Diagnosing Your Discipleship Strategy

Ever slow down long enough to look at whether your discipleship strategy is actually working?  I know…who has time?  Here’s the thing, we better make time!   As I see it, you don’t have to read between the lines to see the link between leadership and accountability for results (See Matthew 25 or Luke 19 if you doubt me).  That said, how can we determine whether our discipleship strategy is working?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Assessments like Willow’s Reveal can play an important role.  Designed to give an indepth analysis of congregational health, Reveal will also give some important help in determining next steps.
  • Taking the time to carefully articulate what it is that you are trying to do.  Taking my lead from The 7 Practices of Effective Ministry, I’ve referred to this step as clarifying what a win will be.
  • Be on the lookout for great diagnostic questions.  If you’re wired this way, it will come easy.  If you’re not, watch for team members who are analytically wired and invite them into the discussion.  Here are a couple of my favorite questions: (a) What 21st-century challenges are testing the design limits of our discipleship strategy? (b) What are the limitations of our model that have failed to keep up with the times?  Let me take a moment to unpack these two questions.

What 21st-century challenges are testing the design limits of our discipleship strategy? Think about this one.  If you’re like many churches, much of what you do is based to a degree on decisions that were made a long, long time ago.  You may no longer have a Sunday night service.  You might have severely trimmed your Wednesday programs.  At the same time, a little digging will probably show that a lot of what you’re doing is based on things that were true in another time.  Work schedules, commuting, family commitments, technology, learning styles  and reduced attention spans are just a few of the dynamic changes that have impacted today’s culture.

What are the limitations of our model that have failed to keep up with the times? This is a great follow up question.  Things like limited time slots, qualified teachers, curriculum expense, facility-based programming are just a few issues that may come to the surface.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Howell

Mark Howell

I’m the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m also LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. I’m the the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. In addition, I’m the guy behind MarkHowellLive.com, SmallGroupResources.net, StrategyCentral.org and @MarkCHowell.

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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
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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