Discipleship is cycling to the top as a priority for many pastors. Many churches are trying to change their culture to one of making disciples. But how would you actually implement a change of that magnitude—especially on a sustainable basis?
I’m a men’s discipleship specialist, but what we’ve learned working with 35,000 churches also applies to discipleship in general. What follows is a plan I shared with a pastor recently. Of course, you can adapt this in many ways:
Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes. My thought is to keep the plan as focused on discipleship and as simple as possible. The following represents a plan to help each person understand and implement discipleship for themselves and others in three ways (salvation=call, growth=equip, service=send).
One of the best ways to grow is by hearing critiques about yourself from peers and mentors in relationships you trust. But not all criticism is constructive, and even when it is, it can still be hard to receive.
How you do you know which criticism should be taken to heart and which should be dismissed? And how do you respond to each in a way that promotes growth?
I think there are three things to remember when it comes to dealing with criticism in your life.
Discipleship has become quite the buzzword. Books, conferences and writings abound on the topic. Most churches understand the need for discipleship but many are struggling to create effective discipleship strategies. Here are 5 reasons why your discipleship strategy may be stuck:
1. You Don’t Actually Have a Strategy. Most churches claim to have a discipleship strategy. Midweek meetings, Sunday school classes, small groups and other gatherings are frequently mentioned when asked to describe the strategy. Meetings don’t entail a strategy. Churches need a discipleship plan that encompasses everything they do based on their congregation’s specific biblical needs. Leadership teams should ask, “What will it take for our people to take the next steps toward maturity in Christ?” A specific plan should be created based on the answer to this question.
In article in a 1972 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, the Rev. Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “The vast majority of American young people are still alienated, uncommitted, and uninvolved. There is a deep vacuum within them. They are searching for individual identity. They are searching for a challenge and a faith. Whoever captures the imagination of the youth of our generation will change the world. Youth movement of the past have been perverted and led by dictators and demagogues. Perhaps the American young people will be captured by Christ.”
Rev. Graham hit it on the head. He did not go into great detail about the symptoms of the youth crisis. He did not detail the issues of pornography, suicide, depression, self-injury and hopelessness, but he did highlight the core issue. He reminded us that their problems are spiritual in nature.
As president of the ministry my dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve been serving him for almost a decade. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of MarriageToday, so I’ve been along for a good portion of the ride. From day one, MarriageToday has always focused on equipping the local church to succeed in the area of marriage. My dad, who has been a pastor for 30 years, frequently says, “The local church is the hope of the world.”
We sincerely believe that. We see our broadcast ministry as the “Air Force” in the battle to save marriage and the local church as the “Army,” with its massive supply of ground troops. We absolutely know that we can’t win this war without strategizing with each other.
The rise of the Internet, new media and mobile technology has ushered church communications into a new digital era. As a result, churches have worked hard to create a flawless user experience, engaged social networks and search engine-optimized websites. But while churches are working hard to keep up with the changing digital culture and reach emerging generations, I fear we’ve left behind a large group of people.
Meet the “unplugged.”
Myth: The unplugged are all senior citizens.
Truth:The unplugged are not just those eligible for the AARP. Simply put, the unplugged are those in our churches who are not regularly visiting the Internet or socially engaged online. They think Facebook is a mystery or a joke. They may have an email address, but they rarely access it. They tend to be employed in vocations that don’t require frequent computer use. To label any one age group as the unplugged is a vague generalization that dismisses the idea that everyone needs access to information despite their tech level.
So, how do we keep up our online strategies while still caring for the unplugged? Think hub and spokes.
I look at communications as a bicycle: two wheels move the bicycle forward (online and offline). Just like you use Facebook, Twitter, email and other tools to bring everyone back to key points on your website, use platform announcements, signage, posters, people and other efforts to point the unplugged toward one central hub that hosts all your communication pieces.
Tips for Creating a Central Hub
Begin With the End in Mind
Undoubtedly, you’ve spent much time thinking through and strategically addressing your online audience. If you haven’t already, consider creating content that can translate easily from web to print. Each page on your website exists because it presents valuable information to the curious churchgoer.
Maintain a Simple Event Registration Process
Keep the offline registration process simple, universal and immediate. Rather than coming up with a different way to register every time, create a one-size-fits-all system that people become familiar with, and point them to the same system for every event.
Each time you announce an event from the platform, be sure to have a universal event registration card in the seatback that can be completed and placed in the offering plate.
One church leader recently told me about a huge push they were doing for an event. They had promoted it, then set up stations in their lobby for people to sign up immediatately. A seemingly brilliant idea! The only problem was that all of their stations had MacBook Pros. People wanting to sign up kept looking for a mouse, a click button and couldn’t navigate the “two finger scroll.”
“We walked away knowing that we ‘over-teched’ the process for our audience,” he said.
Use Face Time
Never underestimate the power of a staff member’s personal invite or time spent casting vision for involvement. Communications is every staff member’s job. Full buy-in from your senior leadership is vital for the rest of the staff to jump on board.
Some Final Cautions:
Remember, it takes both wheels spinning together to make the bicycle move forward, and it takes an online and offline system to move the people in your church toward the unique calling God has for them.
Jon Rogers works with numerous organizations, specializing in communications, graphic design and social media. He is a Creative Missions missionary. Adapted and used with permission from churchmarketingsucks.com.