Welcome back to another episode of the unSeminary podcast. This week we’re joined by Erin Kerr, the discipleship pastor from Mariners Church in California. Mariners started out as a very small church, but now has a few different campuses with about 20,000 people attending.
Erin’s focus at Mariners is how to disciple people outside of the weekend experience, and he’s here to talk with us about Mariners’ Rooted program and how it might work in your own church too.
- Connect in circles. // It’s well known in churches that while people get inspired in rows, they get connected in circles. Erin explains that he recently had a woman come to him who said she didn’t feel a sense of community in the church, which is difficult in a group of thousands of people. He explained to her that her next step is to get plugged in beyond the weekend experience. At Mariners that happens through the Rooted program, which is 10 weeks of going through biblical content in community. Here everyone gets into groups of 10-15 people and learns about who God is, what the church is about and what their purpose is by digging into scripture. Rooted is all about learning what it means to know and follow Jesus within community. The weekend is not the primary vehicle to dig deeper into knowing God and others, it’s these smaller groups where you can really be known and pull apart the Word with one another.
- Take the next step. // At Mariners the leaders clearly communicate the idea of Rooted all the time, and let newcomers know that it is the next step for anyone who has not already gone through it. Rooted is offered three times a year and is essentially a catalyst for life change. Each Rooted group has a facilitator rather than a leader or teacher, and while they still receive guidance and weekly leadership training, they primarily are facilitating discussion within their group. Rooted also has required homework, so the Mariners staff is very up-front about this expectation. Encouraging this “study time” for each person participating in Rooted helps them to be an active participant and take a level of ownership over the discipleship process.
- Learning to hear God’s voice. // Each week of Rooted focuses on a different topic, with the third week being all about prayer and hearing God’s voice. God can speak to us in a variety of ways and many people are nervous about what to expect during the prayer experience week. During this week, each group is encouraged to go to a park, or another quiet space, pray together, read scripture and talk about what to expect in the time ahead. Then they break apart and spend time alone. They put away their phones and spend time alone with God and their thoughts, journaling, praying and listening. Finally the group meets back together to go out to eat and debrief. The response has been tremendous – Erin shares, “We’ve had people from all different walks of life, spiritually, come in, and by the time they experience week three with the prayer experience something happens – you just start to experience God in a new and profound way.”
- Serve together. // Another week is a serve experience that is meant to create relationships within the Rooted group. It allows the people to do something they may have never done before and be challenged together. The Rooted group then talks about what they learned and experienced, hopefully understanding that this shouldn’t be a one time event, but that Jesus calls his disciples to work, serve and grow in community.
- Create relationships. // It’s not required, but after the 10 weeks, Rooted groups have the option to transition to a life group. The people may start out not really liking each other, but by week 6 or 7 they may find out that they really know and care about each other. There is a 90% ratio of Rooted groups going on to become life groups within Mariners Church.
You can learn more about the Rooted program at Mariners Church at their website www.marinerschurch.org/rooted.
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Helpful Tech Tools // Slack
Influential Book // Conversion and Discipleship: You Can’t Have One without the Other by Bill Hull
Inspiring Leader // N.T. Wright
What you do for fun // Crossfit, Family time
Contact // marinerschurch.org