The window of discipleship opportunity that we have is short. In my post You Only Have Two Days a Year to Disciple Students we considered the thought that students only spend, on average, two days per year in a small group. Because of this, we must maximize each moment and one of the prime ways to do that is to have a wise discipleship plan. Your small groups, and the moments your students spend in those groups are too important to organize them haphazardly.
Here are three things that must be included in a wise discipleship plan:
1. A discipleship plan must be focused on Christ.
Student ministry is not about leading students to be better, to behave correctly, or to be good Christian boys and girls. At its’ core, student ministry is about leading students to Jesus where they will be transformed. We must not forget this. A discipleship plan that doesn’t focus on Christ is a discipleship plan that will ultimately fail. We don’t have anything else to offer that can change the heart of a student. Ravi Zacharias said the following:
Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. The cross and resurrection are at the core of the gospel and are the only hope for humanity. The same is true for our students. There is no hope without Jesus. He is where we must lead them in discipleship. Nothing else will do.
2. A discipleship plan must be rooted in Scripture.
Our culture is becoming increasingly biblically illiterate. Students are graduating out of student ministries across the country with the Bible still feeling awkward in their hands. This is a hill that we have to charge as student pastors. If it is only Jesus that can bring transformation, then it is only through the Bible that students will see, know, and fall in love with Him. Without diving into Scripture, a student’s love for Jesus will never grow. Without diving into Scripture, our love for Jesus will never grow. We are wasting our time if we lead them anywhere else.
3. A discipleship plan must lead to application.
Students need to see how the bible speaks to their lives today. In seminary, we would refer to this as “crossing the hermeneutical bridge” or understanding what the context of the Scripture is and learning how to apply that truth to life today. As students dive into Scripture and fall in love with Jesus, the desire to see His words apply to their lives will grow. We can’t miss this step, or place it out of order in the process. The common and unfortunate flow of discipleship is to start with this step, which only cripples students under the burden of trying to lead a virtuous life apart from the Vine, Jesus.
Wise discipleship is a process that has no shortcuts. It begins with Jesus, occurs through the Bible, and results in a transformed life.
Ben Trueblood serves as the Director of Student Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources and has served the local church as a student pastor for fourteen years.