Discipleship Systems Vs. Organizational Systems

For years, the local church has focused on developing a way to assimilate people who begin attending their church into participants in their church. Depending on how a church is setup, the metaphor of bases, tracks, pathways, classes, or stages is used.

The journey can begin with meeting church leadership, an introduction to the mission, vision, and programs of the church. It often continues with learning how to get involved in groups, serving as a volunteer, and eventually becoming a leader.

These stages are developed for both the church community and the individual. It provides barriers of protection for the church community not to platform a person until insiders know if the person aligns theologically and can be trusted. It also protects the individual from being used to quickly in a position they may not yet be ready for.

While I have developed and helped implement these stages for various churches over the years in order to build organizational flow, they can be myopic. The emphasis of these pathways generally focuses on a pathway to help make the organization stronger.

On the other hand, discipleship systems are focused on the spiritual development of the individual. They tend to focus on things like baptism, new believers foundations, encounter weekends, internal healing, gift development, and personal development.

They not only help grow people’s knowledge and purify a person’s inner motivation but their ultimate goal is transformed behavior. Sometimes the system is activated through retreats, groups, classes, or one on one mentoring.

They key for any church leader is to integrate the two in order to both help build up the individual and strengthen the organization. There are a few things I have learned when developing your overall path.

First, when you invest in people’s spiritual development first, it generally pays a return in organizational strength. A maturing believer positively contributes to the overall church environment. I would prefer to focus on individual excellence over organizational excellence. If you focus on organizational excellence you teach behavior but neglect heart transformation. If you focus on heart transformation it will spill over to organizational excellence.

Second, in our busy world, people only have so much time. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Focus, focus, focus. Be aware of how much time people have in a given week. Figure out ways to help people grow a little bit over long periods of time.

Third, the best way to transfer knowledge and heart change resulting in behavior change is through personal relationships. People reproduce what they see modeled by others who they connect with. Work on a strategy for small groups over a long period of time and equipping disciplers who can pour into others.

Fourth, if you can see everything you do through the eyes of discipleship – serving, services, organizational mandates, you will build a culture that builds up people and serves the organization.

There is never a one-size-fits-all approach. As you pray through your churches discipleship path there is a lot to consider. If you do need help putting together a plan for your church, feel free to connect with us.

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2 Responses
  1. Lynne

    Excellent thoughts. I’ve been a believer, leader, missionary, pastor for many years and your article articulates the importance of personal growth/discipleship and the health of the church well. Both are needed, but personal growth is vital and key to establishing “fruit that remains.”

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