General Discipleship Tips

Eric Russ

When you begin discipling someone it is extremely important to have some sort of plan as to where you will be taking the disciple. While operating in that plan, there are certain things that you should always be aware of as you disciple.   These are general considerations that you should keep in your hindsight as you meet:

Deviate When Necessary. Usually there will be times when you will need to address important issues that were not on your scheduled plan. Always remember to never forsake the person for the mission. Pray for discernment to know when these times are upon you. Be okay with pauses in the schedule for big issues. Welcome them as teachable moments and not hindrances to your plan. Addressing their issues periodically will assist in building trust because the disciple will see they are not a project moving along as scheduled but they are a friend and you are concerned about the intimate areas of their life. 

Beware, if you find yourself always living in “the fixing an urgent problem world”. You very well might be enabling a mindset that says we will not deal with any systemic issues but simply put out fires. Sadly, I and many others in our body have fallen prey to this reality. Usually, the result is the person doesn’t actually grow and the problems will continue to reoccur. It seems most prudent to be okay with the drama in someone’s life and focus on one area at a time. Hopefully, through consistent, focused time in an area you will see God bring about sustainable wins and you will not become prey to momentary applause for quick fixes. 

Periodically Open Your Home. Occasionally, consider having your disciple over for dinner. Showing commitment to your disciple outside of your training will do wonders for your relationship. This action will model kindness, other centeredness and is a great step toward intimacy. The default thinking is to meet at a Starbucks or neutral territory. Meeting at a coffee shop is not a bad thing. However, think of our culture; in the inner city it is not normal to have people in your house because people think the visitor might be casing the place. Also, many times people in our community are simply ashamed of their home and would rather have you not see their personal environment. In the suburbs, living in isolation is expected and almost celebrated. We develop homes with attached garages. We drive into our garages without being truly known by anyone. Our churches feed this worldly mindset. We build our churches not with the mindset of what is best for the community but where would be the best place to grow a big church. People in turn drive from who knows where to listen and then go back to who knows what without being known. Letting people into your personal space while asking for them to let you into theirs is key to debunking lies of isolation that our society and our flesh have fostered.

Stay Connected. If you are meeting with your disciple every other week, make sure you are either calling or connecting in some way on your off week in order to keep the lines of communication open. Again it is extremely important to create the norm that you are developing a relationship versus going through a course.  

Writing Prayer Request. Develop the norm of writing down the prayer requests of your disciple so you can intentional pray for their needs. 

NEVER Stop Sharing The Vision of Discipleship. People rarely get something you share the first, second, third or even fourth time. You want people to move from church obedience to biblical conviction. The former says I am doing this because our church does it. The latter says I am doing this because I take joy in fully obeying the great commission. It will take many times of explanation, modeling and processing before a person actually moves from obedience to conviction so keep the vision before them.

Consider the Seasons. Contemplating the seasons can be important as to how you plan to minister with your disciple. For example, in our community everyone goes into hibernation in the winter. This reality makes it hard to strike up conversation on the front porch. Just to save you time, people don’t want to have a deep convo about Christ outside when it is 30 degrees or colder. Sometimes people in our hood will let in strangers but it is not the norm. So after a few years we realized that during the winter months, it seems more feasible to focus more on theology and character during the winter months. Although we still engage in ministry it usually is mostly acts of service and connecting with neighbors we have met during the year. We purposely try to continue to build those relationships over dinner or lunch (someplace warm). The spring and summer become more of our time to initiate with new neighbors and live outside our house. We realize if we spend most of our time doing theological training in the summer we miss a huge opportunity to be engaging our neighbors who are outside. So we use that time to live outside our house and purposely pile on the theological training more in the winter months. Just a thought to consider!