One of the main goals of youth ministry is to help students reach spiritual maturity. We want students to make a commitment to faith in Christ, and we want to teach them to feed themselves spiritually. To reach this goal, many of us have made discipleship the center of our ministry. In order to disciple students, we know they need to be in relationships with mature believers, so we created small groups, hoping that this time spent together would produce spiritual growth.
But we’ve swapped the horse for the cart. From what I have observed, small group success has replaced the goal of spiritual growth. We’re thrilled every time our small groups don’t end in disaster, so we forget the reason they exist in the first place.
Students are placed in groups with their friends, because we hope this will attract them to attend. We never ask if they want to be discipled; we just assume they do. Students sit around in awkward silence, so we resort to corny conversation starters to get them to talk—most don’t know why they are there. Our small group leaders are given paint-by-numbers Bible study material (often just a list of questions for them to parrot). Most likely, they don’t know how the studies connect to the bigger picture of following Christ. We lament that there is no tool available to gauge whether or not students are growing, so we pick an easier objective: attendance numbers. As lead youth workers, we never check in on all of the small groups because we are running our own group. We have no idea if students are actually growing.
This is why most youth groups use a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” strategy. We are passively hoping students are being discipled, but there’s no way of knowing for sure.
This discipleship strategy doesn’t work. So we at LeaderTreks have created a new strategy: Deep Discipleship. It focuses on eight roots of discipleship found in Scripture:
- Rescue—What is God’s core plan for salvation? Why do we need to be saved, and what are we saved to?
- Knowledge—Who is this God we serve? What is he like, and what is his opinion of us?
- Kingdom—What does a life of discipleship look like? How is it different from the way the world operates?
- Outreach—What is God’s purpose for us as disciples? What responsibility do we have with the lost and the least of this world?
- Apologetics—How do disciples communicate God’s truth in a world that hates him? How do our stories fit into God’s grand story?
- Worship—How do disciples interact with God once they start following him? How does his majesty influence everything we do, not just our Sunday mornings?
- Community—What does it mean to be a part of God’s family? What does it look like to trade in an “I, me” mentality for an “us, we” attitude?
- Identity—At the most basic level, who are we as human beings, children of God and disciples of Christ? How does our new identity in Christ change the way we see the world?
How did we choose these eight roots? By asking youth workers and pastors what they believed to be the core of the gospel message. These ministry leaders gave us lots of answers. We took those answers, compared them with what Jesus and his followers taught as essential to discipleship, and combined similar answers. We then asked Bible teachers, professors and Christian publishers which roots were the very core of the gospel. This narrowed the list again. Finally, from that list, we asked youth workers again what terms expressed these themes best in a language students could learn and understand. That left us with the eight roots of Deep Discipleship.
Of course, there are far more than eight topics that feed into a disciple’s growth. Some themes, like service and biblical authority, are so important to the life of a disciple that they can be found within the lessons of each root. Deep Discipleship includes five lessons under each root, looking at the many various aspects of the larger roots. We believe these 40 lessons do a great job of covering the core of Scripture, the gospel message and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Learn more about Deep Discipleship and its eight roots HERE.