Rules and Directions for Small Groups

This excerpt from John Wesley was edited for conciseness and readability and originally published in A Timeless Faith: John Wesley for the 21st Century by Stephen Gibson.

Rules of the Band-Societies

Written Dec. 25, 1738

The purpose of our meeting is to obey that command of God, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

For this purpose, we intend,

  1. To meet at least once a week.
  2. To come punctually at the set time, unless unusual circumstances prevent it.
  3. To begin exactly on time, with singing or prayer.
  4. To each describe plainly and freely the true condition of our souls, as well as the sins we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt since our last meeting.
  5. To end every meeting with prayer, according to the needs of each person present.
  6. To have one person present describe his own condition first, and then to ask the rest, one by one, as many searching questions as are needed, concerning their spiritual condition, sins, and temptations.

Some of the questions each one is asked before being accepted into our group are as follows:

  1. Do you have the forgiveness of your sins?
  2. Do you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?
  3. Do you have the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit that you are a child of God?
  4. Is the love of God poured out in your heart?
  5. Are you free from the dominion of both inward and outward sin?
  6. Do you desire to be told your faults?
  7. Do you desire to be told all your faults clearly and personally?
  8. Do you desire every one of us to tell you, from time to time, whatever is in his heart concerning you?
  9. Consider this carefully! Do you desire that we tell you whatever we think, whatever we fear, whatever we hear, concerning you?
  10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should search your heart completely?
  11. Is it your desire and intent to remain entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reservation?

Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as needed; the four following questions should be asked at every meeting:

  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
  2. What temptations have you encountered?
  3. How were you delivered from those temptations?
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, being unsure of whether or not it is sin?

Directions Given to the Band-Societies

Written Dec. 25, 1744

You are supposed to have the faith that “overcometh the world.” To you, therefore, it is not burdensome,

I. To keep from doing evil; specifically,

  1. Neither to buy nor sell anything on the Lord’s Day.
  2. To taste no alcoholic drink unless it is prescribed by a physician.
  3. To be honest in all that you say, both in buying and selling.
  4. To pawn nothing, not even to save your own life.
  5. Not to mention anyone’s faults behind his back, and to stop those that do.
  6. To wear no unnecessary ornaments, such as rings, earrings, necklaces, lace, or ruffles.
  7. To avoid needless self-indulgence, such as taking snuff or tobacco, unless it is prescribed by a physician.

II. To continue in good works; specifically,

  1. To provide financially for the needs of others to the best of your ability.
  2. To correct all who sin in your sight, in love and humility of wisdom.
  3. To be an example of diligence and frugality, of self-denial, and taking up the cross daily.

III. To give constant attention to all the ordinances of God; specifically,

  1. To be at church and at the Lord’s table every week, and at every public meeting of the Bands.
  2. To attend the ministry of the word every morning, unless distance, business, or sickness prevent you from doing so.
  3. To pray privately every day, and lead family prayer if you are the head of a family.
  4. To read the Scriptures and meditate on them whenever you are not otherwise occupied.
  5. To observe each Friday as a day of fasting or abstinence.