Why Discipleship Training should be Centralized

15 12 2007

I’ve been discussing this over at Drew Goodmanson’s blog and wanted to post my thoughts here as well. The following describes why I believe it is essential to centralize the discipleship process instead of putting the responsibility for discipleship on the smaller community.

Well, the easiest way to describe the difference is to use an analogy like joining the Marines. A marine goes through at least 10 weeks of intense training BEFORE they join their unit.

Why shouldn’t you just, give them a gun, put them in their unit and let them get on the job training? It would not be nearly as effective.

1. Repeatable Tasks Can be Perfected. This is HUGE. In Marine Basic Training the drill Sergeants and support staff have the advantage of doing this over and over again, getting the best trainers to focus on training, gleaning from hundreds of years of training experience that has gone before them etc. They become extremely effective in a way that others can’t begin to emulate. We’ve seen this is also true in discipleship training. This is one of the reasons the massive 1 to 1 discipleship movement that started in the 40s failed to really succeed at the task of endless multiplication. Not everyone is a gifted trainer.  Few people are.  Its a unique gift and needs to be carefully refined.

2. The Outcome Must be Clearly Defined and Measured – When we send people into communities hoping that they will catch what they need through relationships (even intentional discipling ones) you will get as many results as there are trainers and even if you have a defined outcome, it will rarely be achieved. This is not true when you centralize training. You can define exactly what you want the disciple to learn and do and you can easily and clearly measure whether your training is producing the desired result.

3. Unity and Quality must be maintained over time – When new people come in are they going to get the same training? Having everyone in a community totally committed to the same training produces a common faith that brings unity and gives all the disciples in each community a clear expectation of what to expect from each other.

I’m not saying that training is not going to incidentally happen in community. The Marine is going to learn a lot in and from his unit but that on-the-job training must be separated from the core training and the latter should be centralized.

I’ve said nothing about how we actually translate this in our community so let me say briefly that it involves –

1. A 9-week training (the Story-Formed Life) EVERYONE goes through at least one time per year. And 5 additional 5-week trainings that make up the core of our discipleship process.
2. Training NOT to be confused with teaching. We drive toward defined outcomes, have individual application discussions each night and follow up the next week.
3. Intense Interaction – Our goal is to deepen faith in a way that changes lives NOT to impart knowledge. Interaction using strategic questions is FAR better at this then a lecture.

The average person goes through more than 20 weeks of intense training BEFORE they enter one of our communities. By that time they are really prepared to contribute understanding the mission the tools and their role.

This has completely transformed our struggling church into a deeply committed force for the Kingdom and made our common life far more rich.




2 responses

17 12 2007
D. Goodmanson

Jeremy – When I say ‘Systematic’ this refers to centralized discipleship/training. I agree that this should be centralized. The ‘Systemic’ development is creating a culture of discipleship and leadership development that moves people along toward these ‘systematic’ intense discipleship. I see a need for both for there to be a culture of Leadership Development in Community.

19 12 2007

Drew – Clearly I’m passionate about the first and need to have a greater understanding of the second. In the past I’ve leaned on creating a culture of discipleship INSTEAD of creating a clear process. It appears to me that, when doing the first (creating a clear process) you get both (discipleship and a culture of training) but if you ONLY do the second (create a culture) you get neither. I’m looking forward to exploring how you guys are going to do these two things in concert and I’m excited you’re getting this conversation going!

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