I was just reading an article about a professional football team. They have a detailed plan for each player’s psychical and skill growth. They check the plan every month to see if the player is reaching his set goals. If the player is not making progress, a team of coaches jumps in to offer advice and mentoring so the athlete can reach his goals.
I also serve on the board of a private high school. One of the innovations happening in its classrooms is a concept of learning zones. Each student learns at an individual level. So the teachers create learning zones in which students can learn at their own pace. These learning zones definitely require more work for the teacher—they have to create three to four different lesson plans. But all this hard work is paying off. Students learn more when you don’t assume that every student is at the same level.
What about us in youth ministry? What can we learn from these organizations? Could a custom spiritual development plan based on individual students’ spiritual needs work for us? It’s obvious that our one-size-fits-all teaching style is not working. We disciple students as if they’re in a 1950s classroom. We need innovation. Discipleship is training, just like football practice and just like classroom learning. Does your youth ministry look like your freshmen-year world civilization class or a professional sports team training room?
When we use an intentional spiritual development strategy, we can create individual plans with parents. And with youth workers and parents focused on a single plan, we can work together to make it happen. How powerful would that be! With a plan, the small group leader can challenge the students through personal relationship. Just image this: You throw out the name of a student in your adult volunteer meeting, and a volunteer immediately jumps up to update you on the student’s spiritual life. They’ve been tracking it because they’re following your plan!
Discipleship is a one-on-one activity. It can’t happen in large groups with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Just imagine how a concept like training zones could help your students grow deep faith.