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.
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.
When I begin to think about "What Is Disciple Now?" one of the first things that comes to my mind is that it is a team effort. This is not an event that you can do on your own and expect to do it well. You will need people working with you to pull off all the administrative tasks like registration forms and schedules or you will never get things done in a timely and orderly manner. You will need leaders and host homes or your students will have nowhere to stay and your students will have no one to guide them in this phase of their spiritual journey. And you will need a supportive church, not just for volunteers and resources, but more importantly so that you have a team of prayer warriors doing spiritual battle on behalf of you, the event you are having, and the students that will attend.
If you are wondering "What is disciple now?" then I am assuming you have heard about this new event and are just unsure about some of the details of it. Well I want to let you know that there is nothing complicated about this event because at its core it is just a retreat weekend. Therefore, like any retreat, it is a time to get away with moments for fellowship, games, worship, Bible study, and serving. But there are a few unique things about this particular retreat. For one, you do not get away to some retreat center but instead you meet in homes in your community. This saves both time and money. Another key feature is that this event centers around discipleship, which is important since this is our greatest calling. The only other difference is that this retreat does have a specific name, Disciple now. There is nothing special about the name because I like using it because it reminds students of the idea that they are disciples and it gives you an annual event you can put on your calendar that your students will recognize and you can build on from year to year.
What is disciple now(or D Now) is a question that many pastors, student pastors and parents have asked. This could be because your student came home all excited about going to this event and you want to know more about it. Or it is very likely you are in charge of a ministry and have heard of others doing this event and wonder if you should incorporate it into your ministry calendar. Well I would like to take a moment to help you answer this question by walking you through what this event is and a little bit about how it traditionally works.
Disciple Now is a weekend retreat where students gather together for bible study, fellowship, worship, and often times service projects. Some people will hold this event for a week but the vast majority of the time it is only for one weekend. It is one of the few events that I truly still believe in because it gives students a safe environment to share their questions, hurts and struggles and gives them a taste of what the Christian life really should look like.
Now, as far as how it runs is up to you but here is usually what happens. Students are divided up by gender and grade levels. If your student ministry is smaller you might only have a boys house and a girls house or maybe junior high boys and junior high girls and high school girls houses. These houses are called host homes and are usually provided by some of the parents or other members of the church. Each home is usually provided some paper goods and possibly snacks. These are not mandatory in anyway but are often a great gesture for the sacrifice these families are making of their time. Also, each home is assigned a small group leader. Sometimes this leader is an adult leader from the church but quite often it is a college student who is brought in to lead. They not only are in charge of leading the bible study but are also in charge of keeping up with the schedule for their group and trying to make sure their group is following the rules. This minimizes the work and stress on the host homes. Because of this responsibility I highly suggest of having a leader training meeting on Friday before everything kicks off.
As fart as a schedule, that is really up to you. Ours has changed slightly from year to year but here is how a typical Disciple Now would run for us. Students would arrive on Friday night at the church with their luggage. We usually tell them to have dinner before hand. We then have a rally with a speaker and a worship band. Sometimes this band and speaker are from within the church and sometimes we bring someone from outside for a special treat. The host homes are at the rally as well so that when it is over they can help transport the students to their host homes.
After the rally students then go to their host homes for a bible study and get to know you session. Lights out is usually at 11:00, but I do not know of a time where kids away from home actually did that. On Saturday morning breakfast is provided either by the host home or a Sunday School class that has volunteered to adopt the home. Then there is another two Bible study sessions with a break in between each one. Lunch is then again provided by either the host home or a Sunday School class. Then you have two options. We use to recreation with something crazy like a city wide scavenger hunt. This can be a great time and do a great job of building community. We now have switched though to having each group do a service project that fits their age group and things they might be interested in as a group. Some things we have done are a canned food drive, cleaning up parks, feeding the homeless, and volunteering at a nursing home. We then allow students to have the rest of the afternoon off for free time and hanging out at the host home. Then Saturday night we have dinner at the church and another rally with the same band and speaker.
After this there is one final wrap up bible study session. Sunday morning we sometimes do share time but other times do one final rally. Then the we always try to sit together in the church service so that the church can see we are together and see some of the results of the investment that many of them made. Then students are free to go home.
All of this is flexible, but this is the plan we usually follow. Also, the Bible studies can be ordered, like one of our disciple now curriculum packages, or you can write your own. I encourage you though to order a package because you can see this is a massive undertaking already and you do not need more on your plate on top of scheduling, finding volunteers, ordering t-shirts. Anyways, hopefully this helps you answer the question what is disciple now and we will be giving you more info in the coming days.