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Legacy of Discipleship Ministries

A Wheaton mother and daughter share about the lifelong value they found in Discipleship Ministries.

Karen Coons Dagher on Discipleship Small Groups

I came to Wheaton in the fall of 1985, eager to connect with my fellow classmates.  However, while chapel, Bible studies, theology classes, mission projects, and local church participation provided excellent spiritual instruction, I missed connecting with my peers in ways that weren't merely intellectual or superficial. I wasn’t alone.  The chaplain at the time, Vic Gordon, sensed that Wheaton students needed a place to share heart needs, pray together, and find mutual encouragement to keep their eyes on Jesus.  He started the Discipleship Small Group ministry that next year.  It began small—a voluntary venture with a few leaders Chaplain Vic had hand-picked for the task.  I enjoyed being a small group member that “inaugural” year and was asked to lead a small group the next.  I fondly remember that some of my group’s best discussions came after we read a short devotional excerpt by former Wheaton College President, Dr. V. Raymond Edman, whose devotional books I’d first discovered in Buswell Library. Chaplain Vic later asked me to join the cabinet.  As cabinet members, Chaplain Vic (and later interim Chaplain Hutz Hertzberg) made a point of pouring into us as ministry leaders.  I recall how we prayed for the spiritual condition of our campus, asking the Lord to bring spiritual revival and renewal to Wheaton.

To this day I am in touch with a few of those women, and I know I can count on their prayers. — Karen Coons Dagher '89

My DSG experience helped reinforce that we are “the Body of Christ,” not “lone rangers” of the Kingdom.  The Body of Christ thrives when its members realize they truly need one another.  My group consisted of young women with very diverse backgrounds and interests.  I wondered at the beginning how we would bond.  I prayed for each girl and began by using a simple approach—especially since the idea behind DSG small groups was to make it less a “to do” activity than a time of refreshment and renewal.  As a Communications/Christian Ed major at the time, I was taught to never underestimate the power behind a simple Bible story.  So, in the beginning, I’d sometimes choose a basic Bible narrative to read for our meeting and ponder briefly (such as the story of Peter’s angelic release from prison in Acts).  It proved to be a great icebreaker—whether one of the girls could cite it verbatim or another had never heard it.   Without fail we’d discover fresh details and insights we’d never noticed before.   The story came alive as we related a character’s actions and God’s responses to our own lives, opening vulnerable doors to the soul and bringing us to level footing at the foot of the cross.  Later, if one of the girls shared about a looming crisis, we’d just spend the time listening and praying.  We’d only meet about an hour each week, yet we grew to care for each other deeply.  To this day I am in touch with a few of those women, and I know I can count on their prayers.  In addition, I used many of those small group tools when I worked over ten years as a writer and editor for Southern California Pastor Greg Laurie, known for his “A New Beginning” radio program and Harvest Crusades, especially in follow-up material for new believers or those who wanted to grow in their Christian walk.  Over the years I’ve valued the experience DSG gave me to connect and build intentional discipleship with people from all walks of life—whether in one-on-one ministry or in a small group setting.

I was thrilled to learn that DSG had since become a very deliberate part of the Wheaton experience. — KAREN COONS DAGHER '89

When my daughter, Jessica, entered Wheaton, I encouraged her to become a part of a Discipleship Small Group—if the ministry still existed. I was thrilled to learn that DSG had since become a very deliberate part of the Wheaton experience, with freshmen introduced to it on their floors right away!  When Jessica became a part of DSG leadership, finally chairing the cabinet her senior year, it blessed and humbled my heart to think that my daughter would be such a big part of that once small, fledgling ministry I’d had the privilege of serving in its infancy.  I will continue to pray for God to bless and revive many more hearts through DSG in the years to come. 

-Karen Coons Dagher, Class of 1989. Freelance Writer and Mother of Three.

Jessica Dagher Hatton on Discipleship Small Groups

As a second generation Wheatie, I had the special opportunity of hearing firsthand accounts of what Wheaton had to offer.  My mom spoke of how meaningful it was for her to be a part of Discipleship Small Groups where she could spend intentional time learning alongside fellow Christians who were truly seeking to grow in their faith.  I joined a DSG my freshman year and took part in DSG leadership my remaining years, first as a leader, then as a coach and cabinet member.  DSG was different than most of the small groups I had been a part of growing up in church in that the group leader was really a peer -- only a year or two removed from the other members.  This setup helped me to recognize the value that each member brought to the group and to take ownership of my own ability to contribute. I witnessed the importance of spending time with peers to study the Bible, pray, and simply share life -- the good and the bad.  I also grew significantly in areas of compassion, flexibility, and leadership.

I witnessed the importance of spending time with peers to study the Bible, pray, and simply share life – the good and the bad. — Jessica Dagher Hatton '16

My senior year I served as the inaugural Chair of the ministry under the leadership of Ray Chang, giving me a unique look into the inner workings of the ministry and a hand in their progression.  I grew to better appreciate the great amount of work, thought, and prayerful planning that goes in to running DSG, and my part in that process made me a more assertive leader.  The experience, mentorship, and training I gained through my role as Chair have certainly better equipped me for leadership roles and for service in ministry wherever I find myself in the future. I am grateful to see how DSG has grown over the years and how it has expanded since my time at Wheaton to include multiple small group ministries through Discipleship Ministries, each focusing on important elements of life in Christ.  I look forward to seeing how God will continue to use and expand DSG, and Discipleship Ministries more broadly, as a tool for multiplying Christian discipleship and leadership at Wheaton.

- Jessica Dagher Hatton, Class of 2016. Genetic Counselor.