When considering "What is disciple now?" one of the first things that should pop in to your mind is the Gospel. Well, actually that should always be one of the first things that pops in to your mind but especially in this case. Because this retreat weekend is a wonderful opportunity for students to hear about a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. There are many reasons for that but here are the main ones.
1. They are isolated. - Students are away from technology, social media, and other temptations for one whole weekend. Because of this they are able to focus on other things and their hearts and minds are more receptive to the truth.
2. They are digging in to the word.- On top of getting all the bad stuff away they are having good things poured in to them. Therefore more and more seeds are planted and taking root.
3. Others are praying for them.- If done right, your whole church should be bathing your weekend and the students who attend it in prayer. And as we know, when the church comes together to pray powerful things happen.
All these factors and others make this an incredible weekend for students to experience life change. Because of this you need to be ready. You need to ensure that the Gospel is shared from the stage at least once. You also need to be ready to counsel and talk with students after that. You also need to make sure that your small group leaders and trained and equipped to share the Gospel with their groups. This way students can have another opportunity to receive it in a place where they may feel more comfortable. It is imperative that all this is part of your Disciple Now weekend, because after all, if students are not getting saved, what is the point?
What is disciple now? When I ask myself that question one of the first things that comes to mind is that it is the only event worth having. There are some other good events that honestly are still on my calendar, but I will explain why I feel so strongly about this one. For one it is discipleship centered. It is built around discipling students, introducing them to that process, and modeling for them what that lifestyle should look like. And since discipleship is our primary responsibility shouldn't all of our events center around it? Second, it happens in your community. Not only does this make for a great entry point for students in to your ministry but also your students can realize that God moves where they live and they can serve where they are. They do not have to go off to a camp. Finally, God just always does big things. It never fails. Even when I feel like I did not plan well or things were crazy, God always does amazing things. With all that said, maybe you should not get rid of all of your events, but if you have to choose only one, make sure a disciple now is a central part of your ministry calendar.
What is disciple now? Well, at its heart, Disciple now is a time for small groups. Small groups usually consist of three to fifteen students getting together to share their hurts and struggles, ask questions about life, and wrestle with scripture together. This will be the core of your disciple now weekend. Most of the time will be spent with your students in homes in their small groups. In this time they will go through a Bible study together and then from that discussion and prayer will flow on a variety of topics. These small groups can be broken up in many ways depending on the size and makeup of your group. What I would suggest though is at least making sure that your groups are divided by gender and by age as best as possible. Finally, each group should have a leader. Traditionally you would bring in college students to come in and lead your groups, but as of late we have had our small group leaders in our ministry lead our groups. This is because they already have relationships with our students and know their hurts and struggles. We have found this to lead to a lot more growth happening spiritually during our events. Some of this is flexible but please know that small groups are at the heart of your D now weekend so you need to make sure to plan them carefully and effectively.
What is disciple now? Honestly disciple now is a wonderful event, but like with any event you need to plan for the unexpected. Part of this is just because things just happen when you are dealing with teenagers and some of this is because I firmly believe that God wants to move in a mighty way through this weekend and therefore Satan will be one the attack. That is why I believe it is so important that first of all you pray over this event. You, your students, their parents, your leaders, your whole church, anyone you can find, needs to be praying that God would work in a mighty way and that your students would be protected from Satan's attacks. With that prayer though I think we should due our due diligence to plan ahead for some things that might happen so that we have a plan. Granted, these things deal more with teenagers being teenagers than spiritual warfare but I think it is good to be ready for anything.
1. Students needing to leave. -This could be anything from a death in the family to a basketball tournament, but from time to time a student will need to leave for your event and then come back later, or not at all. You need to let students and their parents know that you understand this and be prepared. What we do is have a time away card that the parents must fill out with the place and time of the event and when the student will be returning if they are. We also ask for contact info as well as who they are allowed to leave with. If it is a high school student who can drive then that should be noted. This just protects us and the student. Now, if it is an emergency, obviously we don't make them stop and fill out the card. But we do check with the parents to make sure it is not just a student trying to sneak away and lie to us and their parents.
2. Student getting hurt or sick. - Okay, sometimes things get crazy. Maybe a germ gets passed around or maybe a 6th grade boy decides to furniture surf down the stairs. But when these emergencies happen you need to make sure that you and your host homes are prepared for anything that may occur. You need a plan for where to take students, along with contact info for the parents, and basic medical info in case they cannot be immediately reached and it is an extreme emergency.
3. Legal issues.- So one time we did a photo scavenger hunt and one group was smart and went to the mall. We just did not know that this was not allowed, so security and the police got involved. This taught us an important lesson. For one, remind your students that they represent the church and more importantly Jesus. Also, if you are doing a city wide activity like we did, familiarize yourself with the laws and then share them with your students and leaders. You may even want to give some important people in the community a heads up about what is going to happen as a common courtesy. Finally, if a student breaks a rule or law make sure there are consequences. Do not just laugh it off and send a wrong message to everyone in your group.
Again, anything can happen at one of these retreat weekends so be prepared. These emergencies are few and far between but they do happen. So while you getting ready know that this is simply being prepared and not a reason to worry and not enjoy your event.