Ingredients for a Healthy Mentoring/Discipleship Program

Discipleship can take many forms. Every ministry or church does at least some kind of discipleship. But when you talk about a discipleship program, you are aiming for something more intentional and complete. As Jesus put it, you want something that “teaches them to obey everything” that Jesus taught (Matt. 28:20). So what are the essential ingredients for a great discipleship program? While you can always add your own set of spices to the mix, these essentials always need to be present:

Essential Ingredient #1: Love

Love is the seasoning that brings life and flavor to all ministry activity. Think about the discipleship program that Jesus put together. Plenty of chapters in the Gospels lay out the teaching content and ministry activities of Jesus. He preached to the five thousand (Mark 6), healed the blind (John 9), and raised the dead (John 11). But just as often, Jesus went out of his way to explain to his disciples that “God so loved the world.”

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he had the opportunity to teach his disciples a final lesson. He could have reviewed any portion of their three and a half years together. But what did he choose as his final lesson, the most important to review before his death? Love was his topic of choice. He had dinner with them. He washed their feet. They sang songs together, went for a walk together, and prayed in the garden together. Each point of his final lesson was a demonstration of love and relationship. (Mark 14:12-42)

Even after the resurrection, Jesus reminded Peter, in particular, of this essential ingredient. Peter had denied Jesus. Disheartened, Peter returned to his old job as a fisherman. Jesus met him on the shores of his old lake. He cooked Peter his favorite dinner of roast fish and asked him, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19)

Peter’s call to ministry was a call to love. As Paul would later elaborate, a disciple of Christ who can speak “in the tongues of men and of angels, but has not love, is only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1)

Whatever the details of your discipleship program, be sure to infuse it all with love. Ensure relationships and care for real human beings never gets pushed off the table. The measure of love displayed throughout your program will determine whether you are training clanging cymbals or symphonies. And it will absolutely determine the effectiveness and longevity of your program.

Essential Ingredient #2: The Word of God

If love is the seasoning, then let the Word of God be the main course. The Bible tells us who God is so we will not be tempted into creating gods in our image. The Bible gives us God’s plan for our lives, our ministries, and his kingdom, so we will not be tempted into building our own kingdoms. And the Word shows us God’s wisdom so when the world reveals its wisdom, we will see the foolishness in it.

Jesus taught that we “cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) If this is true—and it is—then fill your students with God’s Word. No other meal will suffice.

And remember Jesus’ command was to “teach them to obey” everything that he commanded. James reminds us that if a person hears the Word of God but does not obey it, then he is like a man who looks in a mirror and does nothing to improve his appearance. (Jms 1:22-24)

So feed your emerging next generation leaders the Word of God and make sure they actually know how to eat it. Whether you have specific Bible classes or not, the important part here is making sure the Word of God seasons every conversation and program goal.

Essential Ingredient #3: Practical Experience

We have written about all the benefits that practical experience has in the learning process, as a differentiator for your program, and even as a resume builder for your graduates. But practical experience is also cooked right into the example that Jesus set for us.

If you think about it for long, you realize that Jesus did not actually need his disciples. He could prepare his sermons, heal the blind, and raise the dead without any of their help. So why bring them along? Spending time to personally train a group of quality disciples was a core part of Jesus’ mission on earth. Your ability to do the same by personally discipling emerging leaders is a core distinctive that sets you apart from traditional educational institutions. Doing ministry with a person is the best way to train that person to do ministry.

One day your students will graduate, the more time they have in practically applying the truths you give them, the stronger they will be as leaders in whatever God has for them to do with their lives.

Discipleship is what every ministry leader does. But if you are in a position to set the direction for your ministry’s discipleship program, then you have a unique responsibility to ensure everyone is fed a full and complete course

For over twenty years, Eleven:6 has been helping ministry leaders launch immersive training programs that can also earn students credit towards a degree. If you are working to make this transition, then schedule a call with us, today.