Before you can answer the question, "What is disciple now?" you must first be able to answer the question, "What is a disciple?" Because this is at the heart of this great event. This is why we are excited to announce a great new set of ministry apps. They are the "What Is A Disciple?" discipleship app series. There are four apps in this series. Each one includes a Gospel tract to help you fully understand that first step in becoming a disciple of Jesus and then also a discipleship curriculum for further study. There are four parts to this series: "The Life Of A Disciple", The Character Of A Disciple", "The Work Of A Disciple", and "The Beliefs Of A Disciple". Each part takes you further a long in the process of fully understanding what it means to be a disciple. The curriculum itself is great because in the process of you learning about the Bible you are also learning how to study it. But there are also a few other great features. First of all, you can actually type and save notes in the study which is great for being able to study on your own and be able to come discuss it with your discipleship group or partner. Another great feature is that this is in a format that won't be lost by people you disciple. Finally, at only $3.99 per app you won't find a much better price for a discipleship study book. We encourage you to go check out this app series and look for ways to incorporate it in your ministry today.
Once you can answer the question "What is disciple now?" you can move on to your next major decision, choosing your curriculum. The majority of disciple now curriculum you buy has a set plan but also has room for flexibility. These opportunities to be flexible and make changes may not always be visible but right away but it is important that we find them. This is not only because these opportunities can help make our teaching more dynamic but quite often these opportunities are a necessity. In this article I will explain exactly what I mean and the action you need to take to make sure the students in your small group get everything out of the lessons that they can.
Think about the typical situation when you choose a curriculum. Does the author know you? Do they know your students? Do they know your community? More than likely they do not. So while they will write to try and meet the needs of as many people as possible they do not specifically know the needs of your group and your community. This is where you need to be flexible. You need to be able to look at a lesson, see what will not relate to your community and culture and its specific needs, and make the changes that are necessary.
This process may never be easy but it gets easier if you start with one specific step. You must know your culture and your community. You need to know the major issues that are going on. You need to know the predominant worldviews that are carried by most people. You need to know the cultures and ethnicities in your community and what their relationships have been with one another traditionally. When you have this background knowledge you then will be able to make wise decisions about what the people in your small group need to hear.
Before you get overwhelmed and think that you have to rewrite the entire lesson let me give you a little guidance. For the most part the points that the lessons make will be fine. You may have to make a few minor adjustments but usually this will just be a matter of you offering further explanation. Also, you can be pretty much be sure that the scripture references will be okay so do not worry about that part of the disciple now curriculum either. Where most of your issues will come is from the illustrations that are included. This is where people tend to think and write from their worldview. There is nothing wrong with this but it can cause some issue as you teach the curriculum they have written. So I encourage you as you double check the lessons to start with the illustrations and then work out from there.
In teaching disciple now curriculum you must be flexible. This means a lot of things but most of all it means that you need to be flexible enough to divert from the written lessons to meet the needs of your culture and community. Because you always need to remember, no one knows your corner of the world better than you do.
When answering the question "What is disciple now?", planning your disciple now, and formulating the vision for your Disciple now, have you ever thought about the real world implications of those decisions? Because our students have to face the real world every single day and we need to make sure that they are ready for that challenge. We need to make sure that they are equipped to support one another so they can face temptation. We need to make sure they are ready to step up when the opportunity comes to share your faith. We need to make sure that they are prepared to stand firm for the faith with every challenge and trial that they face. And with that in mind I believe that there are two things that we must consider as prepare our students to live in the world around them as followers of Christ.
First of all, the lives of our students are not all fun and games. Many of them have been hurt by people who are very close to them, some even experiencing unspeakable abuses. In many of our churches the majority of our students have been through a divorce or maybe even multiple divorces. Some of them are already battling addictions or seeing close friends and family battle addictions. I know I have a student who has seen his dad battle through addictions, health issues, divorce, and the student basically runs his household now. This is a lot for an 18 year old to deal with. But honestly, I am sure that his story is not the worst. Granted, depending on where you are doing ministry the situations may not be all that bad, but because of sin in our world they are never perfect. We need to keep this in mind and not pretend that somehow we are living in Heaven right now. Yes we get little tastes of it along the way, but we need to be honest with ourselves and our students about the fact that the world is not perfect and there will be trials. And we need to make sure that they are not only prepared to face that reality but also that they know that they are not alone and have someone to listen to them and show them love when those trials come.
The other thing that I have been realizing lately is that I firmly believe discipleship is about doing life together. Because when you look at Jesus this is what He did. He walked through life with His disciples and looked for teachable moments in day to day situations. This reality has many implication for your youth ministry and for mine, but one in particular that we will discuss today. Our students need the skills to be successful in the world we live in. They need to be prepared to fill them many roles we have in our society so that we can have people who our lights for Christ in all walks of life. And I am beginning to believe that we need to look for opportunities in our student ministries to help our students learn those skills. I am not saying you have to open a career center or offer computer classes, although that would be a really cool community outreach in a lot of places. All I mean is that you need to listen to your students and their needs and desires. And if they need a job, help them find one. Not only will you help them in a practical sense but you will be amazed in how it deepens your relationship with them and how many spiritual conversations you are able to have through your time together doing very real world tasks. It is the same thing if a student is interested in the automotive industry and you have an interest in cars. Or maybe just if a kid does not know how to change a flat tire. If you have a knowledge of graphics and a student is interested in that, sit down with them and share some of your knowledge and give them access to some of your software. Or it could be as simple as helping students and families get prepared for college. I know this year I have seen this play out in two ways. First of all we had representatives from a local college come in and help students and families fill out applications and FASFA forms. Recently, I realized the senior guys in my small group had a big interest in technology and entrepreneurship so we say down and talked about business as well as web and app development. It was amazing the doors it opened up for great spiritual conversations and how our relationships were strengthened.
But this task is not just for you. You need to empower your leaders to share their knowledge, experience and skills as well. Because as a youth ministry you must be a team working towards the same goals. And that goal is of course having students meet Jesus and experience life change, but we also must prepare them to go out into the world so they can be lights and help others experience life change as well.