How do you measure discipleship? My guess is that you’ve asked yourself this question before. It’s a tough question, but one we should frequently wrestle with. Making disciples is what student ministry is about, yet the path to this goal seems so ambiguous. This leaves many student ministries trusting in haphazard plans for discipleship and “accidentally” creating disciples rather than developing a wise path for discipleship that results in transformation.
In a recent research study, the results of which can be found in the book Transformational Discipleship, eight things rose to the top as attributes that most impacted someone’s personal discipleship. This week on the blog we are going to focus in on these eight attributes of discipleship with the hope that it gives you some tools to evaluate your own process, or even gives you the tracks that you are looking for as you build your plan. Let’s take a look at the first three of these attributes…
Attribute #1: Bible Engagement – There is nothing more important in the life of a believer than being engaged with God’s word. If students graduate from your ministry having applied this one truth then it has been a success. Sure, there are many other things we hope they leave student ministry having applied, but none will have a more lasting impact than the discipline of being in God’s word. 2 Corinthians 3:18 gives a clear explanation of the transformational process. In short, people are transformed as they stare at the glory of the Lord. How do we (and your students) stare at the glory of the Lord? Through His word. More than anything else, student ministry should be a place where students are taught to stare at the glory of the Lord through His word. Any wise discipleship plan will have Bible engagement at its core.
Attribute #2: Obeying God and Denying Self – These two clearly go together, and will only happen in direct correlation to the level of bible engagement that is happening in the lives of your students. Obeying God and denying self can be boiled down to a checklist or reinforced through guilt and positive peer pressure, but you will be left with only short-term results. True disciple making takes time and it takes into account more than how a person lives from the ages of 12-18. Long-term obedience to God and the denial of self is built upon the foundation of a deep love for God through an understanding of who He is, what He has done for us, is doing for us, and what He has saved us from. Yes, students need to be taught how to obey God, but that teaching can’t be separated from the reality that God’s power is at work in them to help bring about that obedience. Too often they see God as sitting in heaven looking for an opportunity to punish them for disobedience rather than the truth that He is equipping them to obey Him, and that He is cheering them on to live out the victory over sin that Christ has already obtained for them.
Attribute #3: Serving God and Others – As you consider your own wise plan for discipleship, it should include your students being involved in service. Sometimes this will happen organically as your students grow, but most often it will first need to be planned in advance. As you program some opportunities for students to serve their church family, the community, and people globally, you will begin to see students living with a servant’s heart outside of the programmed environment. As you may have guessed, this attribute is also deeply connected to Bible engagement. Have you noticed a pattern yet? As with attribute #2, this is something that is clearly observable in your student ministry and can be a marker for you as you evaluate the progress students are making in your discipleship path.
Our original question: “How do you measure discipleship?” is a tough question, but the path to discipleship doesn’t have to remain ambiguous. Come back tomorrow as we focus on the next three attributes of authentic discipleship.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry