7 Nuances to Transform Your Discipleship Culture

7 Nuances to Transform Your Discipleship Culture

Discipleship: Beyond Assimilation, Beyond Boring

Want vibrant faith journeys, not just pew-fillers? Ditch the “join the club” mentality. Begin with the end: are you raising disciples, or filling seats? Distinguish: assimilation welcomes, discipleship equips. Monitor progress – are hearts growing, lives changing? Spice it up! Make it fun, adventurous, messy. Keep it simple, focused, real. Less is more, quality over quantity. And finally, make it reproducible: empower others to disciple, creating a chain reaction of faith. Remember, it’s not about numbers, it’s about igniting souls!

7 Nuances to Transform Your Discipleship Culture: From Assimilation to Thriving Growth

Discipleship. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but how often do we truly understand its depth and power? Building a thriving culture of discipleship isn’t about simply checking boxes or churning out cookie-cutter followers. It’s about cultivating a space where individuals grow into their full potential, empowered by faith and equipped to make a difference in the world.

Here are 7 nuances to guide you in transforming your discipleship culture from assimilation to a dynamic, life-changing journey:

1. Begin with the End in Mind:

Before building, you need blueprints. Define what a “disciple” looks like. Are they individuals who embody specific values? Do they actively engage in their communities? Having a clear vision of your destination helps you navigate the path and tailor your approach.

Key Question: How do you measure the fruitfulness of a disciple of Jesus? 

2. Distinguish Between Assimilation & Discipleship:

Assimilation is about making people fit into a mold, while discipleship is about helping them discover and develop their unique gifts and calling. Don’t focus on conformity; nurture authenticity and encourage personal growth within the context of shared values.

Key Question: Are your people simply being assimilated into the congregation or are they growing closer to Jesus, cultivating their character and reproducing other disciples?

3. Monitor Progress:

Growth doesn’t happen by accident. Implement systems to track progress and provide personalized feedback. This could involve goal setting, mentorship, or even simple check-ins to see how individuals are applying their learnings. Coaching keeps motivation high and identifies areas where support is needed.

Key Question: How does your ministry monitor progress in the disciples you are making?

4. Make Discipleship Fun and Adventurous:

Let’s face it, traditional Bible study can feel stale at times. Inject a sense of excitement into your discipleship journey. Organize mission trips, retreats, or even service projects that allow people to put their faith into action in engaging ways. Remember, learning is best when it’s also fun!

Key Question: How dynamic is your discipleship pathway?

5. Keep it Simple:

Don’t overwhelm people with complex theological jargon or a never-ending list of requirements. Break down complex concepts into digestible chunks and focus on the core principles of your faith. Remember, less is often more when it comes to laying a strong foundation.

Key Question: Can you draw your discipleship process on a napkin and explain to a brand new disciple in 3-5 minutes?

6. Less is More:

Quality trumps quantity. Is it better to have a small group of deeply committed disciples than a large group of passive participants? Foster meaningful relationships within your group, providing opportunities for genuine connection and support.

Key Question: What are the essential components to foster a culture of discipleship in your congregations, gatherings, and groups?

7. Make it Reproducible:

A strong discipleship culture isn’t sustainable if it relies solely on charismatic leaders or specific programs. Design systems and frameworks that anyone can pick up and run with. Train and empower individuals to become mentors and guides themselves, ensuring your culture thrives even beyond the initial spark.

Key Question: If you step out of the discipleship “system” will it continue on it’s own?

Remember, building a thriving discipleship culture is a journey, not a destination. By incorporating these nuances, you can create an environment where individuals are challenged, inspired, and empowered to grow into their full potential as Jesus followers. So, let’s ditch the assimilation assembly line and embark on a journey of genuine transformation, together.

Resources to cultivate disciples, that make disciples:

Make Obedient Disciples
(of already disciples)

Make Disciples
(of new-yet disciples)


Ready to take action?

  • Find your starting point: Take the FREE Discipleship Quiz and discover your strengths and weaknesses as a disciplemaker.

Become an InFocus Partner

Invest in leaders who are transforming lives and join the InFocus community. Together, let’s create a ripple effect of faith and love.

Click here to learn about joining the InFocus family to start your ripple effect!

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Connecting with Not-Yet Followers of Jesus

Connecting with Not-Yet Followers of Jesus

Imagine you are preparing to go fishing. What are the things you need in order to be prepared?

  • Gear
  • Tackle
  • Bait

Now consider you are fishing for not-yet followers of Jesus. What do you need to be aware of (think attitudes to adopt and contextual factors to consider)?

  • Spiritual readiness
  • Posture of curiosity
  • Mindfulness
  • Authenticity
  • Compassion

As I’ve shared in the past, Gina and I are serving and participating in a new church plant (The Refinery Church) that has a vision to reproduce churches so that people far from God can discover Jesus in non-judgemental, safe environments. Here is a quick guide for preparing and being ready to connect with not-yet followers of Jesus. 

Spiritual readiness

Let the Holy Spirit guide you: Ultimately, it’s not your job to convert people. Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts and open them up to the message of Jesus.

Posture of curiosity

Respect their beliefs (or lack thereof): People have a wide range of beliefs, and some may not be interested in religion at all. Approach conversations with an open mind and a willingness to listen to their perspective.

Mindfulness

Focus on common ground: Look for areas of shared values, like compassion, kindness, or a desire for a better world. This can build a foundation for further conversation.

Avoid being pushy: People are more likely to be turned off if they feel pressured to accept your beliefs. Focus on sharing your faith in a loving and respectful way.

Authenticity

Live your faith: Your actions and the way you treat others are often the most powerful testimony of your faith. People are more likely to be receptive to your message if they see the positive impact your faith has on your life.

Be articulate but avoid jargon: Explain your faith in a way that is easy to understand, avoiding complex theological terms or church slang.

Answer questions honestly: Be prepared to answer questions about your faith in a clear and truthful way. If you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say so.

Compassion

Empathy vs. being right: I was reminded of this recently when I was discussing faith issues with a person from another belief system. It was difficult, but I tried my best to practice empathy when discussing her beliefs rather than argue my theology. I have a long way to go, but I am continuing to learn to put myself in the other person’s shoes when viewing issues of faith.

Who do you know that you could invite into a conversation about faith? Or, who do you know that is connecting with not-yet believers of Jesus?

Ready to take action?

  • Find your starting point: Take the FREE Discipleship Quiz and discover your strengths and weaknesses as a disciplemaker.

Become an InFocus Partner

Invest in leaders who are transforming lives and join the InFocus community. Together, let’s create a ripple effect of faith and love.

Click here to learn about joining the InFocus family to start your ripple effect!

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Building and Supporting a Network of Excellent Coaches

Building and Supporting a Network of Excellent Coaches

One of the most strategic tools a pastor can learn to empower other leaders is coaching.

When your need for more coaches outgrows your capacity, going from one to many coaches, the common step is for a standardized coach training process to be instituted so that all the leaders who use a coach approach, regardless of their previous training and experience, now use a uniform process and practice the skills to standardize the coaching the congregation or network provides.  This fills a felt-need of quality control for the network and for the “clients” (pastors, church planters, leaders) they serve.

But standardizing coaching practices is only the first step. To see your coach network flourish, you need quality control and ongoing investment in the development of your coaches. 

Common Coach Qualifications

Early in the network the qualifications might be a church planter who had a reasonable level of success, or a pastor who seemed to have good people skills, or a formally trained Christian counselor.  These experiences are certainly helpful but do not predict coaching success.  

What is predictable is that the leader, coached by leaders with a wide range of competency, will have varying levels of success, all other things being equal (similar assessments, resources, mentoring, and training).  

Competent and consistent coaching is the “x” factor that will have the greatest level of   without reliable and valid assessment and development.

When you lack a reliable pathway to assess a leader’s coach competency it is very difficult to know where to focus on the coach’s development.

Five challenges networks face who do not assess and develop their coaches:

  1. Mixed Results – a pastor, church planter, or ministry leaders coached by a coach that has never been formally assessed have a 50-50 chance that the coach will maximize the leader’s potential.
  2. Intuition can be misleading – most coaches with a compulsory level of coach training rely on intuition to determine how they need to grow.
  3. Unreliable feedback – it is important to ask clients for feedback but if that is the primary means for assessment, it is limited.
  4. Developmental pathway – a repeatable development pathway is super important so coaches in the network have a predictable process they follow so that they are always striving to get better and better. 
  5. Guide to walk alongside – coaches need guides or mentors to help them sharpen their skill.

Even if you are a solo pastor who is launching or about to launch a leadership training process in your congregation – you will face these same issues.  But in a team or network, the problem increases in complexity proportionate to the number of coaches involved.  So what are some ways to address the problem?

Five ways to assess and develop leaders beyond initial coach training:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the 5 most common ways leaders develop their coaching – CLICK HERE.
  2. Observation and feedback from a competent coach (live or recorded).
  3. Create a development path – if you are interested in learning more about a 7-step process called the Journey of Ongoing Growth, read Christian Coaching Excellence (Part 1).
  4. Take a  reliable, valid assessment like the 360-degree Christian Coach Assessment.
  5. Find an experienced, competent coach mentor.

Where to begin?

A quick start to upgrade from average coaching is to implement three extremely important tools. The first is a Coach Agreement (think contract or covenant).  The second is a Coaching Log (think journal for note taking).  The third is a Coaching Journal to record your own observations and actions you will take to grow your coaching process (think work-out booklet).  These three things are very practical, and simple things you can do now.  It will benefit the church planters or pastors or business leaders you are coaching.

Coach Agreement 

A Coach Agreement helps to clarify expectations for the relationship.  This will increase your effectiveness to coach your clients by as much as 80%.  When you begin with the end in mind, you are more likely to reach and surpass your client’s goals. To get you started, we have a free downloadable version HERE.

Coaching Log

A Coaching Log serves two purposes.  It gives you and your client a way to look back and forward.  You can capture notes during a session AND log actions to move into the future.  For a free downloadable version, click HERE.  There are also many web-based tools that you can find on the internet with the added feature of having a shared space to send clients preparation questions to respond to in advance of appointments. I’ve seen coaches adapt MyRevCoach, Notion, Todoist, and Trello to work as a Coaching Log.

Coaching Journal 

A Coaching Journal allows you to record your observations, reflections, resources, actions, and powerful questions to grow your coaching skills. Taking a few minutes between coaching sessions or at the end of the day to reflect on what worked well and what can work better raises your self-awareness and gives you the ability to find patterns that need to be changed. You can download a simple Coaching Journal format for free HERE.  One thing I am doing currently is going through a self-led coaching supervision course that will equip me to provide more targeted feedback for coaches.  A bi-product is that I am becoming more aware of the nuances that I need to pay attention to in my coaching.

This blogpost was first published at Christian Coaching Tools – April 18, 2024

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Recruit, Assess and Support Volunteer Team Members Who Thrive

Recruit, Assess and Support Volunteer Team Members Who Thrive

The greatest asset to ministry teams is volunteers – and the greatest weakness is a church that doesn’t have a pulse on their volunteer teams. Proactively assessing volunteer teams and individual volunteers can build and maintain healthy relationships, prevent burnout, and create synergy for the mission. 

Assess – 80% of the problem starts here:

When you take the time to determine what your real needs are in a ministry it will provide clarity and confidence when you begin the recruiting process. Assessment is an important exercise before your recruitment begins.  Assessment answers the question, “Why do I need this particular role filled?”

  • Clarify for yourself why it is important to fill the role before asking anyone to join.
  • If your “why” is unclear your “what” lacks sharpness
  • Identify the Key Result Areas you want this role to fulfill

Best Practice:

Consult with others who have already done what you aspire to do.

  1. Who do you know that has already filled a role like you are attempting to fill?
  2. What did they do?
  3. What else can you learn from their experience?

Recruit – personalize the invitation to serve:

A general announcement from the stage will generate a certain level of interest from the crowd. Contrast that with a conversation over a cup of coffee to learn the person’s vision for their life, goals, and passions.  In that context, share what you see in the person and what they would bring to the role. Explain the responsibilities, the support that you or someone else will provide, and then ask them what you want them to consider. Give them a week to pray about the opportunity and then follow up.

  • Know what you are looking for in the person you are engaging
  • Understand the type of person that will be a good fit
  • Personally invite people into the role

Best Practice:

Use assessments to assess various aspects of a person’s attributes, such as:

  • Spiritual Gift 
  • Behavioral Style
  • Strengths
  • Interests
  • Team Values

One of my go-to assessments for this information is the GripBirkman. You can assess the 5 areas above individually or combined (in one assessment).  

  • CLICK HERE for more information.  
  • CLICK HERE if you would like to take the assessment along with a 1-hour debrief.

Support – be intentional about providing support.

The challenge for recruiting and retaining volunteers is to find ways to support them so that they do not become weary. A regular rhythm of meeting as a team, individual check-ins, and fun team-building activities is so, so important to building a healthy team culture.   

  • Keep a pulse on the level of engagement and fulfillment they are experiencing in their role about every 6-12 months to avoid burn-out!
  • Informally ask team members how they are doing. Use these conversations to get a sense of how they are engaging in the role you’ve asked them to fill. If you are not their direct supervisor, ask their team lead to check-in periodically. This will help to avoid team members from stagnating in their role.
  • This is the biggest reason volunteers claim, “I am too busy.”

Best Practice:

Team Huddles are a great environment to reinforce team culture by reviewing your ministry values. For instance, Gina and I are part of a new church plant and every Sunday about 30 volunteers help make the experience warm, inviting and fun. After setup and before the first service preparation gets going, we meet together for about 15-20 minutes to gather all the volunteers together for Leadership Community to remind people of our “why”. The Huddle is sort of the head of the spear for all of our Sunday morning volunteers. We lead the Welcome Team and hold a more personal, scaled down version with our team to share the following:

  • What’s on your mind this morning?
  • How can we pray for you? 

Then we close our time in prayer for each other with full participation by each member. One-sentence prayers are an easy and comfortable onramp for our people to exercise that muscle. Then we go off to our various assignments!

Become an InFocus Partner

Invest in leaders who are transforming lives and join the InFocus community. Together, let’s create a ripple effect of faith and love.

Click here to learn about joining the InFocus family to start your ripple effect!

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Three Principles to Ensure Church Staff Thrive – Principle #1: Clarity

Three Principles to Ensure Church Staff Thrive – Principle #1: Clarity

The #1 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – lack clarity about their job.  

I learned this early in ministry. When I met with a prospective ministry team leader I needed to be clear on what I was asking them to do. The more clarity I had the easier the conversation. If what I was asking of them was not clear in my own head, then I had a difficult time communicating what I needed. 

For instance, in approaching a conversation to engage a prospective ministry team leader, I found that I needed to have the job written out so that I understood what I was asking the person to do and what I would be providing them. With this document in hand, I felt this both respected the person AND forced me to think this through carefully to the degree I felt confident. 

Clarify Expectations

  1. Clarify expectations in a job description.
  2. Include Key Result Areas (KRAs)
  3. Make the outcomes measurable
  4. Provide regular coaching
  5. Make course corrections

Most job descriptions read more like “suggestions for employee consideration”, lacking precision and “teeth”.  

I have reviewed close to 100 job descriptions over the last 5 years to conduct assessments on pastors and  para-church leaders. Out of that pool, I found very few had a job description with the precision necessary to have a productive conversation between employer and employee.

What to do when staff lose focus?

The primary thing lacking in job descriptions is clarity.  Enough clarity so that you could, if necessary, record the actual behaviors and outcomes you envision to successfully fulfill the role. Then, write that out. Once you have that out of your brain and in writing, meet with your staff member and unpack your expectations until they are crystal clear on what you want from them.

Principle #2 – SUITABILITY

The #2 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – poor hiring practices.  

What do you think it costs you and your ministry for a bad hire?  

It is estimated that it could cost you up to five times a bad hire’s annual salary” (SHRM Study).

This is on you, the employer. There are best practices to vet prospective employees to determine suitability, and there is a difference between eligibility (what most interviewing processes vet) and suitability. If you want to read about the differences between those two – CLICK HERE.

What to do when you are getting mixed results from your hiring process?

There are numerous tools in the ministry marketplace to determine team fit, personality, temperament. spiritual gifting, and behavioral style. But one that assesses suitability, called the Harrison, includes a Reliability Score that determines if the person being assessed is being truthful, self-aware, and paying attention as they take the assessment. You can read more about the Harrison assessment – CLICK HERE.

Principle #3 – SUPPORT

The #3 reason why staff suffer unnecessarily – lack of support.  

At some point most staff will hit a wall in their work due to personal or professional reasons. They may be going through strife in their marriage or lack skills affecting their job performance. Realistically, most staff will benefit from a regular rhythm of 1-1 coaching. The rhythm will vary from staff member to staff member, but in my experience, 28 days should not pass before you have a 1-1 scheduled with your team member. Why 28 days?

I borrowed this from Rick Warren, who said that about every 28 days he needed to remind the church community gathered at Saddleback Community Church of the vision. I extracted from that a principle in coaching: about every 28 days, staff members need to be reminded of their vision and have a clarifying conversation about how they are progressing towards the ministry outcomes they were chasing. Your rhythm, given the needs of the staff member, will vary.

Chances are the busyness of ministry trumps team meetings and 1-1s.  “Meetings” get a bad reputation: “meeting for the sake of meeting”, “waste of time”, “lack focus and purpose” – are just some of the criticisms shared by many church staff members. Many are justified!  

What can you do to break the cycle of poorly executed team meetings and one-to-ones?

  • Commit
  • Communicate expectations including:
    • Purpose
    • Frequency
    • Agenda
  • Do it!

There are platforms that support effective team meetings and 1-1s. Some clients use the LEADR platform with impressive results. Whatever you choose, use it consistently and help your staff engage in the process. Persistence is the key.

Checkout these coaching resources to support your staff members:

Goals & Objectives Skill Builder

Goal Setting Storyboard

Goal Setting Effectiveness Profile

Become an InFocus Partner

Invest in leaders who are transforming lives and join the InFocus community. Together, let’s create a ripple effect of faith and love.

Click here to learn about joining the InFocus family to start your ripple effect!

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