Discipleship is the most difficult task for anyone involved in church leadership. Growing people in their faith is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Not everyone grows in the same way or at the same rate. What works for one person or group becomes dead and useless in another. Yet, it is one of the primary purposes for which the church exists.
Because of the nature of discipleship, many churches fall into two basic categories in trying to build spiritual muscle in their membership. The first is the academic route. They believe that if they can impart more knowledge into people’s lives the rest will follow. The second is a church that encourages action and being the hands and feet of Jesus. The very act of serving will compensate for any theological deficiencies they may have.
Both of these are useful and serve a purpose to a point, but what if there was a way of measuring your ministry that allows you to honestly reflect on your discipleship process and its effectiveness? Something that you could do as an evaluative starting point that will help you or your ministry team have a greater impact in this area? Questions that will help you shape how you do discipleship in your particular context.
These two questions will help you and your team do the hard thing by looking at the way you attempt to grow people and see if you are on the right track. You can ask these questions to the church as a whole or to any ministry within it.
The first question is:
Do we create an appetite for people to grow?
Don’t just feed people, motivate and inspire them to feed themselves. If you believe that your primary responsibility is to simply data dump into people’s lives you will get bloated believers. Challenge them in positive ways that encourage them to take responsibility for their lives. In that way, they will utilize the tools that will help them grow, not adopt the ones imposed upon them by a generic style discipleship process. You also won’t get those who claim that they are not “being fed,” because that is not really your responsibility in the first place, it’s theirs.
The second question is:
Do we create opportunities for people to grow?
Are there easy and natural “next steps?” There is nothing worse than someone who is eager to grow who runs into hurdles or dead ends. Whether its small groups, worship, children’s ministries, helping out at the food bank, are there ways that allow people to put into action what they are learning? Do your best to remove unnecessary hurdles that discourage people to get involved. Today’s culture would rather test drive their faith than being tested on the Nicene Creed. Both may be important, but the easier it is to get people serving, the greater the likelihood of growth.
These two simple questions will help you shape the way you do kid’s programs, small groups, adult ministries, even Sunday mornings. They can be used as fundamental guides for the things that should take priority in planning your ministries and being able to evaluate their effectiveness for growing disciples. After all, our ability to change the world is directly related to the potential we have in helping people grow in Christ. Though the Spirit of God is the transformative agent in a person’s life, that does not absolve us from doing all we can to prepare the soil well.