A working discipleship model
How do you elegantly combine Person; People; Process; Programs; Places; and Pneuma into a practical discipleship model within a local church? This is the big question being asked globally. Here is one way to do it.
Having a conceptual framework is one thing, but having it meet the needs of real people in a busy world is something altogether different. We need to keep it simple in application, yet not simplistic in its philosophy.
Our goal is obvious and mandated by scripture: make powerful and healthy disciples who go and do the same.
There are two compulsory ideas there: 1) Disciples are powerful and healthy, and: 2) They are disciples who go. You cant expect people to be missional if they aren’t being fueled from within. Nor can you feed people to the point where they are spiritually sedentary.
With that in mind we can ensure that every element of the framework serves that purpose intentionally. This creates something of a spiritual engine (excuse the engineering parlance), with clear inputs and outputs that accomplish the ultimate aim.
The infographic below illustrates one way to do that. Taking advantage of the natural rhythm of spiritual seasons, people can:
- Enter the pathway at any point;
- Complete catalytic programs and join a community that “gets it”;
- Bear the fruit of Missional Action from within a DNA group.
- Choose to branch off into leadership development.
This model incorporates the 6 elements of the discipleship framework.
I have separately defined a few crucial aspects of the person we are trying to create – essentially someone who looks like Jesus would, if Jesus was them.
- The heart: a person growing in faith, hope and love.
- The lifestyle: A rhythmed lifestyle; a lifelong journey of formation; a focus on building their people.
The people who come to us are at all stages of their journey. Our process needs to be able to pick them up right there, and drop them off into a culture that continues to nurture their progress – a DNA Group.
By cooperating with the very real seasons of their spiritual journey, rather than trying to force-fit their life into a convenient flight-path, we make next-steps so much easier and fruitful. Effective courses are provided regularly (once or twice annually) for those at each stage of the journey, and are written in a way that they are increasingly effective each time the person participates.
Unbelievers, or those curious of the faith enter at the “Renew” phase, experiencing new ideas, a community of faith, and the presence of God immediately. Integration into church-life itself is done through a separate and bespoke module that suits the context.
Those who are ready to lead can branch off for a time into a season of specific development.
Courses alone can create cliffs. People can fall off the edge of their great experience and into a vacuum because the rest of the church doesn’t “get” what they now know. When participants come out of such a catalytic moment, It is vital that there is an exit point that leads into the arms of understanding community.
The model shown adopts the use DNA groups, a term borrowed from SOMA. These are intentional but very simple meetings of 3-5 people of the same gender who are on a journey of: Discipling; Nurture; (Missional) Action.
Participants are brought in with the understanding that within a given period, they too will be running such a group for others. That means they attend one and lead one. As such the groups need to work in with the rhythms of life – not everyone can be out for 2 nights a week.
Groups can meet weekly or fortnightly, be in houses or coffee shops, and be held at any part of the day that works. More on simple DNA groups will be fleshed out in other articles.
Never underestimate the power of great programs. At the right place and time, they can catalyse huge shifts in spiritual growth. The infographic above shows where flagship programs like Alpha; re:FORM; re:FOCUS and re:NEW (released late 2019) fit in with the overall model. Courses should be run once or twice annually.
Understanding the potential of each type of space is powerful.
- A café or lounge is great for a few people to really relax and be real. (DNA groups)
- A room or office is great for intentional meetings such as re:FORM or re:FOCUS
- A small hall with 30-100 worshipful people provides the intensity and intimacy required to exercise spiritual gifts and offer ministry, without the requirement for privacy or deep sharing. This is also a great sized space for weekend spiritual retreats.
- A church auditorium is a unique environment where diverse people share the same space. The potential for enthusiasm and a synergy of combined faith can be utilised quite uniquely without trying to establish deep relationships. Great for connection and praise.
By intentionally utilising these spaces for each part of the discipleship pathway, you maximise impact at each setting.
It is God who ultimately does the work of sanctifying grace. As leaders, our role is to create intentional spaces that make room for Him to do just that. In certain environments and moments such as weekend retreats, people are more open to a deep experience of God.
Program Directors have access to all the sessions and tools required to run such retreats in a powerful and sensitive way.
Want to know more?
To be trained and resourced in how to facilitate the various programs seen here, register as a:
- Group Facilitator: Receive online training, and access to group-time videos and more.
- Church Director: Access to huge resources including digital versions of the books, promotional material, sermon series resources, and all the Group Facilitator resources.
- Church Pastor: Download sermon series packs and promotional graphics.