For some, being in a discipleship relationship seems daunting. I remember thinking that if I discipled or mentored someone I really needed to have my act together. On the other hand, I thought if I was “discipled” by someone then I needed to share all my dirt and I wasn’t so sure I was ready to do that. Honestly, I didn’t have a very wholistic view of discipleship. It seemed kind of like a transaction between me and another person. Yet, this is the very word Jesus uses in His Great Commission (Matt 28) for us. He says to “make disciples.”
This resource is not so much to explain discipleship but to be a “help” for those who want to make disciples. It is primarily for those who are wanting some simple or practical ideas for a discipleship time. What I mean by a “discipleship time” is a time that is set aside for meeting with the person you are intentionally mentoring or helping in their overall Christian growth. Discipleship is so much broader than a time sitting across from someone at a coffee shop or in a student union. There are many people and things which contribute to our overall growth as a disciple and follower of Christ. Hopefully, knowing this takes some pressure off both sides– the “discipler” and the disciple.
My practical thoughts regarding this come out of my experiences as a staff member with CRU working directly with college students for 20-plus years, as part of my church family here in College Station, as a mom and even from my experiences during my college years. While in college I worked in an internship which was centered around developing people. I helped people with disabilities take the next step to becoming employable. I would ask, “What do they need as a next step toward the overall goal of employment.” I think a discipleship time is similar to this: taking next steps for our growth as a person and in becoming more like Christ. So, what does this look like in a regular discipleship time?
The Overall Purpose
The following are a few suggestions for viewing the time (depending on how much time you have) with a few simple ideas. First, I have some general thoughts and overall questions to keep in mind, whether you have little time or much time to give. Then second, I talk about three elements to be included in the time, which will help with your overall purpose. These three element will help the time to become more than a weekly chat session! Remember, there are so many ways you can use this time! Countless books have been written on this topic and it can seem overwhelming. The goal of the discipleship time should not be complicated; and it is not to try and “produce” something, to control a person or learn to do it perfectly. The hope is simply to come alongside another, love them and encourage them in becoming more like Christ. In the process, there are some specific things you can do and help them with; so in turn, they become a person who passes on what they have been given to another person. In a sense, you are helping them to become “successful’ and flourish. This is by no means comprehensive, but I hope to make this simple and give you an idea of what this time can look like. I have found that if it is made more simple, we are more likely to do it and more likely to feel successful! Often we just need a little simple direction.
Questions to ask for helping with the overall purpose
1. One Step– Taking the next step
This would be the most general question to think about and to ask the disciple. “What is the step they need to take?” Of course we all have so many areas we could work on! Overall this time is about taking the next step in our growth in becoming more like Christ. Discuss where they want to end up by the end of the year. What kind of person do they want to become? How would they like this time to help with this? After hearing from them, share what you envision for yourself and them as well.
A few Books:
- Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee– our identity and value
- Faith is not a feeling, by Ney Bailey- walking in what is true in everyday of our life
- Strength Finders, by Tom Rath– a look at strengths and gifting
- The CRU follow-up series– grounded in the essentials
- Life You Always Wanted, by John Ortberg– discovering spritiual disciplines
- The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman– on sharing our faith and evangelism
- The Rest of God, by Mark Buchanan– on taking a Sabbath
2. Two questions
This is similar to the first one, but divides it into two parts. You want to help them to stretch and grow.
- What is an area you would like to see growth in personally? This has to do more with their character and growth spiritually.
- What would be a step of faith you see they could take? I see this question to do more with action, and mission. How can they grow tangibly in making Christ known?
Both of these questions you discuss and help identify together. These are good things to discuss seasonally, or at the beginning of each semester.
Steps of faith might be:
- Inviting a friend to church or some other gathering where they can be introduced to a Christian community.
- Sitting down and sharing the gospel with a roommate or neighbor.
- Working on their “testimony” and giving it to a group.
- Going to someone and asking for forgiveness.
- Stepping out and trying a summer mission project.
- Inviting some new friends, they would like to reach out to, over for dinner.
Three elements of a Discipleship time
I think it is key to a successful discipleship time– having these three elements before you. Keeping the previous two ideas in mind, I think of a discipleship time as having three elements. Each element is distinct and also overlapping. One discipleship time may include all three elements, but probably not. These three elements serve as a framework for what to include for the time and to help see growth and reach faith goals. The bottom line though is this: we are each in the process of growing to become more like Christ. That is our goal. A healthy person is maturing, whether they are 10, 20 or 50! Also, discipleship is done in the context of relationship and community. We are not alone in this and we are not meeting all their relational needs– discipleship comes through many forms and people, not just in what we may have planned for them. Ideally, I would like to have time in all three of these areas continually. These three elements help us to grow and take the next step in our growth. I call them the three “E”s- Enjoy, Equip and Engage.
This is simply getting to know each other and just “spending time” together. This is about the relationship, enjoying life together, connecting them to community, and bringing them into your world and you entering their world. The ideas for how to do this our endless. Here I think of “friendship.” Some will be better at this than others. Some have more time and more capacity for “living life” together. But realistically, with the pressures of school, work and family, this time probably will have to be planned and scheduled.
What this might include:
- Time sitting across from each other having coffee and catching up.
- Going for a walk and sharing about what you are learning in the scriptures.
- Eating out with friends, going to a football game, etc.
- Texting and checking up on each other
You get the idea. It is developing a friendship.
When it is nice I like to get outside, therefore I love to spend time with people I disciple outside. Yet often I have to make “the time” work in-between other things. There is a trail/sidewalk with a Sonic next to it that is close to campus. There are times we get our drinks and just walk and talk, and then I can drop them easily back on campus. Or I have dinner and invite my whole bible study over. Both of those are examples of enjoying each other. It doesn’t have to be the most creative thing and it can be spontaneous, or planned.
What do you like to do? What are your interests? How are you inspired? Can you bring them into that?
We are each unique, and in different places or stages. What works for you?
This is helping them to have the tools, knowledge, skills they need as a growing disciple and in reaching out to others and sharing their faith. This may be done sitting across from them at a table, by you recommending resources, taking them to conferences, or training. It is also going alongside them as you equip and train them in specific things– how to share their faith, how to do a certain task or lead in an area. It may be holding them accountable to certain things.
What this might include:
- Going over the CRU follow-ups (or some kind of essentials in the faith) to be grounded in their faith.
- Training in sharing their faith, writing their testimony or how to lead a bible study.
- Attending a bible study they are leading to see how it is going.
- Discussing the questions in the first two sections above (where do they want to grow, how are they doing personally, steps of faith, etc)
- I suggest reading slowly through a gospel together with two simple questions in mind (see: Three ways to read your bible). I love doing this.
- Praying together
This is about “engaging” in the mission or helping them to be a person that is engaging in the great commission actively. I think this is often lacking in “discipleship times.” We are good at “talking” and getting to know each other, but we need a cause that is worth investing in together. As we engage we are growing in our hearts and compassion for others, skills, and in practically how to make Christ known.
What this might look like:
- Having lunch with a friend who wants to talk more about a relationship with God.
- Using solarium (a picture card survey that helps people identify spiritual needs) with a friend or on campus to connect with others about faith.
- Opportunities and training in how to share your faith.
- Praying while walking together around an area you want to see God do big things (Around campus, a dorm, your neighborhood or kid’s school).
- Visiting with a person you know is new to your bible study or church.
I have taken girls with me to the assisted living home down the street from my house. As a bible study we have done a garage sale fundraiser together for a new ministry for Latinos. I have included them in some times with my international friends. You want your time to include a purpose beyond yourself. This is the time you reach out to others to show them Christ and make Him known.
Other Favorite ideas worth noting
- Pray for them regularly and with them. I usually ask at our time, “What can I pray for you?” And then we pray together right there. Or, I might just say,”Let’s pray for the things we talked about.” I like to try to always have some time to pray for them and with them each time.
- Reading through a gospel little by little and asking the “two questions,” (see above) is something I really enjoy. I have found that to be helpful for equipping for both of us.
- Pray, Care, Share– come up with about 3-5 people you would like to reach out to. Who are people God has placed in your life who you can start praying for? Think of tangible ways to care for them. Find time to explore and ask questions about faith (share).
- Challenge them to consider a mission project. Even go together! If in college, consider a summer mission project.
- What a time might look like
- Meet every week or every-other week for 1.5 hours. Have a regular time scheduled on the calendar.
- Spend time regularly including the 3 elements.
- Keep ahead- make a tentative plan.
- Go on a retreat, or conference together.
- Help them to become a person who can pass on these same things to others.
God uses so many things to grow us and mature us in our faith. Often He uses others in the context of a community and also in a one-on-one discipleship relationship. Really this time is helping them to become more like Christ, to engage in His mission, and be a person who also passes this on to others.