Disciple-Making Decisions

RockStepsAs you put together your personal or church plan to make disciples, allow me to offer some questions for you to consider:

Group size. What size(s) will you include? Content delivery is possible in large groups, but disciple-making is nearly always accomplished in smallest groups:  one-on-one, one-on-two, one-on three, etc. Small groups and Sunday School classes can also contribute to the process of disciple-making. Think strategically about using group sizes.

Relationships. How can you encourage relationship-formation to encourage disciples to remain involved in the process?

Schedule. When is the ideal time and duration for each major element of the process you envision? If they cannot be there, it is a poor time–even if it is ideal for you. And some steps and practices of the disciple-making process, take time. Don’t unduly rush but don’t drag things out either.

Multiplication. The process should be able to be reproduced. If it is too complicated, reproduction will be limited.

Goals. What are you trying to accomplish? What changes do you desire to see? What knowledge do you want gained? What practices/behaviors do you want to be understood and learned?

Materials. What resources (books, articles, handouts, etc.) will you use in the process? When possible, think low-cost to avoid multiplication issues with those who may not be able to afford the materials.

Simple. Think simple. Make the process easy to understand and the steps easy to follow. The more complicated the process and the more steps involved, the harder it will be for multiplication. Help everyone to be able to complete the process.

What would you add to these ideas? Share your thoughts. Make disciples. For more ideas, check out these blog posts:

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Disciple-Making Brainstorming

GroupBulbBrainstorming brings collective intelligence and synergy to bear upon needs, problems, planning, and conversation. In order to identify needs in your church disciple-making, gather a group of key leaders for brainstorming. Ask them these questions and record their responses.

  1. What current church programs, activities, and events contribute toward disciple-making? What do they contribute? Be honest and specific.
  2. What can an individual disciple do to grow more like Jesus? What can impact him/her spiritually, socially, mentally, and behaviorally?
  3. Of the reponses from #2, which current church programs, activities, and events are helping to strengthen that impact?
  4. What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are there duplications? Are there gaps/needs?
  5. What could be done to help disciples continue to make spiritual progress?

It naturally would help to have a common definition of discipling, disciple-making, and discipleship. A biblical framework is also needed to undergird the above conversation. What questions would you add to the discussion? Press Comments and share you thoughts.

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

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Discipleship Conferences at Super Saturday 2015

IDEASGrowing churches have trained leaders. Pastors, staff, and discipleship leaders pursue training annually. Bring your discipleship team to Super Saturday this year.
Here are conferences offered, locations/dates, and how to register:
10:00 AM – 12:15 PM  “Coaching: Life-on-Life Disciple-making.” Launch a method of disciple-making that is simple, life-changing, and reproducible.
1:00-2:00 PM  “Minor Leagues: Making Your New Member Class Even Better.” Adjust your current new member experience in practical ways to increase involvement, understanding, satisfaction, and member retention.
2:15-3:15 PM  “Position Coaching: Helping Members Find Their Place.” Focus on connecting individuals with unique passions, gifts, and abilities with opportunities to serve Christ in the church, community, and world.
For a complete listing of everything offered at Super Saturday, click here.
Register by pressing the location nearest you:

REGISTER EARLY. Register by Monday before your Super Saturday to save $10 per person. Cost is $25 per person by Monday before each Super Saturday, and $35 thereafter. The cost includes lunch.

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Discipleship Practice: Daily Bible Reading

BibleReadingDaily time with God in Bible study and prayer is an essential discipleship practice. It is vital to growing to be like Jesus. It is as vital as breathing is to life. Stagnation and distance quickly develop when we go without Bible study in the same way dehydration quickly develops when we go without water.

But there is a key question that should be asked to check on our practice of daily Bible reading and prayer. Here it is:

What is your purpose?

If we are not careful, our purpose for daily Bible reading can become diverted. What do I mean? Why are you doing daily Bible reading? Has your practice devolved down to habit? Are you currently simply just going through the motions? Are you just checking off your list of things that good Christians do?

Or is your Bible study practice more for sermon or lesson preparation? Are you reading more for ideas for your plans? There is a time and place for that, but there is a need for Bible reading and prayer that is more basic–and much more important.

Why are you doing daily Bible reading? Consider this:

The most basic and vital reason for Bible reading and prayer is for relationship with Him!

Our marriages cannot survive based upon past conversation and relationship. Conversation and relationship must be kept fresh. In the same way, our relationship with God cannot rest upon the past. Verses we memorized as children and scripture we read as teens will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11). But God desires a relationship that is real and personal.

Growth as a disciple demands living, active relationship with our Lord. When that stops growing, so do we as disciples!

Then how do we keep our relationship with Him fresh? By spending time with Him daily in His Word and in prayer. But that is why we must check our practice by asking, “What is my purpose?” Make sure you are doing it for the right reason: relationship. Seek Him first. Listen to Him. Desire Him. When you study, ask Him what He wants. Don’t miss Him! Be a disciple. Make disciples!

For more ideas about discipleship and growing in His likeness, check out these blog posts:

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Weddings, Marriage, and Discipleship

Wedding515Our youngest son, Jordan, was married back in May. Weddings, even simple ones, require a lot of planning and expense. They include rings, invitations, dresses and tuxedos, flowers and decorations, cake and food, gifts and honeymoon plans, photographer and pictures, and much much more.

Weddings are celebrations and rites of passage. The bride and groom move from singleness to oneness. They join hearts, hands, and households. Weddings are front doors for the marriage journey.

There are many parallels for the disciple-making journey in a family. Consider the terminology for the church: the bride of Christ. Think about a few of those parallels:

  • A wedding and marriage begin with a desire to be with the potential spouse for the rest of life. In a similar way, the discipleship journey begins with desiring the Lord and His way more than our own. It is a desire to spend time together for all of life and eternity.
  • Engagement is a time of making commitment to each other. It precedes the wedding and marriage. Likewise, a profession of faith is a time of repentance and committing to Jesus as Lord. The profession of faith precedes baptism and the discipleship journey.
  • Engagement (commitment) leads to a planning for and conducting a wedding ceremony, a public celebration of that commitment to each other. The profession of faith leads to a ceremony (baptism) which is a public celebration and communication of the inward commitment.
  • Gifts are given to the bride and groom to help them begin their married journey together. New Christians receive the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts to enable them to serve well during the discipleship journey with the body of Christ.
  • Honeymoon trips are often planned for the couple to celebrate the beginning of the marriage relationship. In a similar way, new Christians are strengthened early in their journey when an Encourager/Mentor walks with them during the early weeks, talking about daily quiet time and discipleship life practices. This establishes early intimacy with the Lord.
  • Communication is necessary for the wedding, honeymoon, and marriage. All three will be more difficult or impossible with poor or no communication. Similarly, communication with God and with the body of Christ is necessary for the baptism and growth of the disciple.

What other parallels occur to you? Where might discipleship efforts be strengthened as you reflect on how your church begins and does discipleship? Poor starts often produce poor results! Give God and His people your best efforts. Make disciples!

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

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Disciple-making: Using Group Size Advantageously

Groupof5In The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making, I talked about four American spatial distances/zones and group size in those zones. Here is a summary of what I shared there:

  • Intimate distance: 0-18 inches (2 people)
  • Personal distance: 18 inches to 4 feet (3-7 people)
  • Social distance: 4 to 10 feet (8-35 people)
  • Public distance: 10 feet to infinity (35+ people).

With that information in mind, how can we use each of the four distances/zones advantageously in our disciple-making efforts?

INTIMATE DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. This is conversational discipleship. Here we listen, ask questions, and share openly and honestly. Relationships are usually deeper. Accountability is often present. Encounters can be spontaneous or calendared. The disciple-making agenda may be spontaneous or intentional. There is time to practice new behaviors during disciple-making sessions.

PERSONAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Here, too, disciple-making efforts are often conversational. But they are usually less spontaneous and more planned. Accountability is often present, but less is shared because there is less time per person. This can be worked around by getting group members into pairs, but the group loses some knowledge/relationship depth. These meetings are usually calendared. Group members are able to share stories and ask questions which help and encourage other group members. If done, practice of new behaviors is often done in pairs or triads.

SOCIAL DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. Moving from personal to social distance in disciple-making changes group dynamics and interation. With more people in the group, not everyone can talk during a group meeting. Frequently here the group (and leader) expects the leader to talk while the group listens. It takes intentionality on the leader’s part to get group members to participate in the session. This comes in the form of questions, group activities, dividing into smaller groups, etc. Neither the leader nor group members know every group member. Accountability is difficult to pursue due to numbers and time. Practice of new behaviors is decreasingly scheduled and may be assigned. This can include training sessions.

PUBLIC DISTANCE DISCIPLE-MAKING. At this level, the leader frequently lectures, perhaps with some visual elements and questions. There is less relationship and more communication of content. Inspiration comes more from passion on the part of the leader rather than from the stories of group members. There is less time for individual questions or interaction unless a portion of the time is spent divided into pairs or small groups. Practice of new behaviors may be assignd but is seldom part of these sessions. This often includes worship and large group meetings and training sessions.

What observations would you add about using these group sizes advantageously in our disciple-making efforts? Press Comments and leave your thoughts and experiences. For more ideas about disciple-making, check out these blog posts:

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Where Does Evangelism End and Discipleship Begin?

ChickenWhere does evangelism end and discipleship begin? Some would say the dividing line is salvation, but check out the Great Commission where Jesus says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV)

Did you see it? We make disciples by…baptizing them and teaching them to observe. Discipleship includes, even demands, evangelism. They are not separate. That are a seamless part of a relationship. Consider this:

Discipleship is a relationship that loves people to Jesus and nurtures them in Jesus.

The most natural person to invest in a new Christian is the person who led him/her to meet Jesus. While this is not always possible, it frequently is. The content of discipleship is Jesus and all that He has commanded us, and relationship is the medium and method.

Ultimately, discipleship leads the new disciple to do likewise:  love people to Jesus and nurture them in Jesus. How can we tell when our disciple is growing and effective as a disciple-maker? When he/she is loving people to Jesus and nurturing them in Jesus and they are doing likewise. In other words, Paul’s words to Timothy is our measure:

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV)

Paul taught the commands of Jesus to Timothy who taught them to faithful men in such a way that they could teach them to others. The measure of Paul’s disciple-making ability was not in Timothy but in the effectiveness of Timothy’s disciples.

So where does evangelism end and discipleship begin? Actually they are interwoven. In evangelism, we love people to Jesus, and nurture them in Jesus. Then our nurturing leads our disciples to love others to Jesus and nurture them in Jesus. So evangelism is the beginning and the end result, and discipleship is the beginning and includes training and mobilization of disciples to start the process over again.

I want to challenge you to make evangelism and discipleship natural and intentional. Make them relational and purposeful. Prayerfully follow God’s lead. Make disciples. Make disciple-makers!

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

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The Impact of Proxemics on Disciple-making

IntimateProxemics is a sociology and psychology term. According to Dictionary.com, 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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