In The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making, I talked about four American spatial distances/zones and group size in those zones. Here is a summary of what I shared there:
- Intimate distance: 0-18 inches (2 people)
- Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet (3-7 people)
- Social distance: 4 to 10 feet (8-35 people)
- Public distance: 10 feet to infinity (35+ people).
With that information in mind, how can we use each of the four distances/zones advantageously in our disciple-making efforts?
- INTIMATE DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. This is conversational discipleship. Here we listen, ask questions, and share openly and honestly. Relationships are usually deeper. Accountability is often present. Encounters can be spontaneous or calendared. The disciple-making agenda may be spontaneous or intentional. There is time to practice new behaviors during disciple-making sessions.
- PERSONAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Here, too, disciple-making efforts are often conversational. But they are usually less spontaneous and more planned. Accountability is often present, but less is shared because there is less time per person. This can be worked around by getting group members into pairs, but the group loses some knowledge/relationship depth. These meetings are usually calendared. Group members are able to share stories and ask questions which help and encourage other group members. If done, practice of new behaviors is often done in pairs or triads.
- SOCIAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Moving from personal to social distance in disciple-making changes group dynamics and interation. With more people in the group, not everyone can talk during a group meeting. Frequently here the group (and leader) expects the leader to talk while the group listens. It takes intentionality on the leader’s part to get group members to participate in the session. This comes in the form of questions, group activities, dividing into smaller groups, etc. Neither the leader nor group members know every group member. Accountability is difficult to pursue due to numbers and time. Practice of new behaviors is decreasingly scheduled and may be assigned. This can include training sessions.
- PUBLIC DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. At this level, the leader frequently lectures, perhaps with some visual elements and questions. There is less relationship and more communication of content. Inspiration comes more from passion on the part of the leader rather than from the stories of group members. There is less time for individual questions or interaction unless a portion of the time is spent divided into pairs or small groups. Practice of new behaviors may be assignd but is seldom part of these sessions. This often includes worship and large group meetings and training sessions.
What observations would you add about using these group sizes advantageously in our disciple-making efforts? Press Comments and leave your thoughts and experiences. For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:
- Who’s Involved in Your Discipleship?
- Discipleship Encourager Actions
- Can You Make a Disciple of One Person?
- Discipleship Relational Stages, Part 1
- Discipleship Relational Stages, Part 2
- Discipleship: Your Example Matters
- Discipleship Outcome Questions