I’ve written a few blogs over the years about forming, developing, equipping, empowering, and training your team. I’ve even talked about recruiting and growing your team. All of this is good, but I wanted to bring up something many of us within the church unfortunately leave out of the plan—discipleship.
Some of you are wincing right now! You might be thinking, “Of course we need to disciple our leaders and I do all the time.” Cool! Still keep reading to consider the way you are doing it. Others of you are probably realizing you’ve not been doing this and wondering how to even make that happen.
Let’s first start with what I mean by discipleship.
Many might define it as regularly involved in Bible studies or going to church all the time. Some would define it as loving Jesus and loving others. All of those are good things, but I think they could all be missing something important. Yes, we should be studying the Bible, connecting with other believers, loving others, serving, and more. But what fruit is it producing?
I would define it simply as the act of following Jesus. This is not a one-time act but a continual process or journey. Following means movement. So we are constantly taking steps. While I believe we will never achieve full righteousness until we are in God’s presence for eternity, we can continually take steps toward it. At the core of this, I believe, is Jesus’ example and commands. We are not only to become disciples but also to make disciples. So if you are discipling your leaders, you are helping them follow Jesus and be able to help others do the same, even expecting them to be active in making other disciples.
The true sign of a disciple is if he/she can disciple someone else and make more disciples.
Do the leaders on your team know how to share their faith with their peers, students, and parents? Are they regularly doing it? Could they lead someone else to understand the salvation that Jesus provides? Do they know how to read the Bible and actively engaged in it? Do they know how to pray and are in constant conversation with God? Do they understand the foundation of who the church is and what it is about, and are they able to share that with others? Do they have someone who is discipling them and also someone they discipling?
If we want to have discipled and discipling teenagers, we need to disciple our leaders!
If you’re like me, you’re now thinking how in the world can I disciple all of my team. I want to encourage you to start small in the beginning. By this, I mean a small group. Think about 2-3 of your leaders you can begin to intentionally disciple. I would encourage you to start with the ones who are already disciples but may need some help on how to disciple others. Beyond that, like we said earlier, can they create more disciple-makers?
With that small group of leaders, begin to dig into things like evangelism, reading the Bible, spiritual habits, and more. Discipleship can take a number of paths, but the goal would be to not only create followers of Jesus who know the Bible, but to create disciples who make disciples who make disciples, etc. Also, many of you need to resist all urges to go through a discipleship book. While there are plenty of great resources out there, we need to make sure we are creating disciples of Jesus rather than disciples of a great book.
After you make it through a few months, one or two of those leaders should be ready to begin discipling other leaders. Then you have the beginnings of multiplication on your hands. And when you finally have a full team of disciple-makers, then you will have a full team of equipped and empowered leaders whom God will use to make a huge impact. This will then help us disciple families and help parents disciple their kids. And in the end, students will be sharing their faith and discipling their peers, not only in middle school and high school, but into their adult lives.
This can have a generational impact. This will influence how you lead. This will influence how you program. This will influence how you recruit and onboard. This will influence how you partner with parents, because parents are supposed to be the primary spiritual leaders (disciplers) of their own kids.
Leading a student ministry is not just about helping your leaders run the program(s). It’s about helping them develop a love for Jesus and others that compels them to share it with others. It’s about setting them up to do ministry every day of the week everywhere they go, not just at your ministry night.
Jesus’ final words to us in the Great Commission centered in the command to make disciples, teaching them to obey, which includes making more disciples.
For those of us who lead ministries, we have to begin with our leaders. And as we plant those seeds, we help them to grow, and then we set them up to scatter, planting their own seeds. Then as we continue to multiply, we will see an abundance of fruit. We will see evangelism go up inside and outside our ministry. We will see a team who is very capable of leading in our absence. We will see families transformed. We will see the church refocused on her true mission—to love and make disciples for Jesus.
So, how are you discipling your team?
All of this thinking has been the result of many years of ministry experience and ongoing conversations with the discipleship pastor and other leadership at our church. If you don’t have someone in your circles you can bounce ideas off of and help you shape what your leadership plan should look like, I encourage you to make that your first priority.