There are various aspects that a church leadership team should consider in order to implement a culture of disciple-making in the local church. Here are a few of them.
An understanding of the structures of the church. This includes the accountability structures of a pastor, board, elders, staff, etc. It also includes the systems of the church. This might include the assimilation system such as welcome breakfast, membership class, leadership path (volunteer, assistant leader, leader, coach, staff), the discipleship system (baptism, new believers class, groups), the evangelism system (outreach, community service, etc), and the overall metrics of success that are established by your executive team and board.
Over time, it’s important to implement annual rhythms that correspond with people’s natural and cultural habits. As an example, in the contexts that I have led, we have always felt the need for three semesters (Sept- Dec, Jan-Easter, Easter to June). These became natural places for pauses, start-ups and stops. We would always start groups at the end of September and go to the first week of December. As an example of the fall, school starts the first week of September and this would give people a few weeks to get into the fall cycle. Christmas was always a busy month and so we wanted to finish early. This gave us the maximum potential involvement of people without exhausting them. Your context might be different but thinking through natural periods for breaks, rest, and anticipation. Here are a few rhythms to implement in your context.
- Group leader training or meetup dates
- Holidays (local, national, religious)
It’s important to develop a good set of resources for leaders and participants. With the arrival of Right Now Media we have found that group and disciple-making resources plug and play. There are also several small group leader resources and platforms that you can fit into your culture, however, I have found that utilizing outside platforms are a greater administrative challenge than they are worth. I suggest choosing a material that you can make your own and distribute through PDF or another electronic means. This ends up being the most efficient use of time. Here are some resources you will need for leaders.
- Dream Guide – a guide used to dream about what their disciple-making group could look like.
- Onboarding Guide – a welcome to being a new disciple-making leader
- FAQ – a growing list of answers you have for questions that come up
- Suggested Curriculum – a curated list of recommended tools
- Calendar – Annual calendar to help them know when to plan starts, stops, meetups, and join in on outreach projects.
- Inside Help – groups to consider such as DivorceCare, GriefShare, Financial Peace University, names of Pastors to contact
- Outside Help – a list of community services they can refer to people they are serving such as counsellors, foodbanks, government assistance, health clinics, suicide hotlines, alcoholics anonymous, etc.
Obviously you invest in what you believe. It is important to think through how much of your budget is spent on outreach, celebration, discipleship, care, missions, the next generation, administration as well as other areas. As you make the adjustments necessary, you will see overall growth in areas that are invested in. Is it time to pull or push a certain area of your church?
If you want to see a disciple first church culture in your community over the next few years, here are a few key ways you can do that. 1) Model it. You must lead by example and personally disciple a group of people. 2) Intentionally integrate it. Start with the Sunday Service. Plan your topics over content areas that people need over the next three years. Provide summaries and discussion questions for each one. Encourage groups to follow that path. 3) Celebrate it. Whatever you celebrate becomes the culture. Change what you report on in your annual report, highlight stories on Sunday morning. 4) Exit it. Everyone leaves their church. In one year or seventy years. Build your backdoor so that people leave with the culture of disciple-making in mind. Are they leaving because they don’t like the teacher or because the world needs another personality to reach a different people group?