The following is based on a document we give new disciple makers in one of our church plants. We’re committed to STAGES as our pathway and personal discipleship relationships as our process. Your ministry may answer these questions differently of course.
WHAT’S THE GOAL OF DISCIPLESHIP?
The short answer is life transformation towards Christ-likeness. That means that discipleship must engage the mind, the heart and the hand. While Bible study, accountability and offering wise counsel are important parts of discipleship, none of those things are fully discipleship in themselves.
DO I HAVE TO USE STAGES?
The short answer is yes. Here are some reasons:
Establishing A Culture- Our goal is to develop a disciple making culture within our ministry. Cultures are defined by what they hold in common. They share languages, customs, traditions, values, etc.,. Using one discipleship system will help us establish a discipleship culture in our church.
Getting Everyone Involved- If our goal is that everyone in our ministry is in a discipleship relationship (a great goal!), we’re going to need more than just pastors and staff to do the job. We’re going to have to start preparing everyone to be a disciple maker (like Jesus commanded). Stages is easy to train people in. It doesn’t require years of experience or a seminary degree to understand or use. It’s designed to help people build confidence in disciple making. All the earthly guidance you need is provided for you as opposed to using your experience to find it all yourself.
It’s Effective- Ask anyone who is being discipled using Stages if it is helping them and their answer will usually be yes. It’s not the only effective approach but for the two reasons above, it’s the one we’re using.
DO I HAVE TO USE THE WEBSITE?
No. If websites aren’t your thing, we can email you the lessons directly to you. They’re included in the online assessment results. Just get the person you’re working with to fill out the assessment form and you’ll get all you need to start working with them. If you would like to print all the lessons out and keep them in a folder, that’s fine too!
I’VE DISCIPLED PEOPLE A DIFFERENT WAY. CAN I DO THAT
The short answer is no. We recognize that people have used effective discipleship methods in the past. Our decision to use Stages is not a judgment on those approaches. But for the reasons stated above, we needed to pick a simple, reproducible, and common approach. By all means, share with our leadership effective practices you’ve used. We’re all learners! We may be able to find comparable practices in Stages or incorporate it somehow. But let your leaders guide you in that. Don’t make significant changes on your own.
WHAT IF I WANT TO JUST READ A BOOK OF THE BIBLE OR ONE BY A POPULAR AUTHOR?
Obviously, reading the Bible is a great idea in discipleship. We can also learn a lot from popular Christian authors. So how can these two resources work together with our Stages approach?
Start With The Worksheets- During your Look Up time (see Meet-Up guide) use the worksheets provided and answer the questions given in the guide. If they have assessed themselves correctly, it will address some important issues in their life. Each worksheet also forces you into scripture, lots of scripture.
Read A Book of the Bible Together In Between- You’ll probably only meet with the person you’re working with every other week. That’s plenty of time to pick a book of the Bible and read it on your own while journaling your thoughts and questions. You can discuss your reading and journal entries during Look Back time! (Again, see Meet-Up guide.)
Read A Popular Book As Follow Up- After doing the worksheets in that person’s Stage, they will have already covered many important topics and learned what a discipleship relationship looks like. If a subject comes up that you want to circle back to and you know of a good resource that can help, talk to your leaders to see if it’s a good match. If you start reading the book together, keep using the Meet-Up guide every time you get together. The questions in the Look Up section work on both scripture or popular reads. This keeps them with a clear picture of what a discipleship relationship should look like as opposed to a book club.
HOW LONG AM I COMMITTING TO DISCIPLE THIS PERSON?
The short answer is “as long as it takes and as long as you’re both willing”. Sometimes these connections blossom into life long friendships with both of you hopefully as disciple makers. Sometime it’s only for a season. Unless there are special circumstances, we don’t predetermine an end date.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE MEET AND FOR HOW LONG?
The suggested rhythm for discipleship relationships is every other week for 90 minutes. Long term, once a week is hard to do well. But in the case of a New Believer, we suggest you meet once a week for the first couple of months then transition to every other week once you see some growth and stability.
WHERE DOES ACCOUNTABILITY COME IN?
In your discipleship relationship, accountability comes in during your Look Back time. You should be holding them accountable to both their growth rhythms and to whatever they committed to do in the Look Ahead time from last session. It’s also good to check up on one another during the off weeks. Your accountability comes from your discipler or the pastor. Personal discipleship is not free agent work. It is grounded in the body of Christ.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY DISCIPLE IS NOT RESPONDING?
Pray! Be patient. Ask for faithfulness. Don’t be afraid to communicate reasonable expectations. Talk to your discipler or pastor.
WHAT IF A SUBJECT ARISES THAT I DON’T FEEL QUALIFIED TO COUNSEL SOMEONE THROUGH?
Contact your discipler or pastor immediately. Ask permission from the person you are working with to share details with either your discipler or pastor. If they decline, speak in generalities to get advice. Personal Discipleship isn’t a replacement for professional counseling that some people need.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY OWN SPIRITUAL WALK GOES OFF TRACK?
Repent! Just like everyone else does. Disciple makers aren’t perfect and being transparent about your own repentance can be helpful to the person you are working with. Talk to your discipler or pastor to see if you should take some time off or have someone else join you.
WHO DISCIPLES ME?
If you’re an active disciple maker it will be difficult to gather with those you are working with and your own discipler with the same frequency. We encourage you to meet with your discipler or fellow disciple makers on a monthly basis for encouragement, accountability, and to share stories.