The following post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist
Somewhere in the land between Bud Light beer and Bud’s Best cookies live all the young men in your ministry. Boys struggle with a wide range of issues from laziness, time management, and video games, to sex, pornography, and substance abuse. Effective training in righteousness takes the full spectrum of these struggles into account, with a realization that biblical manhood isn’t something that will naturally grow out of life experience or a passing word of caution. All too often, the misbehavior of young men is dismissed with the old saying that “boys will be boys”, and each time, the standard and expectations of those boys is lowered or altogether dismissed. As leaders of the church, and of young men, we must have an engine of gospel-centered intentionality driving and focusing all that we do to raise this next generation of leaders.
In 1 Peter 1:14-16 the scriptures say, “14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The call to personal holiness in this passage is clear, however the means to that end are what commonly confound and discourage students. So how can we systematically approach the instruction and facilitation of spiritual maturity that leads to personal holiness?
You must have a plan!
Assuming that you are dealing a group of students who are Christians, as fresh or seasoned as they may be, the first step in any discipleship process is the process of evaluation. In order to develop our young leaders, we have to first focus on “clearing the field” of their spiritual life. This essentially means that we have to assess where our young “padawons” currently stand. Upon gaining this insight of each student’s spiritual health, we can then begin to tear down the barriers of sin, and build up the disciplines of the faith that will become the foundation for healthy growth and leadership.
Here are 6 steps to help you start the discipleship process with your students.
- Create A Consistent Environment
One of the most important elements of a strategic discipleship plan is to create an environment that is consistent. When you set aside a time and place that remains specifically for discipleship, you accomplish a number of things. First, you prioritize that time in your own schedule. By committing to meet your boys at the same time and place each week, you also prioritize the preparation needed for effective teaching. Second, you show your boys that you place great value on them. Third, by creating this environment, you fashion a community in which true brotherhood and accountability is fostered.
*Tip – For me this was a local fast food restaurant! The key here was that we met at 6:00am and this was for multiple reasons:
- There weren’t many people there at 6:00 to distract conversation.
- The early time commitment immediately filtered out those who weren’t serious about their faith.
- Boys (and Student Pastors) love to eat!
2. Communicate Intentions And Expectations
It is important that you communicate your intentions from the beginning because you want to know that everyone in the group is on the same page. Without clearly expressing your intentions at the beginning, you risk great disappointment for you and your student when they fall out of the group for some reason.
Just as important is the communications of your expectations. These can look different depending on your group dynamic and your cultural context, but high expectations are critical! This process of discipleship should be a tremendous challenge for these boys in which they are called to purity and discipline in every area of their life.
These expectations should also be accompanied by a series of conversational expectations for each meeting such as a report on:
- Personal evangelism
- Bible reading that week
- Prayer life
- Spiritual victories that week
These conversational expectations not only give you something to discuss with a new group, but they also give some beginning bench marks for the boys to focus on weekly.
*Tip – Although I always set high expectations and strict guidelines, it is also just as important to display grace in times of failure. The key here is to create a brotherhood among the boys around the table. The goal is to create a community in which the boys are genuinely holding each other to a standard of holiness.
- Learn Your Group
After all expectations are communicated and all parties agree, it is time to begin taking a sort of spiritual inventory. The process of discipleship relies heavily on relationship, and it is through these relationships that boys will begin to allow others to speak into their lives. This personal insight will also help you to discern where God may be leading you to focus with each individual in the group.
*Tip – It was not uncommon for this first season of “learning the group” to take a couple of months. Don’t worry; this process is a long-term investment!
- Identify Strengths
Identifying the strengths of each person in the group is a critical step in the process. In the future, it will be important to dole out challenges in leadership and Christian disciplines, and you want to be able to serve up some early victories to your young disciples.
- Identify Weaknesses
Identifying the weaknesses of your group is an important part of the process, and also one to be navigated with great care. Once you gain the trust and respect of the boys in the group you can begin to lean in a little harder, but in the early stages, this can often be a pain point in the discipleship process. Although there should be a constant pressure on the boys to mature and make progress, there is an art to exposing the weaknesses of another. Make sure that your words and actions in this area are seasoned with grace.
*Tip – In the beginning stages of every group I have discipled, scripture reading is always an issue. In the beginning stages, my encouragement for them to read consistently always started with the reason it is important, followed by a potential plan for the student, and then a healthy encouragement that they can indeed do what they haven’t done to this point!
- Analyze Commitment
Keeping a constant pulse on the group’s commitment is a crucial part of the process. Students are pulled in so many directions, and drawn off track by countless distractions. It is important that you are able to discern both forward and backward momentum so that you can keep the train on the tracks.
*Tip – Sometimes it will feel like you are herding cats, especially in the beginning. Don’t give up, because those boys do eventually get it! You are pouring Christ into the lives of these young men and one day, my prayer is that you will see them leading in far greater capacities than you ever dreamed!
Discipleship is a blessing! So get prayed up, make your plan, find your boys, and get started!