Church

How to Develop a Strategic Approach to Discipleship

  • 31 October 2017
  • Randy Wollf

In my experience as a pastor and in my interactions with other church leaders, I know that churches sometimes struggle with how to make disciples most effectively. Approaches that worked well in the past may not be as effective today. 

In this blog, we will look at a holistic process for making disciples that involves churches growing in 11 key areas. This strategic pathway of discipleship attempts to integrate a biblical understanding of discipleship with an understanding of contemporary culture. Obviously, some elements may be more important in a particular context while other elements not included in this list may need to be considered.

1. Prayer Saturation 

Prayer permeates disciple-making churches. How can we grow a culture of prayer—a culture in which God delights to work deeply in peoples' lives? Here are nine suggestions I have for how churches can grow in prayer

2. Loving Christ-Centred Community 

Discipleship occurs best in deep communities where people lovingly practice life-on-life discipleship. What can leaders do to develop this kind of intimacy? I believe leaders need to create opportunities for people to develop and grow disciple-making relationships and then model how this is done. Here are 8 characteristics the flow from a Christ-centred community.  

3. Growth Orientation 

When everything in the church is geared toward helping people take next steps, growth becomes normative and expected. Discipleship can flourish in this kind of growth-oriented environment (click here to read how leaders can foster a growth mindset).  

Screening Applicants for a Pastoral Position

  • 18 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Holding documentsYou’ve put the word out about your need for a pastor and now the resumes have started rolling in. Perhaps panic has begun to set in as you realize the daunting challenge of choosing the right one. How do you discern which candidates to seriously consider based on their resumes? Once you have a shortlist of preferred candidates, how do you decide which one to call to meet the rest of the church?

In my blog called Tips for Successful Pastoral Searches, I suggest several ways that search committees can set up a search process to succeed. In this blog, I will focus on one part of the process—the actual screening of candidates—and make recommendations around three levels of screening.

First Level – Résumés

For this level, I would encourage you to develop a list of key qualifications for the position based on the position description. Then, assign a value to each one (you may choose to weigh some qualifications more heavily than others). For example, you might assign a value of 5 points to having a seminary degree and 10 points to previous related pastoral experience.

As résumés come in, it is relatively easy to measure the candidate against what the group has already decided are the key metrics. Depending on the number of applications, each member of the search committee can assess each applicant (and then average the scores) or the committee chair can assign résumés to individual committee members (it’s helpful to have at least two people assess each applicant to minimize individual biases).

Sometimes, it’s easy for search committee members to get distracted by an outstanding or underwhelming part of a résumé. Using this approach helps committee members to objectively evaluate all the important pieces, producing a more holistic appraisal of a candidate’s suitability. 

Second Level – Assessments

Developing a Discipleship Approach in Your Church

  • 10 July 2017
  • Randy Wollf

Discipleship blueprintI often hear this question from church leaders: "How do we develop a discipleship strategy in our churches?" Here’s my attempt to answer that question.

First, let’s consider what discipleship is.

Discipleship is both relational and transformational. A disciple of Jesus is in a growing relationship with Jesus. Transformation occurs as the Holy Spirit renovates people’s hearts; godly character qualities grow (see Five Strategies for Growing Your Character blog); thoughts and actions become more God-honouring.

According to Dallas Willard, "Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you." This requires a close relationship (see John 15) that produces Christ-like fruit. 

Next, let's understand what disciple-making means. 

Disciple-making is helping people take next steps in their relationship with Jesus and obedience to Him.

In Real-life Discipleship, Jim Putnam suggests there are five spiritual stages: dead, infant, child, young adult, and parent. It is helpful to identify the stage in which someone is located so that we can come alongside them and help them move toward the next stage.

As we help people become more spiritually mature, it is helpful to think about doing so in six ways (these align with the Dimensions of Christian Leadership). We want to help people grow in their relationship with God, develop godly character qualities, understand and live out God's calling on their lives, develop strong relationships, learn how to serve well on a team, and maximize their gifts and abilities in living out their calling.

How then do churches position themselves for maximum discipleship?

In Developing a Strategic Pathway for Discipleship in Your Church, I suggest there are five layers of discipleship within the church: church culture, large group, small group, one-on-one, and individual. As we strengthen each layer, we will position our churches for more effective disciple-making. 

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