from the Scriptures. We make space to pray for one another with honest empathy. We find help to carry on in the way of discipleship. We look more and more like Jesus.

To help you get a sense of the types of questions asked within this framework, here is what we call the Resource Framework Cue Card:

 


Note: Whichever framework your group decides to use (if any), the goal is not that you stick woodenly to each and every question but that each member begins to get a more intuitive feel for engaging deeper discussion and asking questions that lead one another to Discover, Nurture, and Apply Christ together until He is all in all!

How Can You Get Involved?

Do you see why such groups might be important for your own discipleship to Jesus? Do you want to get involved? If so, great! Here are the two primary "onramps to involvement" that we’d ask you to prayerfully consider at this point.

Onramp #1: Participate

If you simply want to be a part of a group and are not sure you feel ready to facilitate one yet, this onramp is for you!  We can break it down into three simple steps:

STEP #1: CATCH THE VISION

While certainly not required, we would encourage you to first read through the Pursue Discipleship booklet.  It will help greatly if all the members of a given DNA Group are familiar and on board with the underlying vision and ultimate goal of these groups.  (If you prefer listening to reading, the contents of this booklet roughly correspond to the first two sermons in the series Introducing & Multiplying DNA Groups.)

STEP #2: FIND YOUR FOLKS

After getting a sense of what these groups are all about, if you desire to participate in one, your next step is to find your folks.  There are a number of ways you might go about this:

1.  Church Website: Check out the current list of groups online and join one with open enrollment.  Feel free to email the Facilitator with any of your questions before making a decision.  

2.  Personal Invite: Find someone you want to lean in on and learn from.  Don’t be scared.  Let them know!  Ask if they’d be interested in forming a DNA Group and pursuing Christ together with you for a period of time.  Ask if they’d be willing to Facilitate.  Let them know if there’s anything in particular you’d hope to learn from them and whether you’d like to read a book on some topic, go through Scripture, or just connect life on life.  

(As a word of advice: you probably won’t make these sorts of organic connections and relationships if you are rarely present with the church community. Press in and get to know people! Don’t rush out so quickly after the Sunday Service. Linger—even if you feel too busy or awkward or nervous. Ask a person to grab lunch or coffee later in the week. Join a Home Group. Participate in the various events and opportunities that come up. As you get to know the people in our body, God may very well lead you to a person you’d like to ask to form and facilitate a DNA Group with you.)

3.  Leader Help: Talk with an Elder, other Mercy Hill leader, or simply email us at   We can try to make connections for you, communicate through our various channels, etc. (whatever you feel comfortable with).  We are here to help develop and support a culture of discipleship at Mercy Hill.  And we know that a big part of that is helping you!

STEP #3: FOLLOW JESUS TOGETHER!

Now that you have a smaller group of committed people who are willing and wanting to meet on a consistent basis, you are ready to begin Discovering, Nurturing, and Applying Christ together until He is all in all!

Onramp #2: Facilitate 

It may be that you actually feel led to facilitate a DNA Group.  Wonderful!  For this, there is, as you might expect, a little bit more required. 

(One important requirement to note up front here is that the DNA Group Facilitator role is only open to Covenant Members of Mercy Hill. If you are not yet a Covenant Member, what is holding you back? Meaningful commitment to a church body should precede any attempt to lead it.)

This onramp includes the same three steps mentioned above for participants with the addition of a “half step” in between (to help you visualize this, you may want to refer to the diagram below).

STEP #1: CATCH THE VISION

Prospective Facilitators will need to read both the Pursue Discipleship booklet and the DNA Groups Facilitator Manual.  It is critical that they clearly understand and are passionate about the underlying vision and ultimate goal of DNA Groups.  (Again, If you prefer listening to reading, the contents of the booklet and the DNA Group Facilitator Manual roughly correspond to the four sermons in the series Introducing & Multiplying DNA Groups.  But, if you’re wanting to be a Facilitator, you’ll also need to acquaint yourself with the material not included in those sermons.)

STEP #1.5: GET TRAINED

We want to help as you pray, brainstorm, and craft the vision for your group.  While we cannot offer much here, we do take prospective DNA Group Facilitators through an initial time of training in an effort to help set you and your group up for success.  Here’s a quick breakdown of what this will look like:

1.  First, please let us know that you are interested in facilitating a DNA Group.  To do this, simply email us at .

2.  Once we receive your email, we will reach out to schedule the first of two training meetings.  At this first meeting we will discuss the contents of the Pursue Discipleship booklet and help you to begin crafting a vision for your group.

3.  After the first training meeting we will set up the second and final training meeting where we will discuss the contents of the DNA Groups Facilitator Manual and help you finalize your vision for your group.

(Please note: if you have already gone through this training process for a DNA Group you facilitated in the past, you will, under most circumstances, not be required to go through it again unless desired.)

STEP #2: FIND YOUR FOLKS

As with participants above, prospective DNA Group Facilitators will need to prayerfully go about trying to find their folks.  The same three basic options are open to you:

1.  Church Website: After successfully completing the training process, your group will be added to our list of groups online.  If you prefer, we can make the church aware of it and invite them to enroll or contact you if interested.

2.  Personal Invite: You may prefer to find people for your DNA Group by way of personal invite.  That is a great way to go.  But one thing must be clarified: when we say “find your folks” here we do not mean “pick your favorites.”  Certainly DNA Groups may be the context for growing together with people you already connect well with, but we would caution you to pause and pray at this point.  Remember, Jesus spends a whole night in prayer before calling the twelve (Luke 6:12-13).  And we get the sense that, the next day, when He does call them, He does so not because He hopes to get something for Himself from them but because He hopes to give something of Himself to them.  He hopes to serve and love and pour Himself out for them.  As a DNA Group Facilitator, that is the call!  This is not cherry-picking your posse.  It is laying your life down in love for others.  Instead of inviting in the “coolest” people you know, you might consider inviting the most needy, broken, or lonely.  Who sits alone during the Sunday service?  Who is isolated during the week?  Who is being passed over by others?  Who is not yet a disciple of Jesus that you would love to see come to faith?  Consider starting a group with them!  That, in any case, seems to be something our Savior would do.  And we would challenge you to consider the same.

(As you are praying through this step, it may also be helpful to remember that one of the strengths of the DNA Group, because it is kept smaller, is its ability to flex and adapt to individual circumstances and availabilities. Therefore, as you are attempting to find your folks, you might also consider the following: who lives near me?; who works near me?; who has the same kind of schedule as me?; who is dealing with a similar life stage as me?; etc.)

3.  Leader Help: Again, as with the participants above, you may find it helpful to talk with an Elder, other Mercy Hill leader, or to simply email us at   We can try to make connections for you, communicate through our various channels, etc. (whatever you feel comfortable with).  We are here to help develop and support a culture of discipleship at Mercy Hill.  And we know that a big part of that is helping you!

STEP #2.5: GET STARTED

In Step #1 you got a better sense of the broader vision for DNA Groups at Mercy Hill.  In Step #1.5 you began to formulate something of your own vision for the group you are looking to start.  In Step #2 you gathered people into your group.  Now, here in Step #2.5, you are ready to get started! 

At this point you’ll want to check out “Getting Started” in the DNA Groups Facilitator Manual.  There you will find both the Starter Checklist and two optional Starter Studies.  These resources have been developed in an effort to help your group get off to a good start.  Make use of them as you feel led.

STEP #3: FOLLOW JESUS TOGETHER!  

Now that you have a smaller group of committed people who are willing and wanting to meet on a consistent basis, you are ready to begin Discovering, Nurturing, and Applying Christ together until He is all in all!

Note: To help you visualize the steps you’ll need to take if you want to get involved in a DNA Group—whether you’re looking to participate or facilitate—you might want to check out the following diagram.

For Example . . .

It might help you to see a few examples of how all of this might play out:

  • Maybe you and your wife want to read a Christian book on marriage.  Instead of just reading it alone, you decide to begin a DNA Group and invite others to read it along with you.  Three other couples join in and now, not only are you and your wife growing together towards Jesus in marriage, but you’re growing in friendship with others as well!
  • Maybe you’ve been really wanting to go deeper in Bible study.  You want to learn but you don’t know who to ask.  On a Sunday after the service, you approach a few of Mercy Hill’s leaders and ask if they have any suggestions.  They do!  In a couple of weeks you are paired up with a more mature believer and she begins facilitating a DNA Group with you using the Scripture Framework.  You are learning how to read the Bible and meet with God in His Word!
  • Maybe you have a coworker who doesn’t know Jesus but seems open to meaningful dialogue.  You scan Mercy Hill’s Recommended Resources for something that may prove relevant to skeptics and seekers.  You decide on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and ask if he’d be interested in reading it with you.  To your delight, he is!  You plan to meet for discussion during lunch every other week.
  • Maybe you're a new mother with limited time, energy, and availability.  During this stage of life you're unable to make it consistently to a Home Group or many of the other scheduled church events.  But you can go for afternoon walks in the park while pushing a stroller!  So you gather a few other moms and decide to do just that together.  You make use of the Life Framework as a starting point for meaningful, gospel-centered discussions and prayer.

These few examples are really just the beginning of where all of this could go.  Dream.  Pray.  Discover.  Nurture.  Apply.

Be a disciple of Jesus busy making disciples of Jesus!  


If you are interested in learning more about our heart and vision for these groups, feel free to check out the Pursue Discipleship booklet and/or listen to the sermon series we ran entitled: Introducing and Multiplying DNA Groups.  You can always contact us as well.  We're happy to help in any way we can!