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Over the past three weeks, I have shared a how-to for “Writing A WordPress Plugin” series with readers who are curious on who to approach creating something for their website. While it is fun being creative and using both sides of my brain for this task, the real project served a much different purpose. The past two months, I have met up with a student from my youth group, teaching him how to program this WordPress plugin.

The past year has been hard for him. He has had to make some decisions that were contrary to what his mother wanted him to make and he stood up for what he believed was right. Because of this, he has lived on his own and struggling through school. So I kicked up a relationship with and found out that he wants to go get a degree in programming to make video games. My undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering has since come in handy.

While he is probably loving the new skills that I am teaching him, in the back of my mind are the questions that I want to ask:

  • How is school going?
  • Have you talked to your mom lately?
  • What’s going on this weekend?
  • Anything tough going on right now?
  • Need to vent about anything?
  • Are you getting enough sleep and eating three square meals?
  • How are you doing to get into that college?

So, I hope that these skills get him into college or get him a job on campus or simply get him a free meal at McDonald’s while I teach him a bit about making a WordPress. There is no “spiritual” talk or have you read the Bible now. Instead, I am building the relationship with him, hearing his heart on some of the probing questions, and just hanging out with him.

So how do you approach relational discipleship?

Yesterday, we posted the idea of rethinking discipleship and how Jesus saw it. Today, we wanted to share what led us to this decision and why cookie-cutter discipleship can cause youth ministries to fail to go deep.

We assumed students would relate. Youth ministry is running well at USAFA Club Beyond. We are impacting a lost group of military teens and sharing life with everyone. The problem came when we added new volunteers to specifically do discipleship with teens that wanted to go deep but who had never interacted with students. The concept of discipleship itself is not wrong so there is nothing to change with that. It is all about the delivery. We need to foster relationships with these volunteers before the students even know they want to be in a discipleship.

Getting rid of the cookie-cutter volunteer model. In many circles, setting up a discipleship looks the same way. The equation:

Find a willing volunteer + training + willing student + going deeper + living life together= discipleship

Four-fifths of that is beautiful. The part of the equation we are rethinking is the living life together. We do not want anything to seem fake, artificial or forced. Unfortunately for volunteers and leaders, it means a longer and deeper commitment on their part.

Tomorrow I will share with you our first draft of the plan and would love to get your comments.

Rethinking Discipleship

Jeremy Smith —  April 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago USAFA Club Beyond had our last monthly volunteer training for the school year and we processed the year. One thing that came out is that the “cookie cutter” model of discipleship will not work at our youth group. So this week we will take a look at how we can reform discipleship to fit our mold.

The first step we took was to look at how Jesus did discipleship. These are a few of the passages we pulled out.

  • Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life- he cannot be my disciple”
  • Luke 14:27 “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
  • Luke 14:33 “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
  • John 8:31 “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples”
  • John 13:34-35 “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  • John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

What other Scripture do you hold on to for your discipleship program?