Plan to make disciples

Editor’s note: The following material was first introduced several years ago in a Discipleship Training Resource entitled, “Becoming a Disciple-making Church” by Steve J. Williams. It has been updated and is used by permission. This is the second of three articles. This article will look at four steps for making disciples:

Step 1 – Refine your vision. All great disciple-making begins as a vision in someone’s heart.

Every church needs a vision for disciple-making. It needs to be written down so everyone can understand it and be constantly reminded of it. Here are four characteristics of a good vision statement. A vision statement should be:

• Simple and practical. People must be able to understand it and buy into it.

• Change-oriented. How will people be changed into the likeness of Jesus?

• People-focused. Who will be transformed?

• Long-range. A God-given vision should change little over time.

Key people to begin the process of refining or developing your church’s vision statement for disciple-making are the pastor and the leader of your disciple-making ministry. Wise leaders will include others in the forming of a vision statement. Envision the finished product, in this case someone who is very much like Jesus.

Step 2 – Develop a Plan. All great disciple-making churches plan to intervene in people’s lives and help put them on a path toward spiritual formation.

A plan is a set of strategic actions that can turn a vision into reality. Here is a four-cornered approach you can use to develop a strategy for making disciples in your church:

• Corner #1 – Get to know the people. Start by identifying the people-groups in your church and their needs.

• Corner #2 – Lay tracks. Track planning is a flexible system for planning and tracking discipleship experiences. It enables a church to focus its energy where it is needed most. (A great resource is the new Transformational Discipleship Assessment from Lifeway).

• Corner #3 – Plan rich experiences. Discipleship experiences are the classes, small groups, seminars, retreats, workshops and mentoring relationships through which disciple-making occurs. If you can’t do something well, don’t do it. Wait until you can.

• Corner #4 – Build a winning team. Successful disciple-making is a team effort, led by competent people who have a passion for disciple-making. Enlist and develop your team.

Step 3 – Implement Your Plan. Start where the need is the greatest and do what you have the resources to do. It’s better to do what you can do well than to try to do everything.

Step 4 – Evaluate and Redirect. No matter how good your plans are and how well you implement them, there will always be room for improvement. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Take time to evaluate the things you do. This will help you discover why something worked or why it didn’t live up to your expectations. How did Thomas Edison react to his failures? Instead of being despondent about them, he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If your church tries a disciple-making strategy and it fails, minimize your losses and move on. Then find a way that will work.