Aside from taking time with God and staying vitally connected to him, I’m convinced the most important dimension of my leadership is making disciples of Jesus who will in turn make other disciples. This is at the heart of the great commission, of life transformation, leadership mobilization, and church health and growth.
There are two key dimensions to making disciples who make disciples, the “who” and the “how.” The first one, picking who you are going to invest in, I addressed in my last blog post. This post is about the “how” of disciple-making. A lot could be said about this; I’m just going to share a few really practical tips from my own experience.
- Meet weekly for 90 minutes. I like forming discipleship groups with four or five people in them. We meet weekly for nine to ten months. This can be done at almost anytime in the day. Usually with men, we are meeting early in the morning for one and a half hours over breakfast or coffee before the work day starts.
Sometimes we meet in homes, but most often I do this in a restaurant. I don’t have a lot of money so a lot of times it’s in a cheap fast food restaurant. I’ve also done groups over lunch or late at night. I’ve found an hour to be too short. After the first few weeks, this is the format we use for our meetings:
Icebreaker (Almost always: “What was the high point and low point of your past week?”)
Our Individual Accountability Questions (See #4 below)
Bible or Book Discussion
Praying for Each Other
- Use curriculum. I’ve led a lot of both question-based accountability groups and curriculum-based groups and have found the best results with the latter. Curriculum keeps us learning and moving forward and gives the group a clear focus and ending. I feel free to deviate from the curriculum for a session or two at any point, however, to deal with pressing issues or questions that arise.
For new believers my favorite curriculum is Beginning the Journey, by Ralph Neighbour, Jr., and me. It’s sold over 100,000 copies in English and been translated into several other languages. Passport by Canadian Vineyard pastor Tim Davidson is also good, though it’s too long for most new Christ-followers. For established believers I’m still looking for the ideal book. I’ve often used Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden. This fall I am going to use The Good & Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, one of the best books I’ve read recently.
- Use a group covenant. Start with a covenant that outlines expectations and has people commit to lead their own groups when yours ends. Here’s the Discipleship Covenant that we use. When people find a group life-giving most of them will gladly lead their own group when yours ends, but you need to build that into people’s thinking right from the start. If there are four men or women in your group (you and three others), and three of the four of you lead their own group next year, you will triple the number of groups each year. Over time we have found the power of multiplication has far-reaching results. Every two months thoughtfully review and discuss your covenant. How are people doing with their commitments? Where do they want to improve? Who are they going to do a group with when yours ends?
- Share your life stories. Don’t start into the curriculum the first few meetings; instead, go over the covenant and then invite people to share their life stories. This builds community and helps you know how to pray for and minister to each member.
- Hold one another accountable on your growth edges. After you have been meeting for a few weeks (and people feel safer and more open), ask people where they want to be held accountable. Ask, “What question do you want us to ask you each week?” I’ve found God is already challenging each person in some area of their life, but I don’t know what area that is. So I ask them. And I tell them what my growth edge is and what question they need ask me. Questions vary a lot in every group. I don’t know what questions they typically ask in women’s groups (no one has ever asked me to be in one!), but here are some examples from my men’s groups: “Did you take daily time in God’s word?” “Did you go on a date with your wife this week?” “Are you taking a weekly sabbath?” “Did you make significant progress on your doctoral dissertation?” “Have you used internet pornography?”
My weekly time with my discipleship group is one of the favorite times of my week. It’s a place to share deeply, to laugh and grow, to share concerns and get prayer. I hope you are also learning to make disciples who make disciples. If so, what are some practical insights that you have discovered? What are some questions you have about this important issue? Who are you planning to do a group with in the year ahead?