Discipleship Proposal #1: Roles & Goals

  I’d like to take stab at a new proposal for discipleship models based on our discussion.  To view the discussion in its entirety, click here

The first model I’d like to propose simply asks each member of the discipleship group for their next goal in each of life’s key relational roles: 

  1. Relationships with Jesus
  2. Relationship with Self (Physical Health, Moral Health, Finances, etc…)
  3. Relationships with Family
  4. Relationships in the Church
  5. Relationships in the Neighborhood, Workplace, etc…

Each week the group asks each other

  1. What is your goal in each area?
  2. How have you progressed with your goals?
  3. How can we help you reach your goals?

When a goal is achieved in one of the areas, a new goal is established by the individual.  Group size, topics, and gender are left up to leaders to determine what aids the goal achievement process best.  The roles & goals concept is developed at length in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Although investing personal responsibility is a desirable asset and end in itself, I’m hesitant about my first draft at a model in that there are so many universal goals God has established that the necessity of establishing your own goals is debatable.  I’d rather encourage flexibility on how to reach the goals, not which goals should be achieved.   

I’ve got another idea brewing that I’m more excited about… so hold onto your seats! 


11 responses to “Discipleship Proposal #1: Roles & Goals

  1. Great start! I have also been thinking a lot about this subject. Especially after seeing the Willow reveal study. I personally feel a tension between two extremes.

    On one side I desire to keep it simple. Jesus spoke of two important things: loving God (with our heart, soul, mind, and strength), and loving our neighbor. As disciples we should be focused on these two things and everything pretty much falls into these two areas.

    On the other side I feel the need to somehow place some structure around this concept as a process to aid people in first finding God and then maturing as a disciple of Christ. That means evaluating where people are spiritually and helping them discover what is next in maturing as a believer.

    But there must be balance and I haven’t resolved this tension that torments me.

  2. Hi Brian:

    After commenting originally to your group of posts on the subject I’ve read about the various models you considered before this proposal. And I must say I think this proposal is a step in the right direction.

    Discipleship is a passion for me, so I am very interested in where this whole discussion is going. I am a volunteer Junior High (Middle School) youth director and have in the past been involved in men’s ministry, and discipleship is and has been a major focus of mine in both.

    The Rabbinical (Jesus) model is, of course, the most authentic of the models considered. In its original context, it had a lot of “curriculum” in the form of the Mishna and the Talmud, both presented orally (not put in written form until about the fifth century AD if I remember correctly). Jesus, however, tossed a lot of these sources out the window; he saw them as either contradictory to Scripture or unnecessarily burdensome.

    I mention this because I have a hard time with curriculum-based discipleship. I have looked at a lot and find that almost all of them have strengths, absolutely all of them have weaknesses, and, of course, none of them are “just right.” First and foremost, as with Jesus’ example, Scripture must be the main textbook, but it also must not become legalistic.

    All that to say that I really like your proposal. It’s open-ended, it focuses on way-of-life as opposed to mere head-knowledge, it stresses some accountability and is wide-open for Scripture application.

    I agree with Frank above that some structure is helpful. Perhaps a light structure, based on the needs of the group and revisited frequently to allow adaptation as issues change in their lives.

    Another note: I have always stressed to groups that I have facilitated that, although the members may consider themselves disciples, it in no means implies that I (or other leaders or facilitators) are the masters; that there is one Master, and I am as much a disciple as they are.

    I am looking forward to the other ideas you have brewing.


  3. Brent Boorsma

    I am also attracted to the idea of goal-oriented discipleship, as I don’t think human discipleship relationships should be an end unto themselves. Rather, they should be part of our transformation into disciples of Jesus. Establishing and following up on goals allows the relationship to set a specific trajectory of development, track progress and make necessary adjustments.

    The small group model that we have been using and developing at my church currently is comprised of two major components. The first component is a time of group discussion of Scripture, often oriented around the sermon text. We do this because we believe that the Bible is one of the main means God uses in his transformation of us.

    The second component is what we call “soul-care” time. Our goal in this is to share, and listen to one another’s souls, so that our communion together can also be a part of the transformation process. We usually do this part segregated by gender, and at least in my group, it really ends up looking a lot like the goals and roles Brian described. At the formation of the group, having each shared our lives’ stories, we took the next week to talk about our hopes and dreams (mainly in the areas that Brian listed), and also the major obstacles that prevent us from reaching them. A lot of this had to do with the nitty gritty sin stuff, and just the areas that we hungered to grow in. Each week we follow up on these issues, and talk about how we have been growing in them.

    There are five couples in the group, and two of us do the leading. As much of a blessing as this group has been, what I really hope to see is those two separate components really grow together. It would be awesome if, as we discuss growth goals during soul-care, we could also be a part of the transformation in those same areas as we read and discuss Scripture together. I think we are headed in that direction as we learn together to truly be listening to each other’s souls, and to listen to Scripture though the Spirit together.

  4. Brent,

    I think its neat how naturally your small group has walked into goal oriented discussion through your “soul care” time. I tested this concept out with one of the groups I currently lead and found very eager interest for asking each other the big self-revealing questions.

    Do you think these types of discussions can take place in co-ed settings?

  5. Brent Boorsma

    In some ways I think it be great to have some of the soul-care discussion in a combined setting. My concern is that people (especially guys) might not be as willing to be open. Also, there are things we discuss separately that probably wouldn’t be healthy to discuss in mixed company. Keeping everyone together would definitely help bring the two components together better though, since everybody would know what the issues were.

    One question I’m still trying to figure out is whether the goal-oriented soul-care discussions are in themselves transformative. Or does talking about goals just help us stay aware of the transformation that is taking place through other means? Any thoughts on this?

  6. I think faith and intentionality are the key producers spiritual formation. In that sense I think that the role of goal setting is simply to supply a reason/sense of crisis for which the faith and intentionality have to come out of us. Great observation Brent!

  7. R0berta Julke

    I have just caught up on the discussion and have many, many thoughts on the two proposed discipleships models. But first, I’d like to back up just a bit and comment on some distinctions.

    When you use the term Discipleship, what comes to mind for me is intentional, intimate relationships between 2-4 people with the prime objective being spiritual maturity to Christ-likeness. You can argue that this can be done peer-to-peer or mentor-to-mentee. Either way, we have some agreed upon objectives and goals to help get the person(s) to the place they want to be, (or for that matter, where God desires them to be.)

    With this in mind, as I’m reading the comments, I’ve been asking myself “What makes Discipleship different from a small group?” The answer to myself was that discipleship must be intentional, accountable and goal-oriented (as Brett so aptly asserts above–very astute.) BUT have we gone too far with these discipleship models that we take the Bible study out of our time together and focus far too much on our own goals and desires? Perhaps the study of the Word is understood as being a key component, but I would like to see it spelled out since being in God’s Word together is clearly the stuff of transformation.

    So, the next thing I ask is “How does Discipleship differ from Life Coaching (or counseling)?” From my standpoint, Life Coaching seems to be extremely similar to Discipleship. While L.C. can sometimes be seen more as a way to get a person through a crisis, I think it carries the same principles as Disc. in so far that it allows the “student” to determine the course and pace of forward steps. It strikes me that the KEY difference between these 2 things is the goals themselves. Unlike L.C. which is mainly about self-improvement, Discipleship is about becoming Christ-like, and also about a reproduction mentality. It is my belief that Discipleship cannot happen outside the context of community.

    Okay, so this brings me back to Brett’s comments about his church’s new model of small groups. For me, I think this has a lot of merit since it encompasses the idea of Bible study and community while still engaging in more intimate “soul-care” discussions in same-sex environments.

    What I’m discovering right now at my church is a resurgence of the desire to get back to the ACTS model of the church. We have taken the first steps towards creating “missional community” groups that are so much more than just Bible study. There is intentionality towards doing life together and stepping out in mission together. What it might be missing though is the intimate discipleship time–for I do believe that it is at this level that we can measure our transformation.

    Alright, so with all that spewed out there…as I look at the above model, I think that it is clear, concise and leaves room for flexibility for where each disciple is on there walk to spiritual maturity. I would only suggest that the language carry some more specific aspects of what needs to be involved in the meeting times (Robert’s comments were helpful to me here) such as “meeting for the intention of Bible study, prayer, accountability etc, etc.”

    I resonate with what you mention in your model, Brian–I don’t think we should spell out the goals, but rather focus on the key elements of spiritual formation and allow the individuals in the group to figure out the goals BASED on the Christ model.

    I have comments on the other model, but will have to wait until tomorrow to post them there! I continue to love this discussion and look forward to any comments.

  8. Roberta,

    I think the difference between life-coaching and discipleship is who sets the goals. In the former, it is the individual. In the later, it is Jesus. In my opinion, proposal #1 leans more toward life-coaching, and proposal #2 leans more toward the heart of discipleship.

    Explain a little more what you mean by relying on “key elements of spiritual formation” vs. goal setting. If this is a continuation of your concern that the models proposed throw out Bible study, rest assured that this was not my intention.

    However, the fact of the matter is that many are failing to become better disciples as natural outflow of reading their Bibles. If a discipleship model spells out what the Bible unambiguously tells us to do, I believe people will turn to the Bible more often and with greater anticipation as they are trying to figure out how to get there.

    In other words, sign-post Jesus’ goals, then people will turn further to his Word.

  9. We just played “catch-up” and finished reading all the issues and comments.

    Our first comment is how much we appreciate all the time, effort and research Brian has given to small groups’ big issues. The deep passion God has placed on his heart to bring others to a closer walk with Jesus shines through.

    Others have already commented on most of our thoughts: We agree with Brian that mwolf’s response to question 3 on April 29th really gets at the heart of discipleship.

    Melissa’s statement on April 30th resonated. Sometimes meditating on a verse can bear much fruit. Her May 3rd statement, concerning reaching out to 2 rookies each year but not being responsible for their action, reminds us that Jesus reached out to Judas and even washed his feet.

    Ericka’s May 14th thoughts on discipleship and what is going on in life are similar to how discipleship has played out in our lives.

    We could relate to Mike’s May 29th statement: “All I know is the more I am aware of God’s presence in my life it naturally and sometimes supernaturally flows out to others. This is how I touch others and it seems to work for me.”

    We are also against replacing Jesus with the term “Higher Power.”

    We feel, when we meet, the full membership of the small group needs to spend at least 35 to 40 minutes studying the word of God for spiritual growth.

    We recommend that there be an option for bi-weekly meetings.

  10. My initial reaction to Brian’s Proposal #1 was skepticism. It looked and smelled too much like counseling/therapy and my fear was, in an attempt to provide flexibility, it was too broad to succeed.

    I also was concerned that it strayed too far from what I thought was the objective of this initiative: To grow as a church through outreach and community service. While I applaud the concept of one-on-one or small group mentoring in an effort to help members of the church family grow personally and spiritually, I am concerned that such an effort would unintentionally keep us from achieving our goals.

    I instead find myself drawn to Roberta’s thoughts on “the desire to get back to the ACTS model of the church.” The “missional community” concept sounds simple, direct and a natural outgrowth of our existing small group structure. The thought of “intentionality towards doing life together and stepping out in mission together” sounds exciting and easily adaptable.

    Sometimes less is more — and this very well be one of those cases.

    I’ll flush out my thoughts on measurability in later post.

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