At our State of the Church Sunday in January, I announced my intentions as pastor to lead every one of our members through an initiative during 2019 that would intentionally nurture their walks with Jesus. I called it the Discipleship Initiative. A six-week curriculum was created that guided leaders and participants through an understanding that the root of faith in God is abiding in Jesus. This “abiding” (John 15:1-5) is through a love relationship with Jesus.
I invited 18 men and 20 ladies into a time of training, taking them through the materials, and showing them how to lead a small group of people in the same content/method. These 39 Northstar members were released to begin discipleship by March.
The process begins with a church member. There’s a reason for that. We believe and embrace discipleship. We also believe that membership is biblical and meaningful. We love when people attend our church, but we do not have the same level of spiritual responsibility for attenders as we have to those who unite with us in full church membership. That’s another discussion for another day, but a person must be a member to participate in our discipleship initiative.
To enter the process, church members complete our discipleship questionnaire. This helps us hear a bit of their faith story and simply communicates to our leaders that they are taking responsibility to begin the process. It also helps us practically with matching them with a leader as to time of year that’s best.
The matching process comes next. It’s a highly scientific process, 😉 but mainly, we pray, we talk, and we try to connect people by affinity and availability. Our goal is to match people by the times they are available to meet- summer with summer, etc.
On occasion, we’ve not gotten a match right, and that’s ok. We’ve had people email and request someone older or outside of their social circle. We also try to communicate with them that the Discipleship Initiative is only intended to be 6-8 weeks. It’s ok, of course, for friendships to form, but our intent with the DI is to lead every member through the principles of DI first.
The leader then introduces themself to the participants, normally via email, and a time is selected to begin. Participants will meet for about six weeks (sometimes longer due to scheduling). During the course of those weeks, the leader will also meet with each participant individually twice. This helps provide personal coaching and allows for our members to connect with one another outside of a “meeting.”
5. Release & Repeat
After the weeks of the DI is up, everyone fills out an evaluation form, and I contact the leaders and the newly “graduated” participants to enlist further and future leaders so that the DI can continue on into another generation of members.
The chart below shows the process and labels these five stages as four phases: Launch, Match, Meet, Repeat.
At the end of June, I’m excited to see that 66% of our members have already responded by filling out the discipleship questionnaire! Out of these 159 members, 43 people are currently meeting with someone, and another 36 have already completed the initiative. It’s encouraging that we’re already seeing a third generation rise up to help meet with other members.
Generation 1 (38 Trained Leaders > Generation 2 > Generation 3
This represents what we see the apostle Paul instruct Timothy in his second letter to him:
“..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)
Please be in prayer with us as we continue the Discipleship Initiative in 2019! We have new members joining each month, which makes the completion of this project a bit like herding cats! I am thankful that I am privileged to lead a church that is committed to discipleship and making disciples.
In the weeks to come, we will be revamping the D28 materials to provide members with “next” steps for their growth in Jesus through discipleship. These are exciting days in our church family!