Disciples make disciples.
Maybe this goes without saying, but the world of youth ministry can be so fast and furious that sometimes it is simply easier to set up a program, choose a curriculum and then assume that disciples are being made.
But designating a program as your “discipleship program” does not necessarily mean that your efforts are yielding the kind of fruit Jesus’ called us to produce when He told us to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Programs and curriculum don’t make disciples. People do. Of course it’s good to have a plan and a solid, biblical curriculum, but an effective disciple multiplication strategy is built on relationships. Just look at how Jesus made disciple. He poured into a small group of individuals over a period of three years—which is roughly the same amount of time that the students under your spiritual care are likely to be in your youth group. And they went on to turn the world upside down!
Programs and curriculum don’t make disciples. People do. Click To Tweet
So let’s follow Jesus. Let’s follow His philosophy of ministry. Let’s do what He did. And let’s do it the way that He did it.
The Elephant in the Room
But there’s an elephant in the room here, isn’t there, when it comes to implementing a disciple multiplication program that’s built on relationships?
What is it? Time.
Relationships require time—because they require love and nurture. Which means you need people to help you. People who are passionate about helping students grow in their walk with Jesus and who are willing to bring availability, intentionality, creativity and flexibility to this high calling of making disciples who make disciples. But rest assured that with God’s help and some strategic effort on your part, you can grow the people you need to help you build a thriving disciple multiplication program.
Whether you having an existing discipleship program that’s simply in need of a tune-up or you’re developing a discipleship multiplication strategy for the very first time, the next several issues of Mobilize will be unpacking several practical steps you can take to build Gospel Advancing Value #4—a discipleship multiplication strategy—into your ministry.
Laying the Groundwork for Successful Disciple Multiplication
So where do you start?
Start with prayer! Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you every step of the way on this journey. Ask God for the people you’ll need to help you. Pray that students’ lives will be transformed as they become disciples who make disciples themselves!
Get inspired and equipped. A great way to get inspired and equipped is by reading 4 Chair Discipling by Dann Spader. This is an incredibly useful resource that provides a practical, biblical framework for understanding spiritual growth. Spader’s “four chair” word picture explains spiritual growth in simple, transferable language, and makes a compelling case for developing a strategy for disciple multiplication. The “four chairs” Jesus took His disciples through were: unbeliever, believer, worker and disciple multiplier.
If you’re able to get your key leaders to read this book, as well, that would be a great benefit to you on this journey. But if not, read it yourself, and then do a training on it at one of your youth ministry leadership development meetings.
Identify your role in the discipling process. One of the first pieces of the disciple multiplication puzzle you have to figure out is your role in this process. It should be your goal to focus your energy on multiplication. As a Gospel Advancing pastor or primary youth leader, one of your greatest priorities must be equipping Jesus followers to be disciple makers. That’s how the gospel advances!
Start with the Few, the Brave, the Strong
Practically speaking, your time and energy are limited, so what should your role in this process actually look like? How should you invest your time to maximize your Kingdom impact and advance the gospel? Beyond leading and teaching during your youth group gatherings, we recommend that you focus the majority of your time and energy pouring into your adult leaders and a very select group of student leaders. Let’s get a little more specific and lay out how this might work for you.
Identify one or two students who God impresses on your heart and invest in them. These are the students that you will want to follow on social media, connect with their family and make a point of being at some of their extracurricular activities. In the context of your personal relationship with them, teach them how to follow Jesus—which includes sharing Jesus’ message with others.
Try This! ❯
Identify one or two students who God impresses on your heart and start to really invest in them relationally. Begin teaching them how to follow Jesus—which includes sharing His message with others—so that these students eventually become disciples who make disciples.
As they share the gospel with their friends, be there to encourage, answer questions and most importantly pray for them. As their friends become Jesus followers coach these student leaders to immediately start to disciple their friends. Train them and equip them along the way. Remind them that they only need to be a half-step ahead of their friends. They don’t need to have all the answers. Assure them that you will be there for them (for this season of their life) to help, guide and pray for them.
In addition to these students you are pouring into, identifying the two or three leaders who you want to pull in the closest. Pray over this decision, because these are the individuals you are going to be tapping to expand your discipling process beyond the one or two students you are starting with personally. Who you choose to pour into will have significant implications for the ongoing effectiveness of your disciple multiplication strategy. Of your entire leadership team, these individuals should be the ones that you invest the majority of your time into. This is time outside of your regularly scheduled leadership meetings. Making these relationships a priority will enable you to multiply your efforts way beyond what you could do on your own.
The adult and student leaders you pour into should be very clear on the expectation that they will multiply out what you’re investing in them, by pouring into others. In a lot of ways, this serves as the foundation for your disciple multiplication strategy. Some of these relationships will develop into lifelong friendships, others will be seasonal. Regardless, the impact will be worth the effort.
As you begin processing who to meet with and what you will do, a common question is how long. How long will you focus this extra time and energy into these student and adult leaders? If you think in terms of 1-3 years, you will be well on your way to establishing healthy guidelines for significant gospel advancement.
Want more practical advice on mobilizing your teens to share the gospel? All of our Mobilize stories offer great ideas for training your students and building a Gospel Advancing Ministry. Sign up here to receive this free, hands-on resource in your inbox!