Level up your ministry when you get equipped with 6 stages of discipleship.
Ever been in a discipleship relationship with someone who just did not care to understand the church’s constitution? Or someone who’s introversion caused them to be a no-show to a Zoom meeting with more than two other people?
Discipleship is a PROCESS. Sometimes we get caught up in the inevitable “two steps forward and one step back” aspect of growth, or people’s tendencies to skip around their discipleship plan.
We jump right in and forget what it was like to misunderstand basic principles from Scripture, since we’ve been in church our whole lives and were introduced to that particular concept in elementary school.
When you can grasp the stages of discipleship, you will be equipped to carefully walk others through each stage and help them mature and grow based on the truths found in Scripture.
6 Stages of the Discipleship Journey: Digital and In-Person
The goal of the discovery phase is to assist strangers in finding your church. This is frequently accomplished by having a website that is SEO-friendly and produces regular, fresh content for search engines via blogging and/or weekly sermons. However, it is also accomplished through the use of marketing, the creation of engaging events, and asking current members to extend invitations to others.
To help individuals get to this level, churches can consider hosting events that encourage people to come through the door for the first time—not just on Sunday mornings. In other words, what type of event could you host for your community that would bring in a diverse group of individuals who are interested in learning about your church for the first time? This would give you the opportunity to share your faith with them.
The attend phase is all about encouraging folks who have only a passing acquaintance with your church to join an online or in-person worship session.
Creating a welcome team and having a welcome gift to give to visitors are both excellent ideas to consider at this point. However, many churches overlook the importance of finding a means to stay in touch with visitors after they leave your service. That’s why a digital bulletin, a church app, and digital connect cards are also recommended. Allow visitors to provide you with their contact information through a variety of methods so that you can keep in touch with them.
When you get email addresses, create a short, 3-part email series telling them more about your church. End that series with an invitation for the visitor to get coffee (or have a digital coffee!) with one of your staff members.
Read this before you create your church app: 6 Smart Church Apps to Investigate Before Creating Your Own
The connect phase is all about getting attendees plugged into the life of the church.
It’s a good idea to try and link a visitor with a small group or midweek activity after they’ve been to your church for a few weeks and/or have completed your 3-part welcome email series.
A “buddy system,” in which visitors are linked with host families who can assist in orienting them to the church and introduce them to more people, has also proven to be successful in certain congregations. For example, it can be very effective to encourage a connection between a visitor and seasoned attendee who have similar professions or are similar ages.
Consider this the period to begin integrating visitors into whatever programs your church offers.
The goal of the serve phase is to get your regular attendees to take the next step in their discipleship journey by offering to serve. Consider having your participants complete a gift assessment so that you can find volunteer activities that are a good fit for them.
This is a perfect moment to introduce these people to a common cause and encourage them to make their first gift. Service and giving are vital spiritual disciplines and indicators of deeper commitment and integration into the church’s life, but they should not be forced on anybody who isn’t ready. Approach this phase with caution, and ensure that your participants enter these critical disciplines with the correct knowledge and attitude.
If you haven’t yet, during this stage, share testimonials and stories about how Jesus has changed the lives of others in the church. This reminder of the larger vision will inspire and encourage individuals as they begin serving the larger mission.
Pro Tip: Stop here and discover if attendees have taken a new members class. If not, hook them up with that resource as soon as possible.Many churches overlook the importance of finding a means to stay in touch with visitors after they leave your service. That's why a digital bulletin, a church app, and digital connect cards are recommended. Click To Tweet
The grow phase is all about assisting members of your community who are committed to growing in their knowledge of God and relationship with one another. Whether online or in person, now is an excellent time to offer comprehensive theology, apologetics, and evangelism seminars. It’s also a great time to invite people to a midweek Bible study that goes a little deeper than a typical small group. It’s also a fantastic moment to encourage your members to begin building their own theological library.
Those who are good prospects for leadership will most likely begin to shine at this point. Find strategies to encourage the growth of persons who have the potential to lead in your church when you notice them.
Empower more servants: How A Digital Discipleship Plan Will Empower More People For Ministry
The final stage of the discipleship journey should be full of momentum and help to keep the growth moving.
It’s critical that those at this stage of their journey are able to access outreach and apologetics training, as well as opportunities to practice having difficult conversations about very serious issues. Make sure that your church provides an outlet for them to put these skills to good use. Consider forming an evangelism or outreach team. Also, create compelling, shareable content that this group may share with the people they’re discipling and evangelizing to.
Pro Tip: Consider organizing a formal training course for those leaders you’ve selected before they take on an official leadership role in your church.
Seeing the discipleship journey should be helpful as you mentor believers in all walks of life. A follower of Christ who jumps right into the Share phase will quickly get discouraged if they don’t have a foundation in the Grow stage. By setting goals to walk through – not around – each of these stages, churches will train healthy disciples who are well-versed in God’s truths and Christian principles, eager to serve the body, and ready to go and make more disciples.