As church leaders, our number one priority is to make disciples. But, you and I both know making disciples isn’t easy. A good discipleship strategy starts with evaluating what you’re currently doing. Only after evaluating can you then establish a new discipleship strategy.

What Makes A Disciple?

Before we dive into how to evaluate your church’s strategy, it’s important that we start with a healthy definition of what a disciple is and isn’t. A disciple is not someone who simply comes to church, prays a prayer, and then gets baptized — that’s a convert, not a disciple. A true disciple is someone who strives to be more like Christ daily.

Of course, that definition isn’t something that is concrete. Discipleship is a process. Anyone devoted to Christ is always becoming more like Him on a daily basis. There is always a next step to be taken.

Our job as church leaders is to help those that we shepherd to identify and take their next steps. So how do we do that? I’m glad you asked.

How to Evaluate

A few years ago my wife and I joined the staff of a year old church plant. One of the things that I oversaw was creating a small group strategy for our new church.

As I mapped out the training manual for our leaders I knew that I wanted to put a system in place that allowed us to gauge how effective we were being at creating disciples. After spending a few hours researching what others were doing, I knew that I wanted to equip my leaders with a simple survey that they could share with their groups.

We had our group leaders hand out the survey at the start of each small group semester which allowed for those in groups to gauge how they were progressing spiritually. Over the years I’ve refined this survey more and have now made it available as a free tool here.

By collecting this data, you’re no longer flying blind when it comes to making disciples. This is helpful to you as a leader, but also to those who you are pastoring. In both instances, by knowing where a person stands, it becomes much easier to develop a plan.

Of course, there are some problems with relying on a paper survey that you have to then collect, compile, and analyze the data, but it’s a great start. We’re hoping to make this process easier for both ministry leaders and church members with our online spiritual health tracking tool that is launching in late March / early April 2018.

Don’t Get Discouraged by Results

After collecting and analyzing the spiritual health data, it can be easy to get discouraged. In that moment, it’s important to remember that discipleship is a process. While those taking the survey may not be where you want them to be, isn’t that also true for us as leaders? I know for certain that I’m not where I want to be in my walk with Christ. How about you?

A great step before analyzing the data is to pray that the Lord would prepare your heart and reveal His will to you. The initial data is just the first step. The fun part hasn’t even begun yet.

Make a Plan of Attack

Now that you’ve got some data, it’s time to look for trends and develop a plan. I’m a big believer that an effective discipleship plan combines the macro with the micro. What do I mean by that?

Macro-discipleship is anything that happens in groups of more than 5. Micro-discipleship is anything that happens either in a group of 5 and under or individually. If you want to make the biggest impact, these two areas must work in tandem.

For instance, you may find, like most churches, that the majority of those that took the survey struggle with sharing their faith. What can we do on both a macro and micro level to make an impact on those numbers?

At the macro-discipleship level, we can launch a new topical sermon series that is designed to help those attending our church to be more confident in their faith and lay a firm foundation.

At the micro-discipleship level, we can work with those in our care to identify the areas that they struggle with the most. We can answer specific questions that they have and even provide some hands-on practice to help them feel more comfortable.

By combining the two strategies together, you’ll be much more effective at moving the needle in a positive direction. A united front is always more effective than a divided front.

Rinse and Repeat

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Unfortunately, for many of us, that’s hard to accept. I know that I’ve been guilty of excitedly launching a new initiative only to let the excitement slowly fizzle out over the next few months. If you’re committed to making discipleship a priority in your church, and if you’ve read this far I know that you are, you have to stick to a plan.

It isn’t enough to survey your people once and make a few changes. You need a systematic approach. After all someone much wiser than me once said, “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” This has certainly rung true in my own life.

What’s your next step? Are you going to commit to implementing and sticking with a plan?

If so, I encourage you to checkout our spiritual health assessment and use it to take your first step on a journey that isn’t easy but is certainly worth it.