We live in a world where the microwave is too slow. We want everything instantly–or even better, we want it yesterday. But the best things in life are seldom fast. In fact, rushing some things can be a mistake. The same is true for discipleship. The tendency by pastors, staff, and church leaders is to launch large. While doing so can occasionally be fruitful, most often starting small pays the best dividends.
Launch Discipleship Small
One of the most effective ways to launch discipleship in your church is for the pastor to disciple one to four persons. Pastor, I know you are busy, but Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Your example matters. Starting small is best. Your investment can multiply quickly!
As the pastor disciples one to four people, his disciples are led to pray for and enlist persons to disciple. The pastor gives them time to pray and then begins to ask for names and progress. A flexible deadline may be set to encourage progress.
Once enlisted, the pastor continues discipling his one to four but also spends a few minutes coaching his disciple(s) related to their discipling efforts. Ideally before the pastor has finished, his disciples ask their disciples to pray for and enlist their disciples. In other words, the pastor has disciples, his disciples have disciples (second generation), and their disciples have disciples (third generation) all within a year. For this to work, the second generation needs to start within 3-4 months and the third generation within 9-10 months.
Simple, Small Multiplication
Does that seem too complicated? Let me share the benefits. When the pastor leads his disciples to enlist disciples, he ensures that multiplication has begun. But the test of that multiplication comes when the pastor’s disciples enlist their disciples. Too often disciple-making practices break down because they are focused on content rather than on investment in the next generation.
Small Launch Exception
I generally encourage people to disciple people of the same gender. My only exception is in the first generation group where it can be wise to enlist a mixed gender group of 4 people. That is to launch the process of discipling of women.
Your system does not have to be perfect. It should be simple so it can be reproducible. It should be Bible-based and relational. Expensive materials are not needed. Discipling meetings should be 60-90 minutes weekly (when possible).
I have talked with many who want to spend much longer than a year investing in the first generation. My response is to continue coaching each first generation disciple-maker after setting them loose. Call them weekly for 10-15 minutes during the first quarter. Then call them monthly thereafter for the year. Teach them to do the same as they release their disciples to disciple others. Ask them questions about their coaching efforts.
Like most things, we tend to try to make most things too complicated. We tend to underestimate the power of simplicity. Pray. Start small. Keep it simple. Lead your disciples to enlist disciples. Challenge your disciple’s disciples to enlist disciples. Multiply. Make disciples!