Journey groups, which you can read about in an earlier post, are the heart of Sattler’s discipleship program. We’ve interviewed several Sattler students to get their perspectives on journey groups. Here’s what they told us:
Seth Pontbriand, Freshman
To Seth, the most valuable parts of his journey group experience were the unstructured times spent together outside of regular weekly meetings—whether rubbing shoulders in the hallways, starting a weekly prayer meeting with another journey group member, going out to eat, or getting together at one of the member’s homes. “The short amount of highly intentional time you’re together, sharing your struggles, sharing your week, coming up with a plan to grow, creates an atmosphere for really valuable time outside of that, and that camaraderie makes spiritual growth possible.”
The level of accountability expected in his journey group challenged Seth, but, “having a reciprocal environment helps a lot. The more vulnerable you are, the more vulnerable they will be.” He is grateful his group started with a very open and honest session at their first meeting, and if there’s anything he would like to tell incoming students, it’s to be open and honest right from day one. “It’s a lot easier to make a habit of transparency and avoid getting into the shallows if you dive right in and take a little bit of a risk with these people and trust them,” he says. “As brothers and sisters, they’re going to honor your openness and seek to help you.”
He also would tell incoming students to fully invest in their journey group. Though it would be easy to slide by with last-minute weekly readings or neglecting Bible memory, you will get more out of it if you fully participate. “You’re laying a foundation and growing,” Seth says, “and hopefully preparing yourself for a lifetime of ministry in whatever God has called you to do. Have that mindset each day of what your ultimate end is.”
Kristi Mast, Freshman
Having been involved in a mentorship program at another institution, Kristi was surprised and initially disappointed with how different Sattler’s discipleship program is. She came to see that while her earlier program focused on understanding yourself and your part in relationships, Sattler’s program excels at developing spiritual habits and skills. Journey groups push students to grow in Bible reading, prayer, and evangelism. “I got out and talked to people about my faith so much more than I ever have in my life,” she says. She also grew as a prayer warrior, inspired by the example of her journey group leader and fellow members. “It’s amazing to think about where I was in some of my spiritual disciplines compared to where I am now. I’ve changed so much in the past year, in a daily way shaping who I am.”
Kristi’s favorite part of journey groups was the accountability. “Accountability just pushed me higher than I’ve ever been before, specifically in prayer and evangelism.” While she felt motivated by the need to be accountable, she didn’t feel pressured to perform. “None of us reached our goals every week,” she says. “I’ve been amazed at how healthy that’s felt. It feels like a safe place to fail, or just to say, ‘I just didn’t get here this week.’” The accountability provided by her journey group has been balanced with grace and love. “I know we’re all on the same team and we’re all working at this together.”
While journey group has helped her to grow spiritually, Kristi acknowledges that growth was part of an integrated college experience. “Overall, one of the most valuable things about Sattler is that you’re surrounded by people who are seeking the kingdom of God, who are not afraid to work hard, to be the best they can be—they’re just constantly growing. That’s discipleship.”
What would she want incoming students to know? “I think basically that you’re all on the same team,” she says. “Be straightforward and honest. Being truthful about the places where you are struggling—the sooner you can get there the better. It’s freeing and it’s really beautiful. Only in openness and transparency can journey group be a transformative experience.”
Austin Lapp, Sophomore
Austin appreciated most the relational part of his journey group. Since he is married and lives in an apartment with his wife and child, he doesn’t have a chance to engage in the camaraderie of dorm life. Journey group gave him an opportunity to build relationships. Austin says there was a significant difference between his sophomore experience of journey group and his freshman experience, mainly because of a difference in leaders. The first year’s leader was very forthright. “He was not afraid to mince words with me, was okay with calling me out, which was what I needed,” Austin says. During his second year of journey group, he appreciated more time spent together outside of structured meeting times, building friendships and sharing life stories.
The regular weekly meetings have helped him to grow spiritually because every week he knows he will have to assess: How am I doing in spending time in the word and prayer and evangelism and purity? Austin believes he and other students could grow even more in the future if they would assess their weaknesses at the beginning of the semester, form a plan for growth, and then consistently check in with each other to see how they are doing with meeting their goals.
What would he like incoming students to know? “Journey groups represent a start towards biblical discipleship that most of us haven't received,” Austin says. “That being said, journey groups are not intended to replace investment into a local church. Local church discipleship ought to be primary and journey group discipleship secondary.”
Lois Friesen, Sophomore
“I think the best thing about journey group is walking together through the highs and lows of life, whether it’s something you’re praying about or struggling with or even just the challenges of homework,” Lois says. As an older sophomore student, she led her journey group this year, but found that the young women she led also challenged her to grow. She especially felt herself stretched in her prayer life as she brought to the Lord the needs talked about in their weekly meetings. “That part of it brought me closer to the Lord, trying to bless them along with growing myself,” she says.
In addition, the accountability provided by journey group helped her to grow in specific ways. “There were things I really wanted to grow in for a long time and somehow I just needed the accountability to make progress in those areas.” Journey groups forced her to assess those needs and find practical steps to growth. She also treasures the interactive times spent together, the memories of walks and a treasure hunt and a picnic on the Charles River Esplanade.
The low point of journey groups? “Just getting out of bed early,” Lois says. “Then, once you’re out and at journey group and sharing, you’re like, ‘This is worth it.’”
She would like to say to incoming students: “The more that you are able to specifically identify the goals you want to grow in, the more you’ll get out of journey groups. Think about who you want to become as a person even before you get to journey group. Lay out three or four goals and think about small steps that will help you reach those goals. Be ready to be accountable with those. Put yourself into it. It’s only with having a passion to grow that you will grow.”
Interested in reading more about Sattler's discipleship program? Check out this post.