How to Start a Discipleship Program

8 Steps to Starting a Discipleship Program

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2

It is only as we develop others around us that we permanently succeed. In his final letter to Timothy, Paul commanded the young pastor to make disciples. Timothy was to teach the sacred truths he had learned to the next generation. More importantly, Timothy had to teach in a way that could be repeated. His disciples would need to make their own disciples. We call this process biblical discipleship, and it is the means that God has given us to reach the world. Biblical discipleship is a necessary outgrowth of (and not a replacement for) biblical evangelism.

There are some truths that must be learned in the context of a mentoring (discipling) relationship. The new convert is to be taught and nurtured along in his faith by a more mature Christian. If we Christians neglect our responsibility to the next generation, we will continue to reproduce carnal, struggling Christians in our churches. As mature Christians, we have an obligation to teach to others what we have learned.

1. Choose a discipleship director. It may be beneficial to have the soulwinning director also be the discipleship director. He will be the one with the most contact with new believers and new church members. This gives him a jump-start on knowing who needs to be discipled.

2. Choose your curriculum. A good discipleship curriculum should have these three goals included. The first goal is that the new believers would be in the Word of God every day. The second is that these believers would be equipped for ministry. Finally, the curriculum should promote the multiplication of disciples. A discipler’s goal should be to help new believers fully understand, embrace, and pass on the foundational principles of the truth of God’s Word.

3. Train your adult Bible class leaders in how to use the discipleship session. They should then choose key couples from their class to train. These key couples can then be used to train others. Singles classes would train key singles and then use those key singles to disciple other singles.

4. Introduce this new ministry to your church family through announcements, bulletin inserts, and a time set aside in a Sunday night service to explain and excite the members. You may also choose to do a 3–5 minute video with testimonies and information.

5. Enroll new believers and members who may need the discipleship training. The discipleship director should teach the adult Bible class leaders how to have a discipleship secretary in their classes and encourage the class leaders to consistently enroll new class members into the discipleship program.

6. Pair disciples with disciplers. “Disciples” are the new believers—the ones being trained. “Disciplers” are the key couples or singles that have already been trained and are discipling the new believers.

7. Select a room at the church that will accommodate your disciples and disciplers. It is very helpful for this room to be well lit and have a comfortable temperature. Tables and chairs should be set up for groups of two and four.

8. All new members and new converts for the week should be contacted by a Sunday school teacher or the class secretary and encouraged to enroll in discipleship. Not all will enroll, but many will.

Many church planters will take a core group of new believers through Daily in the Word (discussed later in the chapter) on Wednesday nights. The use of the mid-week service allows an initial group to be discipled and then, a few of the folks from that group may be chosen to begin serving in the Discipleship Ministry with those who become Christians in the ensuing months and years.

A formal discipleship is one of the best tools to help nurture and ground people in the Lord Jesus Christ. The preaching of God’s Word is the primary tool for developing strong Christians; however, one-on-one relationships are vital for teaching, encouraging, and mentoring people in their walks with Christ.

The Daily in the Word discipleship curriculum is available through

This article is an excerpt from the book Order in the Church by Dr. Paul Chappell available from Striving Together Publications.

If this article was a help to you, consider sharing it with your friends.