The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making

IntimateProxemics is a sociology and psychology term. According to, proxemics is

the study of the spatial requirements of humans and animals and the effects of population density on behavior, communication, and social interaction.

Edward Hall wrote a book entitled The Hidden Dimension. There he identifies four American spatial distances/zones:

  • Intimate distance: 0-18 inches
  • Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet
  • Social distance: 4 to 10 feet
  • Public distance: 10 feet to infinity.

Group size is impacted by spatial distance.  Reversing the list above:

  • Public: 35 people and more
  • Social: 8 to 35 people
  • Personal: 3 to 7 people
  • Intimate: 2 people.

Think about the disciple-making efforts of your church in each of these group sizes. Worship would be public. Mid-sized meetings or groups would be social. Small groups would be personal. Intimate would be one-on-one.

Sometimes simply adding one person changes group dynamics. For instance, adding someone to a pair ends intimate conversation. Adding a person to a small group sometimes changes the group from everyone participating (personal) to everyone expecting the leader to talk (social) with occassional questions and comments from group members.

How can we best take advantage of these realities? How can we plan our assimilation and disciple-making strategies to take fullest advantage of each venue? There are examples of each venue in use in the life of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others. Share your comments.

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Key New Member Class Questions, Part 2

KeyQuestionsIn Part 1, I shared a set of questions to help you and your team as you plan your New Member Class. The questions related to (1) your purpose for the new member class, (2) the frequency you will offer it, (3) who will lead it, (4) will participation be expected, and (5) what happens after completion of the class?

In Part 2, we will explore several more areas and questions to help as you design your New Member Class experience. Allow me to guide you through (1) for whom to provide the class, (2) what will be covered, (3) how you will handle challenges, and (4) how you will get people to attend.

FOR WHOM. For whom are you providing this class? Is it for…

  • all new members (including children)?
  • all new adult and youth members?
  • all new adult members only?
  • new Christians?
  • those joining from other churches/denominations?
  • the entire congregation when you launch it the first time?

CONTENT. What will be covered in your new member class? Some of this will naturally depend on how you answer the PURPOSE questions from Part 1. Will you cover…

  • the history of the church?
  • the vision and mission of the church?
  • doctrinal beliefs?
  • the programs of the church?
  • membership expectations/covenant?
  • the discipleship pathway (how to continue growing as a disciple)?
  • spiritual gifts discovery?
  • opportunities and expectations to serve in the church, community, and world?
  • the importance of Sunday School/small groups?

PROBLEMS. How will you handle challenges related to your New Member Class? Will you…

  • continue encouraging attendance by those who miss sessions?
  • not send for a church letter from a person transferring from another church who never completes the sessions?
  • continue encouraging those who don’t take next steps after the class?
  • lengthen the time if the agenda is too full?
  • add a meal if the session(s) is/are too long?
  • provide childcare for those with younger children?
  • allow people to exit gracefully if they disagree with your doctrine, mission/vision, or expectations?
  • find another time to offer the class if the first attempt is poorly attended?
  • reduce sessions to one longer session in order to ensure completion?
  • add sessions in order to enrich early relationship development and/or potentially build new Sunday School classes/small groups from the group?
  • have an alternative leader in case the regular one is sick or leaves the church?

PROMOTION. How will you get people to attend the class? Will you…

  • personally invite them to attend the class you are leading?
  • provide a testimony of a new member from the pulpit before you invite new (and potential) members to attend?
  • send out special invitations to all new members?
  • promote it in print and on the church website?
  • talk about it in Sunday School classes/small groups?
  • offer gfits to those who attend?

If you have experience with launching a New Member Class, what additional questions would you add to these? What is the best thing that happens as a result of your class? What is one thing you wish you could change about your class? Press Comments and share you thoughts and experiences. Connect well with new members. Make disciples!

For more ideas about assimilation and new members, check out these blog posts:

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Key New Member Class Questions, Part 1

KeyQuestionsIn this two part series, I want to share some key questions as you evaluate or design your new member class experience. In Part 1, I want to guide you to consider the purpose, frequency, and leader of your new member class. Also, we will look at your participation expectation and what happens when the class ends.

PURPOSE. Does your church have a class for new church members? What is the purpose of the class? Is the purpose of the class…

  • to welcome them?
  • to thank them?
  • to move them from worship into Sunday School or small groups?
  • to connect them to the pastor/staff?
  • to connect them to other church members?
  • to share the vision and mission of the church?
  • to share church expectations and encourage growth as disciples?
  • to undergird the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and prayer?
  • to fulfill the requirements of our Bylaws?
  • to help them discover their spiritual gifts and their place of service in the body and community?
  • to give them a tour of the church facilities?
  • for other reasons?

FREQUENCY. When does your new member class meet? Does it meet…

  • every month?
  • every quarter?
  • whenever you get enough new members for a class?
  • for one to three sessions?
  • for four or more sessions?
  • on Sunday morning or evening?
  • on Wednesday evening?
  • on a weeknight?

LEADER. Who leads your new member class? Is is led by…

  • the pastor?
  • other church staff?
  • a deacon?
  • a church member?

PARTICIPATION EXPECTATION. What is the level of expectation you have for new members to attend? Is the class…

  • optional?
  • encouraged?
  • expected?
  • required for all church leaders?
  • required in order to be a member?

CLASS COMPLETION. What happens after the new member class is completed? Does the church…

  • send for the letters of those who were members of other churches?
  • help new members find a Sunday School or small group to join?
  • help new members find a place of service?
  • assign an encourager to walk together with the new members through the first six months?
  • connect them with the next membership/discipleship class?

In Part 2, we will look at more questions. Those questions can help you or your discipleship team (or assimilation team) to create a new member class (or experience) that accomplishes everything for which you are hoping. Gather a team and start the discussion. Make disciples!

For more ideas about assimilation, check out these blog posts:

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DiscipleShift 1, June 24-25, Richmond, KY

I want to encourage those who are looking for an effective model for discipleship to attend DiscipleShift 1 at Eastside Community Church, 2010 Catalpa Loop, Richmond, KY, on June 24-25, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern time both days. The cost per person is $345. To register, go to DiscipleShift 1.

DiscipleShift 1 is a unique two-day experience that will both challenge and stretch you. This is not the usual conference or seminar. Rather, DiscipleShift 1 will challenge you through interactive relational small group experiences to evaluate and re-think how you do church.

I have attended this conference twice and highly recommend it. It will shift your thinking in some helpful ways, and you will leave with practical ideas for how to begin the shift in your church. It may be three years or more before DiscipleShift 1 is back in Kentucky. Sign up now!

For more ideas about discipleship, check out these blog posts:

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Scratching an Itch: What Discipleship Tips Would Help You Most?

ScratcherIn carrying out his responsibilities of discipleship and assimilation, 28Nineteen was begun by Steve Rice back in 2008. He contributed 101 posts. After Steve was called as Pastor of First Baptist Church, Shelbyville, KY, Mike James carried on the focus of discipleship and assimilation and continued contributing 158 posts to the blog. With Mike’s call to serve Judson Baptist Church, Nashville, TN, I inherited responsibility for discipleship and this blog. This is my 26th post.

While I have lots of ideas and experiences to share, the best help scratches a real itch. In other words, I want this blog to meet your real needs. I want to address your questions and concerns.

In order to do that, I need your input. Where do you most need help? On what questions are you seeking answers, direction, and input? What thinking, writing, and sharing could I offer to help you make progress?

In order to get your thinking started, consider these possible blog topics. Feel free to respond with topics from the list or offer even more specific ideas, situations, questions, or concerns. Here are some starter topics for tips, ideas, and practices:

  • personal discipleship,
  • discipleship application,
  • personal discipleship evaluation,
  • discipling others,
  • focusing on essential doctrines,
  • establishing a Christian worldview and Christian ethics,
  • church discipleship ministry,
  • enlisting a church discipleship team,
  • church discipleship evaluation,
  • spiritual disciplines,
  • spiritual growth experiences,
  • new church members,
  • new Christians,
  • assimilation of new members/new Christians,
  • quiet times,
  • focus/intentionality,
  • spiritual maturity stages,
  • multiplying disciple-makers,
  • discovering spiritual gifts, passions, and abilities to use in service,
  • mobilizing believers into service,
  • leadership development, and
  • resources.

The list could go on and on. Press “Leave a comment” below to share with me what would help you most. From your responses, I would like to put together a list of topics to share in the year ahead.

For more discipleship ideas, check out these blog posts:

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Addressing Transition Weakness: Assimilation and Disciple-making

I shared the following graphic on my Sunday School blog, The Sunday School Revolutionary. But I got to thinking that the graphic applies to assimilation and disciple-making as well. Take a look:

In order to develop a disciple-making strategy and system, some critical questions must be answered about transitions:

  1. What are we doing to invite and attract people into worship?
  2. What are we doing to move worship attenders into Sunday School and small groups?
  3. What are we doing to make disciples and to multiply and develop leaders in Sunday School, small groups, and training sessions and experiences to prepare and move them into leadership in the church and community?
  4. What are we doing to mobilize our classes, groups, and leaders into ministry, service, and mission in the community and world?

Answer thesse questions thoroughly to discover your assimilation and discipleship transitional weaknesses. If there are more than three transitional steps before worship or between any block, your process is too complicated. Your leaders will have a hard time explaining the strategy, and those you are trying to assimilate and disciple will tend to drop out from the process along the way.

Gather your disciple-making team (see Enlist a Disciple-making Team for more ideas). Talk through the graphic and these questions. Simplify and streamline your strategy and your transitions. Take your strategy on a trial run. Get feedback. Make adjustments and improvements.

To get your thinking flowing further, let me ask three addtional questions:

  • Where would you place a new member class in the graphic? Should it be required?
  • Since it is difficult to disciple a drop out, what can be done to encourage and track disciple-making progress? For instance, how could assigning an encourager (personal mentor) help move a disciple through the strategy?
  • Where in the graphic might be the best place to discover a disciple’s spiritual gifts, abilities, experience, and passions for service? What happens if the discovery is separated from mobilization into service?

Do you have questions or comments? Press “Leave a comment” below. Help me and others improve our thinking and questions.

For more ideas about making-disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Enlist a Disciple-making Team

TeamGearsSynergy is defined on as “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.” That is what is possible when you enlist a team to help your church pursue  disciple-making.

TEAM. Who should be on my disciple-making team? Consider the following:

  • God (no kidding, seek His leadership),
  • God’s Word (pay special attention to the words, commands–think Matthew 28:19-20, and example of Jesus),
  • pastor (the people will follow where you lead), and
  • 4-6 people who are passionate about God, His Word, and being His disciples.

GAME PLAN. What is the game plan for your team? While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, consider the following:

  1. pray together;
  2. study God’s Word to discover a biblical definition of a disciple and attributes of disciples;
  3. brainstorm actions and experiences for an individual (don’t think large group yet) to become the kind of disciple described in #1;
  4. look at the church programs, minstries, and experiences which encourage (and those which hinder) disciple-making growth;
  5. develop a simple growth pathway, focusing on as few major areas and transitions as possible;
  6. pilot your insights, ideas, and plans;
  7. adjust your plans and multiply your efforts.

SEASON. Disciple-making season is upon us. Assemble your team now. Meet. Pray. Brainstorm. Try it out. Adjust. Multiply.

You will gather your team several times to develop the plan and will continue meeting to launch, adjust, and multiply your plan. Adjustments will be needed beyond the first year, so meeting regularly (perhaps quarterly) can help your disciple-making efforts to thrive rather than to fizzle out or become ineffective.

Pray now about the team God wants you to assemble. Be open to surprises of who He wants. Be open to insights from His Word. Be open to adjustments in your own life. Be a disciple. Make disciples!

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Disciple Others: Give the Gift of Presence

GiveGiftBusyness kills many things. Effectiveness. Energy. Priority.

Likewise, busyness kills many spiritual efforts. Discipleship. Time with God. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never seemed to rush? Anywhere. Anytime. With any person.

Yes, He had a purpose. Yes, He had a message. Yes, He was effective. But He was never in a hurry.

What’s the difference? Is is simply prioritizing what we do better? That could help. Is is simply saying no to the wrong things and yes to the right things? That is a start. But it is more than that.

What if the difference was one word? What if that word was simply “presence?” Your presence AND His presence. What if you gave each person, each encounter, each moment your full presence? And at the same time, you allowed the Holy Spirit to share His presence through you?

That time would be well-invested. No matter how long or short the time was, it would be meaningful and productive.

Today, I watched a dad and his daughter interact over lunch. Apparently she had been to the orthodonist from a comment by the waitress. But I watched as the dad spent more time with his phone than he did with his daughter. We are a society and even a church which is distracted. We seldom pay attention. We seldom are really present with anyone.

Want to change your growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Focus. Be present. Be present in prayer. Be present in Bible study, meditation, and application. Be present as His Holy Spirit leads you to encounter a world which is lost and for whom He died.

Give others the gift of presence. Care enough to listen and pay attention. Care enough to love them as you love yourself.

Watch how that changes your interactions. Watch how that influences them. Watch how that changes you!

He’s present. Be present. Make disciples!

For more ideas about growing as His disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Make Disciples of All Nations Means Becoming Fishers of Men

FishermanIn the Great Commission, Jesus commanded His disciples as they go to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). In that passage, Jesus describes how that mission will be accomplished:

  • baptizing them (all nations) and
  • teaching them (all nations) to observe all that I (Jesus) have commanded you.

When does teaching them begin? Do we wait until they have begun a relationship with Jesus Christ? Or does it start long before, while we are living before them, in what we say and do? That seems to have been Jesus’ approach. He taught, He spent time with sinners, and He modeled Kingdom principles.

And Jesus even modeled this methodology when He sent the disciples out in pairs (Mark 6:7) to do what He had been doing (preach the Kingdom, drive out demons, and heal the sick). And He drove the home the method of observing Jesus and putting His example into practice when He called them together to share their stories of what happened when they did what He sent them out to do (Mark 6:30).

In order to “make disciples of all nations,” this also means that we must pay attention to three phases of disciple-making. What are these phases? Check out this simple command to His disciples:

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19, ESV)

FOLLOWING. A relationship with Jesus is begun with awareness. Eyes are opened to Jesus, His teachings, and His life.  At some point, there is conviction of sin, seeking for forgiveness, repentance, and making Him master of life. At that point, life turns from your way to following His way, to going where He leads.

FORMING. This happens over time. While human effort is involved, forming does not happen without the work of Jesus in us. We grow like the seed in Mark 4:26-29 which “sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” We cannot make ourselves fishers or men (disciple-makers); only Jesus can do so!

FISHING. Disciple-making inevitably means the disciple will move beyond himself/herself. Like Jesus who came to “seek and to save the lost,” His life and example lead us to be concerned for others. We move beyond the church building and our own comfort zone into the community and world in search of people needing Jesus. This requires the right fishing tackle, bait, and lures in order to fish successfully for Him. Each of us has our part (1 Corinthians 3:1-15) in the effort.

These phases ebb and flow into each other. Following flows into forming and fishing. Forming takes place while following and fishing. Fishing often begins while following out of concern for lost friends and family. In other words, there is not a set timetable for movement from one phase to the next, but there should be movement toward fishing.

That is the purpose of following and forming. To stop anywhere short is failure and sin. To stop short is to become Judas rather than Peter. To stop short is to keep Jesus to ourselves. To stop short is for all nations to stay in darkness. To stop short is for the work of Jesus Christ to die with this generation.

Where are you in the phases? Are you stuck at following or forming? Is someone you know stuck? Help one another take a step toward fishing. Pray together. Follow His leadership together. Care for others together. Fish for men together. Make disciples!

For more ideas about making disciples, check out these blog posts:

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Who’s Involved in Your Discipleship?

ThreeThe post title is intentionally ambiguous. Stop to process the possible questions being asked:

  • Who has invested and impacted you as a disciple over the years?
  • Who is currently investing in and impacting your growth as a disciple?
  • In whom are you investing and impacting as they grow as a disciple?

I have talked to many Christians, pastors, staff, and church leaders who have not had anyone intentionally invest in their discipleship. But no one is without impact from three persons:

GOD. We are disciples of Jesus when we love one another (John 13:35) and when we do what He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). But our relationships with others and our actions will be more Christ-like when we regularly spend time with God in prayer and Bible study. In fact, personal and relational discipleship are impacted by the overflow of our ongoing, growing relationship with God. I find I cannot help but share what I am discovering about God when the encounter and relationship are fresh rather than stale.

OTHERS. Growing discipleship demands care and risk. Trust and transparency can only be deepened through time and experience of sharing honestly and openly with others. In turn, personal and relational discipleship require time and experience together. We and disciples often grow best as we spend time together formally and informally. This involves doing life together:  serving together, having fun together, and walking through challenges together.

SELF. Loving ourselves means caring for our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. How can we love God and others if we do not love ourselves? Others will see much more than we realize. And our example is important! Rest. Eat right. Exercise body, mind, and soul. Time spent here is not wasted. Such time is well invested in making you more productive and attentive along with giving you the potential for lengthened years of impact.

Grade yourselves:  A for excellent, C for mediocre, and F for failing. How are you doing in each of these three relationships? What is one thing you can do to take a small step this week toward raising your grade in one area? If you are struggling for ideas, share this blog post with a friend and brainstorm some possibilities together. (By the way, that may be the very small step that is needed this week!)

Do you want to grow even more this year as a disciple? Invest in all three relationships. Remember Jesus emphasized the importance of loving God, others, and self in Mark 12:30-31. When we grow in our relationship with God, it strengthens our growth as disciples and disciple-makers. The same is true when we grow in our relationship with disciples. And the more we know and love ourselves the way God does, the better we can grow and invest in others.

For more ideas about growing as a disciple, check out these blog posts:

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