4 Foundations to a Simple Discipleship Strategy

As a football season is about to begin, imagine a head coach stands in front of the team he leads and, with great passion, declares, “Here is our strategy. We are going to win! We are about winning! Let’s go win!”

The team breaks from the huddle with no idea how they will win. Practice each day is a bunch of running around, hitting each other, and executing some basic drills. But as the first game approaches, the team has no clue what the game plan is. The team knows they are “in it to win it,” but lacks any direction on how they are to play as a team, what plays will be called, how those plays fit into an overarching team philosophy. What started as inspirational is now very burdensome. While winning may be the goal, the mission of the team, it is not a strategy. A big goal without a strategy will demoralize a team in the long run.

In the same way, church leaders who articulate the mission of making disciples without providing a strategy for accomplishing the mission can lead a ministry into frustration. Ministry leaders must not only preach the church’s mission of making disciples, but also must provide a strategy for how the church fulfills her mission.

What makes a good ministry strategy? In his book, Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt writes, “Good strategy almost always looks simple and obvious and does not take a thick deck of PowerPoint slides to explain. It does not pop out of some ‘strategic management’ tool, matrix, chart, triangle, or fill-in-the-blanks scheme.”

I agree with Rumelt; Good strategy is simple and this has implications for ministry leaders who seek to make disciples. There are at least four essentials in a simple ministry strategy to make disciples (articulated more extensively in Simple Church):

1. Clarity

People cannot engage in a strategy they do not understand. Understanding always precedes commitment, so a simple process for making disciples is straightforward and clear. The how must be articulated so people understand how all the church offers fits into the discipleship process.

2. Movement

Because discipleship brings us closer and closer to Christ, a discipleship strategy must seek to move people more and more into the image of Christ. A simple strategy utilizes the programs the church offers to move people towards greater understanding of Christ and greater commitment to Him. Instead of people being servants to programs, programs must be servants of a church’s discipleship process. In a simple discipleship strategy, programs are strategically placed along the discipleship process and used as tools to encourage people to be more and more like Christ.

3. Alignment

In a local church with a simple discipleship process, the discipleship process is embedded in every ministry in the church. Instead of a federation of sub-ministries that just happen to share the same facility, an aligned discipleship process moves the whole church in the same direction.

4. Focus

Without ruthless focus, ministries will always drift towards complexity and away from their essential core. A simple strategy can help a ministry stay focused on her core. Focus requires saying “no” to that which falls outside the discipleship strategy.

Leaders must remind people of the mission over and over again. But leaders must also ensure there is a strategy designed to accomplish the mission. A simple strategy is best.

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Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
— Jon Moore
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston

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