Reach far more people when you create a unique digital discipleship plan for your church and community.
The creation of a digital discipleship plan is currently a popular conversation in most churches. The concept of nurturing discipleship opportunities through digital means was already happening and on everyone’s radar pre-pandemic, but that event certainly changed things. Instead of seeing digital discipleship as optional, the pandemic highlighted the benefit of and need for churches to embrace digital means of reaching people.
Of course, for years, there have been people missing discipleship opportunities because of health or accessibility issues. In other words, the need for an alternate method is not new, but the energy being focused on it is.
Has your church done its homework and seen the potential of a strategic digital discipleship plan? If so, this is a great place for you to start. With these seven steps, you’ll have the framework in place to create a plan that’s unique to your church and community.
7 Clear Steps To Build A Scalable Digital Discipleship Plan
1. Begin With Prayer
This step seems obvious, and yet, how often do we forge ahead and forget to ask God for His wisdom?
First of all, He promises to provide it when we ask (James 1:5). The need for it is obvious as you’ll be tasked with thinking through how to steward your church’s time and money to make disciples in your church and community.
2. Identify Your Team
Let me point out the obvious: this is not a one-man show. It’s important to take a team approach for many reasons, but one reason is that executing a digital discipleship plan requires manpower.
Consider the key people you’ll need to involve for the sake of the digital ministry. It might be wise to start small and then grow as needs arise. (In other words, avoid too many cooks in the kitchen.)
Make sure you recruit a team that represents a range of spiritual giftings and skills. Enlist team members who are gifted in setting and communicating vision, discipling people, using technology, and even managing projects.
By bringing in a diversity of gifts, you’ll likely achieve a better result.Strategizing digital discipleship? Think through key players for your team who have a variety of giftings. Avoid too many cooks in the kitchen—you can always start small and add later. Click To Tweet
Empower more servants: How A Digital Discipleship Plan Will Empower More People For Ministry
3. Know Your Church Members
A pastoral pitfall is when leaders dream and plan for the church they want instead of the church they have.
For example, imagine a pastor who puts time, energy, and resources into a youth ministry program that doesn’t seem to be thriving. Now look behind that pastor and notice the population of retired individuals who are eager to get some direction for engaging their age group in service and discipleship.
This is a classic case of missing out on discipleship opportunities with members and attendees who don’t fit the desired demographic.
We recommend sending out an anonymous survey to your attendees and members. Ask questions to get an idea of your current community demographic, like:
- Living location
- Faith history
- Marital status
- Spiritual struggles
Once the results are in, you can create different discipleship strategies for each persona. The personas you build upon can be general, like young and married, retired, singles, etc., or they can be very specific, like professionals or third-shift workers, or budding theologians. They all need to be discipled and, although plenty of content can be shared, there will be assets that are more valuable and fitting for one group over the other.
Whatever personas you choose, you’ll want to make sure the major groups in your church are adequately represented.
Level up giving: 8 Effective Digital Giving Practices For Your Church
4. Know Your Overall Town or Community
Knowing that growth is a goal, it’s important to understand the people in your neighborhood. What’s the scope of the community your church exists within? Seek to find:
- Demographics: age, employment, education, financial info, family details, etc.
- Largest employers
- Common struggles (such as addiction or dropout rates)
Census data will give you a good start, but there’s nothing like building relationships with people in city leadership and asking good questions. Inquire about common needs seen in the community, and where there’s an abundance of gaps in service or engagement in community events and offerings. This will give you an idea of where your church can serve others and possibly give you another persona to consider and aim to reach.
5. Identify Which Current Discipleship Efforts Are Working
Your church is actively involved in discipleship, whether or not you have a structured discipleship program. Perhaps discipleship takes place mostly in small groups, or in ministry groups where leaders disciple their team. Either way, discipleship is happening, and it would be remiss to ignore the best practices that have been identified.
Frameworks of discipleship vary by church, so there’s no one-size-fits-all. Before you can create a scalable growth strategy, you must first figure out what’s working and where your church can improve. Here’s how:
ASK AND LISTEN
Take a cross-section of attendees and members and ask questions like:
- What do you think discipleship means?
- Have you ever been discipled?
- Who has discipled you and what did that look like?
- Think about individuals you serve alongside, attend small groups with, or attend a Bible study who would be a natural mentor to you? (Pastors excluded)
- Is there an area in your spiritual walk that seems to hang you up frequently?
- Have you ever been in a position to disciple someone?
- Are you equipped to disciple another person?
When you’ve queried a variety of people, from leaders and pastors to people in all stages of their faith, you’ll get a good sense of whether or not your current efforts are meeting or exceeding expectations.
6. Establish First Steps
It shouldn’t be like turning on a fire hose when it comes to launching your digital discipleship campaign.
Before you roll out your digital discipleship plan, you’ll need time to recruit and train the necessary personnel. Additionally, you need to carefully present the opportunity to your congregation. It should excite regular attendees and also appeal to those outside of the typical group, too (remember the personas?).
A few milestones you might want to consider:
- Enlist key leaders to conduct discipleship
- Train leaders
- Establish online on-ramps
And to continue the conversation, set up some repeatable discipleship opportunities, like membership class follow-ups.
Another great tech tool for leaders: 8 Practical Ways to Use Your ChMS After Events for Outreach Follow-Up
7. Measure Success
Some consider growth a hard thing to measure, but I think there are some tangible and intangible ways to see how your digital discipleship strategy is working.
- % of members attending regularly
- % involvement in small groups
- % serving in your church or church-related ministries
- % giving regularly
- % in training or leadership groups
- % evangelizing or inviting others to church
- Maturity/growth in godliness
- Deeper love for God, church, community, and the world
- Biblical literacy
Overall, ask yourself if you’re being faithful to the work and the people God has given you. Numbers have great value when it comes to revealing how effective your discipleship strategy is, but it’s not the main thing. Do the work of the ministry diligently and leave the results to Him.
SCALABLE DIGITAL DISCIPLESHIP PLAN
There you have it—clear steps that will help you create the framework for your digital discipleship plan. Now that you know what’s working in your current strategy, along with the people you’re trying to reach, you can adapt and create based on that knowledge.