Ten Church Strategies: The Discipleship Strategy


I remember when I heard one of my children tell my wife that they hoped to grow up and be just like daddy. Nothing is more honoring than having someone want to emulate you. Discipleship in it’s purest form reflects the believer’s desire to emulate Jesus Christ. The childlike faith inside us says, “When I grow up I want to be like Jesus.”

I’ve never met a pastor who doesn’t have discipleship as a primary goal of ministry. Many would argue that it is THE primary mission of the church. In this installment of the Ten Church Systems I will discuss how the local church can strategically develop a balanced discipleship plan. If you haven’t already, I recommend you first read my ‘Getting Started Thoughts and Disclaimers’, written in three parts: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Key Sub-Systems of the Discipleship System
Following are the key sub-systems necessary to ensure the ministries, events, and services at your church lead to discipleship opportunities for your congregation. Note: This system will normally interface with every other system in the church. It will also tend to be more ‘strategic’ in nature than the rest of the systems (except for the Strategic System).

  • Discipleship Clarity System
    The local church will not facilitate discipleship effectively without first clarifying what constitutes discipleship. This system will strategically define the key facets of discipleship including all essential themes to plan and implement each year. As an example, Elim Gospel Church has defined six areas of discipleship (with some help from Rick Warren’s book ‘The Purpose Driven Life‘). Those areas include: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship (which includes areas of practical life management like finances/workplace/parenting/etc.), Service, Outreach and Power. EGC has also identified the key themes surrounding each of those six areas.
  • Discipleship Method System
    Once the key facets of discipleship have been defined, it is necessary to determine what methods (experiences/events/activities) the church has available to facilitate discipleship. The most common methods will include the Sunday service, classes, Sunday school, small groups and retreats. Others may also include pastor blogs, websites, publications, social media, conferences, etc. 
  • Discipleship Implementation System
    Finally, every theme of discipleship will carry a strategic plan for implementation, utilizing the church’s list of identified discipleship methods. This system will determine how each key area of discipleship will be offered to the congregation or community. Although not every theme and area of discipleship will be offered in equal measure, the best discipleship system will ensure all are included. For example, at Elim Gospel Church the theme of ‘Parenting’ is strategically implemented by making group materials available to small groups, pulpit teaching throughout the year, a special ‘Parenting’ class every other year, and a blog from the children’s pastor which includes regular encouragement to parents.

It is important to note that nearly every method of discipleship will require several ‘sub-systems’ to effectively fulfill the goal of discipleship. Most have already been covered in The Ten Church Systems, but there are a few that haven’t been mentioned to date and should be recognized as an important system that facilitates ministry. Again, examples may include a church sponsored three day conference/retreat, a simulcast, a missions trip, a food pantry, an outreach into the community, and more.

One of the most important aspects of this system is in ensuring that each method and it’s implementation is realistic and balanced with the overall life of the church and that it remains central to the church’s overall mission.

NEXT – Go to ‘Ten Church Systems: The Strategic System

Note: Inspiration for the Ten Church Systems comes from Nelson Searcy and the Eight Systems of the Local Church he proposed in his free e-book entitled, ‘Healthy Systems, Healthy Church‘.

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