Proactive Disciple Developing Congregations

Three Habits of Proactive Disciple Developing Clergy and Church Staff

One of the most promising movements in the 21st Century Church is the disciple development movement. Given the post-modern context wherein we find ourselves, we are driven to clarify what this Christian movement, with its Church, is all about. Since we can’t be church the same way we were in 1985, we are driven to grow more clear on the primary purposes of God’s Church. Developing ourselves and each other as disciples of Jesus Christ is one of the unique roles of God’s Church.

Congregations who are joining this movement are doing so largely through the leadership of their pastors, priests, and church staff. When clergy and church staff are committed to disciple development, then the church begins to form itself around this priority. There are many ways to raise awareness in the congregation about disciple development (another article), yet clergy and church staff can proactively shape their ministries around disciple development. Proactive disciple developing clergy and church staff are implementing these activities in their ministries.

Prioritizing the 75% of Disciples Rather Than the Squeaky Wheels
Most disciples in one’s congregation do not have a disciple care need, nor are they concerned about an issue in the church. Most disciples are moving along, living their lives, trying to be Christ-followers. This is the most neglected group of people in congregations. Since they don’t have a specific care need and they are not “making trouble,” they do not come across the radar screen of church leaders. And, these are the very people who may be poised to follow Christ more fully. These are the very people who would respond with joy and enthusiasm when their pastor invites them for coffee and inquires about their spiritual journey. These are the people ready to be developed as disciples (rather than be ignored). Proactive disciple developers make those who are ready to grow the priority, rather than the squeaky wheels prioritizing ministry.

Organizing their schedules for proactive ministry
Management gurus in the corporate world train leaders to examine their daily schedules for responsive versus proactive time. Every leader needs to make time for responding to needs and requests of his/her organization. Simultaneously, every leader needs to invest time in the major priorities and initiatives of his/her organization. So how much of your time is designated for proactive ministry, wherein you are advancing the initiatives of your congregation? Leadership experts suggest 60-80%. I expect this percentage is too high for clergy and church staff. At the same time, proactive disciple developers schedule time for developing disciples, making it a priority.

Pushing the church to prioritize disciple development through self-direction
Yes, you are right. When clergy and church staff prioritize disciple development, then they do not have the time to do everything else they were doing (liking spending too much time with the squeaky wheels). This raises the need for constructive dialogue around church purposes and priorities. When done well, this actually affects expectations for the pastor and church staff. When taken seriously, this results in job description revision. Effective disciple developing congregations give their blessing to their clergy and church staff for investing in disciples. When they observe their leaders engaging disciples one-on-one and in groups for substantive spiritually-laced dialogue, they are thrilled. They recognize this as proactive ministry. They believe their leaders should invest in those who are ready to move ahead.

May we claim the roles of pastor and church staff with vigor and enthusiasm. May we invest in the lives of those who are ready to become who God is calling them to be. May we become proactive disciple developers.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA