Model #4: Comprehensive Curriculum


Randy Pope of Perimeter Church in Atlanta has created a three year discipleship curriculum titled The Journey.   An outlineorientation and sample study of The Journeyis available online.  Pope’s curriculum is non-sequential and accessible to indefinite repetition.  The content impresses discipleship under an acronym format of “T-E-A-M-S”:

  • Truth – make them engage truth from the text for themselves.
  • Equipping – massaging truth until it becomes understandable and usable.
  • Accountability – ask them tough questions and address bad behaviors without promoting behaviorism.
  • Mission – get them into the lives of others.  Do it with them.
  • Supplication – pray for them and with them. 

Each group is ideally composed of 2 Apprentices, 2 Veterans, and 2-4 Rookies.  The Rookies are first year participants that soak the discipleship.  You’re only allowed to return for year two as an Apprentice if you bring 2 Rookies of your own.  Veterans share in the leadership on year three, and then take their own cluster of Rookies, Apprentices, and Veterans with them on year four to start their own group. 

Pope allows for some flexibility in the structure knowing that some groups can reproduce early, and some people will never be able to lead group.   For someone to lead discipleship of another, Pope demands they have: 1) A suitable life product – they have significant recovery from sin. 2) Intentionality in imparting the life product specifically to persons. 3)  Do the right things to impart that life product.

As a second reference to curriculum based discipleship models, Steve Sonderman of Elmbrook Church has created a comprehensive curriculum titled Soul PurposeImplementation variations from Pope’s model include a 2 year format, a closed door to new participants, daily devotional homework instead of weekly, and the absence of a definitive objective for each participant to repeat and lead the curriculum. 

Praises:  If The Journey in fact brings movement/action under each point of “T-E-A-M-S,” curriculum based models could be a huge win.  Curriculum could bring comprehensiveness.  You cannot dodge any key discipleship issues with reluctance if it is scheduled. 

The Veteran-Apprentice-Rookie format is also favorable in that it forces multiplication.  It allows, even demands, that people to be brought in at any time, yet also forces them to go out and do it for someone else in a reasonable time frame.

Critique: Scheduled curriculum is destined to fail the discipleship needs of the moment.  What if you’re going through a crisis now but the topic of suffering is not scheduled for another year?  I am still hesitant about the tendency of curriculums to educate instead of mobilize – but maybe everything changes based on how a leader uses the material. 


8 responses to “Model #4: Comprehensive Curriculum

  1. I could intentionally reach out to 2 Rookies each year, but I couldn’t promise to “bring them”. It is our responsibility to reach out and share with people, but we are NOT responsible for their actions. That is between them and God.

  2. R0berta Julke

    I think that this model may prove to have a higher long-term success rate than other models.

    Things I like:
    >That the Bible is used as the sole source for truth and learning–and that the curriculum intentionally walks you through scripture in order to move them along on their path.

    >That there seems to be a lot of flexibility for the Veterans to engage their Rookies in the key elements of the Journey groups in a manner that suits them the best (i.e. Prayer needs to happen, but the Veteran can choose the method.)

    > Accountability is happening, but it’s a relational accountability based on lifestyle rather than just on whether their attendance is good and their homework is done.

    >I’m a big fan of reproduction…so, I’m happy to see the challenge of reproducing yourself (as seen in the Veteran/Apprentice model.)

    >While this model has a 4 year commitment, it’s not a lifelong models as some others are. With our world being so transient, this may lead to the ability to “transfer” the principles learned in an easier manner than others.

    Things I don’t like so much:
    >The rigidity of the pace & numbers of reproduction. I agree with Melissa that you can’t be responsible for someone else’s actions. For instance, what if you bring 2 Rookies into the group, but both drop out mid-semester? Where does that leave the Apprentice? Is there a plan for flexibility?

    >Because I’m single, and haven’t had any great revelations that God will change that for me in the near future, the entire week 4 is a big negative for me. I can see where this would be quite helpful to married folks, but truly, what does a a whole section on marriage have to do with an individuals discipleship? Isn’t a discipleship group more about changing ones own life from the inside so that new behaviors and attitudes reshape our exterior lives in all areas? For instance, if they do a week on marriage, then why not do a week on workplace relationships, or on parenting, or on singleness? Rather, I think that if they focus on Godly attributes, then those will play out in marriage, work, family and singleness and there is no need to study those “venues.”

  3. Roberta – I too thought it was a little awkward to dedicate significant time to marriage/family in such a diversely used curriculum.

    Melissa & Roberta – I’m torn on the reproduction bit. It sounds like an assembly line to quantify how many people you are supposed to disciple and how long it should take you to disciple them. However, I also think there is something to be said for drawing the clearest possbile target.

  4. We have tried a veteran-apprentice-rookie concept in our groups in the past (without the rigidity of term membership and specified curriculum). I know that it was slightly hard for our group because:
    1. We were comfortable with the current membership and didn’t go out of our comfort zone to invite “rookies”
    2. No one wanted to be an “apprentice”. Many were uncomfortable with the idea of leading a group.
    3. We probably were slightly afraid of having to split in the future and what that would look like.

    But if we only focus on the veteran-apprentice-rookie part of this model, I think it’s a good concept. It makes sense to have people who are at different stages of their growth and also ensures that if the group needs to split, there will be sufficient leadership for the resulting groups.

  5. A solution to #2 and #3 Kristen – maybe the group could grow indefinitely and make the sub-groups under the same roof. In other words, meet as groups of 20-30 on the front and back end of each gathering, but each leader in the making would manage a group of 3-6 in-between. The strengths of the point leader of the 20-30 could take the pressure of leaders of the 3-6.

  6. I’m sure that Peter Bender’s comprehensive curriculum is a bit more formal than you are used to but I prefer it to Perimeter’s (never heard of Sonderman’s before I found your post!) because it is available to the whole church all the time and integrates into their Sunday gathering and households. It’s also somewhere near you in Wisconsin. They are at Peace Lutheran Church and the pastor is Peter Bender. His catechist’s manual is impressive and huge:

    To “join” the church, there would be an introductory 24 week class… but then the weekly “refresher” continues for a lifetime in an annual cycle. It does not stress outreach and that is a concern for me, but I find it impressive every time I consider it because every member is potentially engaged. Discipleship is not for a subset of folk.

    Thanks for the posts.

  7. Thanks for the recommendation Chuck!

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