Largely through the planning and organization of one of my staff members, we recently developed a more comprehensive, five-part discipleship approach. We put the picture of each new family with whom we are working on a piece of paper and are able to track from that one sheet of paper in these five areas:
1. The First-Steps class—We try to get every new person attending our church—whether recently saved or long-time believer, to attend this Sunday school class which I teach in my office. The four lessons may be taken in any order and while I do desire to disseminate the information included in the lessons, I care equally about making a connection with the individuals in the class.
2. Lifeline discipleship—This 12-week discipleship program which is taught one hour before our Sunday evening service, takes people deeper into Scripture and into a closer personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. At the end of each 12-week class we have a graduation during the Sunday night service at which time one or more of the graduates gives a testimony and each of them receives a certificate. We use the occasion of the graduation to promote the upcoming Lifeline class.
3. Sunday school—After a person has finished the First-Steps class and regardless of where they are in the Lifeline Class, we try to get them connected to a Sunday school class where they will find personal fellowship, accountability, and growth in their Christian life.
4. Connection with the church family—We try to have at least one faithful church family make friends with the new family and take them under their wing. This family will in turn introduce them to others so this person feels included as a part of our fellowship.
5. Involvement in a soulwinning ministry. Since the Great Commission is not complete until we have taught those we have won “all things whatsoever we have been commanded,” we want each new member to become part of a soulwinning ministry.
Here are the reasons we have taken this five-phase approach:
People take small steps more readily than large ones. It is much easier to get someone into a four-week class than a 12- or 20-week class. Having completed the four-week class, they are much more open to the next step.
Progressive involvement comes more easily to most people than immediate immersion. While we all love to see the new convert “jump in with both feet,” the reality is that most of them take just a little longer.
The more contacts and connections we can make with new families in our church, the more they will learn, the longer they will stay, and the better they will be. The Bible says that a “three-fold cord is not easily broken.”
Our goal is not simply instruction but assimilation.