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How to Disciple Leaders in the Church

As you’re discipling leaders, it’s important to remember that discipleship and sanctification don’t happen in a linear fashion.  Growth is messy, but with intentionality over time, you should see an upward trend in their love for God, others, and in their faith.  When we understand and embrace God’s grace, that’s going to result in life change.

If you want to see measured progress in the spiritual growth of your church leadership, you have to be intentional about it.  You want to be able to look back over months and years and see their growth- and that means discipling the leaders God has given your church!  

As you’re discipling leaders, it’s important to remember that discipleship and sanctification don’t happen in a linear fashion.  Growth is messy, but with intentionality over time, you should see an upward trend in their love for God, others, and in their faith.  When we understand and embrace God’s grace, that’s going to result in life change.  

So, without further ado, here are our best tips for discipling leaders in your church.  

Understand and Define Your Discipleship Goals

When it comes to discipleship, there are different definitions and opinions.  Some leaders define discipleship as time spent together, talking casually.  Other leaders think of it as a more formal process- with schedules and study plans.  But for best results, you need both.  You need to be part of someone’s life, but you also need to be intentional, because if you’re not careful, your friendships will kinda become superficial.  Strong relationships, on the other hand, allow you to have deep conversations- so these tips will cover both aspects!  

So, before you start leading people, define where you’re trying to lead them. Lean into that relationship, sit down with them, and collaboratively make a list of the goals you’re hoping to achieve through discipleship.  You might ask these sorts of questions: 

As a result of discipleship… 

  • What would change in their life? 
  • What would their lives look like?  How do they envision themselves as different and more spiritually mature six months from now? 
  • What character traits would they like to have or develop?

Do Bible Studies together

This is probably the most natural or expected response, but working through God’s Word is always a good idea.  When you define those goals above, you’ll start to notice that everyone’s personal discipleship plan looks different.  But some people will fall into the camp of needing to know God’s Word more deeply, while others will need to focus more on applying it- and that will determine the focus and direction of the studies that you choose!  

For some people, studying God’s Word will not be something that they naturally gravitate toward- but part of growth is developing your areas of weakness.  Once you’ve determined where the need is greatest, think through how you want to approach the Bible Study and what book or topic you want to study.  Once you’ve determined that, it’s time to think through your approach, which brings us to the next tip…  

Use other discipleship tools

The options for your discipleship program are numerous.  You might pick a Bible study book that’s a little more technical in nature, read a devotional book together, or you may decide to do an online Bible reading plan.  Think through the groundwork of your goals and what you want to do, and pick your format from there.  

If you’re looking for online reading plans, here are a few great options:

Meet Regularly Together

Meeting regularly together is healthy.  You can spend one-on-one time with leaders and coaches, or spend time as a group.  Share the highs and the lows, and through it all, emphasize prayer.  

As a pastor, you need to consistently spend time discussing your personal spiritual life with others- you spend so much time pouring into the lives of your people, so it’s a good idea to have people in your life who remind you that your personal walk with God is important.  Get creative with how you meet- you can meet over food, or listen to a Bible passage over something like Dwell while you run together, then talk about it afterward.  Go outside the church, do something different, and just be part of their lives!

More important than how you decide to meet together, however, is making sure that you schedule regular, consistent times to meet with others on your calendar.  It can be hard when you’re a pastor and have so many demands on your time, but so much of ministry happens face-to-face.  Encourage your leaders to put those times on their calendars, too.  

Encourage and Empower Leaders

Another great avenue for discipleship is giving new opportunities for ministry.  Give your leaders opportunities to lead and have responsibility, especially if they’re younger.  Have grace and encouragement for them if they don’t do things perfectly.  In this situation, what’s important is being open and honest with people, and allowing them to be open and honest with you.  

Letting others lead isn’t always easy.  Honestly, it may not be easier than just doing things yourself- especially at first.  For example, if you have someone preach for you, the first time they do it, you’re going to be providing feedback.  One great idea is to have them give you their script beforehand, and work with them to develop it before they start speaking to the congregation.  Does it take more time?  Yes.  Will it help them get more out of the experience?  Also yes. 

How you give feedback in these kinds of situations is crucial to the success of your leaders’ discipleship.  As it says in Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” Know the difference between stabbing someone and using a scalpel, because sometimes, when you’re discipling someone, you have to have hard conversations with them.  That’s just a fact of ministry.  So, It’s important that both parties know there’s trust within the relationship, and that you’re both working toward the common goal of being more like Jesus.  

Consider Your Church’s Discipleship Strategy for New Members/Believers

When someone comes to know and accept Jesus as their Savior, what’s next for them?  It’s important that your church start right away with giving them concrete steps they can take to go deeper in their walk with Jesus.  Think through this concept from big to small- part of the discipleship process is the big Sunday service, of course, but then you can get smaller through connect groups, Sunday School classes, and/or leadership classes.  Once people are in those smaller buckets, go even smaller by pairing them with someone who can meet with them once a week or once every couple of weeks.  If you create that system, you can call on the leaders that you’ve discipled and are discipling to help pair people off for spiritual growth.  

Here’s something we’d love to hear from you: Do you have a discipleship pipeline or system at your church?  What intentional measures are happening to help grow people?  We’d love to hear about it- and it’d be encouraging to other pastors to read!  You can leave a comment on our Youtube channel, or join The Pastors’ Circle Facebook Group and post there.  We all learn toward each other, because we’re all moving toward the same goal- reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ!