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Every Age, Same Page: Discipling the Whole Church

Some churches seem to focus on a specific demographic, believing it is the key to growing a church. For example, some churches focus on reaching the next generation with incredible programming, resources and processes built around kids and students. Some churches put their emphasis on reaching the unchurched. All of the programming and resources in these churches lend themselves to those who haven’t attended yet. These are but a couple of examples of which you are probably familiar. While no church is perfect and I have observed numerous models work effectively (at least in growing attendance and decisions), the challenge is that if we aren’t careful, we will minimize disciplemaking for the groups that are not the emphasis. Regardless of the church’s approach, the mandate to make disciples remains. Every believer needs to be discipled and be making disciples, therefore, whatever process or model a specific church uses, disciplemaking must be at the heart.

Every Age, Same Page: Discipling the Whole Church

A healthy church is a disciplemaking church. And the whole church needs to emphasize the Great Commission: Make disciples. Programs, processes, events and budgets ought to result in effective disciplemaking. As we strive to equip those we lead, we find that we can get caught up in ministry initiatives that either don’t matter for the mission or are ineffective at accomplishing the goal. Often, we find ourselves wishing we could change our current paradigm. “If only the people would commit to X,” we think, “then we could grow.”

On the other hand, the people attending the churches in which we serve are thinking, “If only I had more time in my busy schedule I could commit to disciple-making.” These issues are related: time and commitment. The only way to overcome these struggles is to address them directly. One way to address them directly is to ensure that the church is equipping everyone to be a disciple who makes disciples. We must be discipling the whole church. What does that look like?

Parents Are the Primary Disciplers of Their Children, Not the Church

We must provide parents with tools to disciple their children. We must equip parents to disciple their children. Rather than merely telling parents they should be doing this we must equip them to do it. Replicate provides a simple reading plan and HEAR journaling tool call Foundations for Kids which is explicitly designed for this purpose. It helps parents turn their own reading and applying of the word into the means by which they disciple their children. Parents read and journal through the Foundations plan and then lead their children through bite-sized chunks of those same passages. There are other tools available, but whatever one you choose, find something that you can equip your parents to make disciples of their children.

Align All ministries Across Biblical Community

One place where great alignment can happen is in biblical community: small groups, Life Groups, Sunday school. Whatever you call your biblical community programming, leverage it to help disciple the whole church. Move every group toward the same study. Even better, move groups to study and apply the passage the pastor preaches on weekly. This sermon-based approach is nothing new, but it creates a connection across every group in your church if done correctly. While there may be some push-back or those who need to study specific issues at different times, you can find a way to get every group aligned if you want to see a more connected body of Christ. When people are studying the same thing, and they are connecting that to the sermon each week, the opportunity for discipleship rises across the whole church.

Think Pathway

Rather than operating for a specific group of people (those who aren’t here yet, next-gen, long time attendees, etc.), develop, implement and connect everyone across a discipleship pathway. By having a pathway, you create opportunities for everyone to take their next step. You leave no one out of the process. Helping people know and understand where they need to go next to grow and minister will create alignment, movement and a clear understanding of what your church is trying to accomplish.

The church should be equipping the people to do the work of the ministry. The primary ministry work of every believer is to live out the great commission: Make disciples. As leaders, we must invest our time and resources to ensure we are discipling the whole church and helping the whole church make disciples.

This article originally appeared here.

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Chris Swain currently serves at Long Hollow Baptist Church as the Executive Director of Replicate Ministries. After fours years of service in the United States Marine Corps, Chris served in full-time ministry for 14 years in Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and Georgia, leading ministries ranging from Students, to Collegiate, to Spiritual Formation. Most recently, Chris served as the Director of Student Ministry Publishing at Lifeway Christian Resources serving the Church in its mission of making disciples. Chris’s heart is to expand the Gospel through disciple-making in the local church.