GROWING DISCIPLERS IN YOUR CHURCH
by Elly Marroquin
Have you considered the opportunity you have been given to cultivate the next generation of “disciplers”—or disciple-makers—for your church? Well, your classroom or small group might be the garden where you can grow disciples who become disciplers.
Each week, you partner with the Holy Spirit and allow God’s Word to nurture those under your care. In addition to teaching the precious truths of Scripture and helping people develop the ability to listen to God, you are also helping them apply His Word the rest of the week. Each student has a unique story and an individual purpose and calling, but you have the privilege of helping each of them along their discipleship journey.
Here are a few ways you can walk alongside your students as they pursue Christ.
Pray for your students and others who will be joining your group. Prayer changes people and situations. The first person who will be impacted is you. The atmosphere in your classroom or small group will be altered positively, and you will begin to experience the Holy Spirit’s presence in each gathering.
Consider using a journal, flashcards, or electronic notes to keep a log of each person’s prayer requests. Don’t forget to note when God answers a prayer. Provide opportunities for your students to pray for one another, such as adopting prayer partners for a month. This will allow friendships to form and community to develop.
Discipleship is fostered in community and corporate prayer is a powerful, unifying weapon in a believer’s spiritual arsenal. When you intentionally build community, your students benefit in multiple ways, including more effective learning. Greater unity will lead to greater participation and growth in the people you disciple.
Share a word of encouragement or a Scripture verse once a week. You could send a group text, email, or make phone calls. Maybe you can create a group chat where students post the ways the Lord has spoken to them through Scripture or ask questions about something they read. (You could then take time to formulate and research the answer before addressing the question in the next class meeting.) Or you might consider sending students a birthday or anniversary greeting. There are multiple ways to keep the lines of communication open beyond your classroom time.
Build relationships with your students. Develop a rotating schedule to ensure you visit your students monthly or bimonthly. Go out for coffee, tea, or ice cream. Walk or hike at the local park. Watch a basketball game or play miniature golf. Invite them to your home for a meal. These meeting times provide you with special opportunities to learn about each student. Maybe they are struggling with an issue or a specific area. As you form relationships, you gain access to speak into their lives, share the counsel of God’s Word, and pray for specific needs.
What else are you accomplishing as you spend time with your students? You are modeling what a discipler does. Invite your class to be generous in sharing their faith stories with coworkers, neighbors, or friends. When a person shares their testimony with someone and that person comes to faith in Jesus, they just made a disciple. That’s exciting! One more person was added to God’s family, and the one who led them to Jesus is now a discipler. They are responsible for walking alongside the new believer, modeling what it means to follow Jesus and teaching them to read and study the Bible, pray, and live in obedience to God each day. But it all starts by building relationships.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you provide accountability and encouragement for each student. Discipleship is about being transformed by the Holy Spirit and formed into the character of Christ. The discipleship process also involves multiplication, and we need to encourage every believer to embrace the privilege of sharing their faith and making new disciples. Our first assignment as believers is to be with Jesus—to remain in Him—and the next step is to invite others to do the same.
During your class time, invite people to come to faith in Christ. Then, remind your class as they depart that they are entering their mission field. They should embrace every opportunity to share God’s love with others.
Provide the means for regular personal growth evaluation. You can decide if this occurs weekly or monthly and whether it’s done electronically or on paper, but create a way for students to reflect on what they are learning and applying in the following areas:
- Bible: Do I regularly engage with Scripture, listening to God and allowing His Word to guide my decisions?
- Holy Spirit: Am I intentionally seeking a relationship with the Holy Spirit? Do I surrender all areas of my life to His complete control? Am I actively pursuing the continual infilling of the Holy Spirit?
- Mission: Am I participating in Christ’s mission to share the gospel and make disciples?
- Prayer: Am I engaged in active conversation with God? Do I pray in faith for God’s purposes to be fulfilled in my life and in His Church? Do I regularly practice fasting?
- Worship: Does my life reflect obedience and display the fruit of the Spirit?
- Service: Do I seek opportunities to serve my family, church, and community?
- Generosity: Am I sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, seizing opportunities to meet others’ needs using my time, treasure, talent, or testimony?
Practice hospitality and show creativity. Create an inviting meeting space that is neat, attractive, and clean. (A fresh coat of paint covers a multitude of imperfections.) Set out extra chairs to show that you are always expecting your students to invite friends—and that you’re ready for them. Greet everyone with a warm smile. Prepare a variety of ways to begin your lesson. Keep students engaged, using unique object lessons or ice breakers. Continually look for new ways to make students—both old and new—feel at home and involved in your class.
As you implement some of these suggestions, your students will flourish, become disciplers, and bless their neighborhoods, workplaces, or schools. Increased prayer, community building, and relationship development centered around God’s Word are essentials when raising up disciples and disciplers.
Remember, discipleship requires an investment. Jesus spent time with His disciples, and they became world-changers. Who are the world-changers growing under your care each week? As you provide fertile soil, these disciples will grow and impact their world for Christ.
Elly Marroquin is Director of Christian Education and Discipleship for the Assemblies of God (USA).