When I think of discipleship, I think of my 16-year-old self just trying to balance the social pressures of high school, faithfully taking part in and occasionally leading worship at my local church and trying to figure out what the Christian life truly is about. My dad was my pastor, and my mom was my youth director for a youth group of about 5 students, so who was I supposed to turn to for the tough questions in life? Of course, my parents were safe for me, but what I needed was someone trustworthy and disconnected from my family dynamics.
Thankfully, God brought someone into my life that I truly needed, even though I was unaware of that need. A youth pastor, just a town over, sought me out to develop a “discipling” relationship. He invited me to lead worship for his youth group and had me over for dinner and card games. Every Monday morning before school, he would drive over to a diner in my town to spend one-on-one time with me over breakfast. That is, except for the times I did not want to get out of bed and stood him up (I mean, I was a teenager.)
Our Monday morning time consisted of reading and talking through a small part of Proverbs or whatever small passage was on his mind. He would ask questions about my life, and over time, I began to share about my life and engage more in our conversation.
Fastforward several years...I am finishing my college degree, about to get married, and this same guy and his wife are guiding me and my fiancée through premarital counseling. They tell me God is calling them to Iowa to plant a church and they want us to join them. You might be connecting the dots; that youth pastor from my teenage years is Restoration Church’s lead pastor, Eric Trout. I seriously never anticipated the kind of impact my discipleship relationship with Eric would have on my life.
Remembering that model of discipleship from my teenage years is what led me to seek out, with permission from his parents, our oldest youth member at Restoration in a similar way. I saw the last two years of his high school years come around and I sensed the urgency! “If discipleship is encouraging others to love Jesus, I want this guy to love Jesus way more than me, but I am running out of time!”
We started meeting every Wednesday morning at the local coffee shop (The Morning Grind) reading and talking through Proverbs. It has been two years, and we just finished the entire book of Proverbs. Though the time felt urgent, we didn't rush. We just took it one week at a time. Of course, over time, we added more things to what we read and talked about. With regularity and consistency in building relational equity, we were able to freely discuss many things that I never thought possible.
My aim is not to tell you how discipleship is done or that my approach was the best way, but to share the importance and impact of discipleship. Everyone approaches things differently, and each person you disciple will be a different kind of person with differing needs. I replicated the discipleship approach that was modeled for me, and it is tremendously humbling to see the kind of generational impact that discipleship has had on my life.
The Urgency of our Cultural Moment
Church, there are plenty of passages I could rattle off to emphasize the importance of
discipleship, but one that I think is especially fitting for our current moment is Luke 10:2: “And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” This refers to the mission field and reaching unreached people for the gospel. I want us to see the children and youth in our church as the harvest of unreached people. The children and students at Restoration need their Church (the people of God) to consistently share and model the good news of Jesus Christ.
We have an abundance of children in our church. They are going to grow older and face increased pressure from the world to do what they think is right in their own eyes. The younger generations need Godly people to see them for who they are and affirm their God given value and worth.
Church, as rKids and RStudents continues to grow in numbers, take a moment to self-reflect: “How is God calling me to disciple the kids at Restoration Church?” Is it to volunteer more on Sundays in these areas or at any additional events for kids and students? Is it to seek out these kids and students, most importantly with parental permission, and develop a discipleship relationship with them? Think of it as supplementing the teaching, instruction, and impact their families may already provide them.
You are never too old, unlearned, or unaccomplished for discipleship. You don’t have to reach a certain status to have a positive, godly impact on a young person’s life. At Restoration Church, we define discipleship as helping others love Jesus. We always need to live out our values, but we especially need the kind of intentionality that creates more opportunities for generational impact.
How do I start discipling?
Start by developing a relationship Discipleship does not have to be generational. You can disciple someone the same age as you. It just so happens that many discipleship relationships are generational (discipling someone younger than you). However, it is important to get parental permission and agree on what they are comfortable with if you want to disciple a student.
Find out what they need Some may want or need to learn more basic truths about the Christian faith. Others need someone to hear them, know them, and see them. You can always intentionally invite them into your life. Have them come hang out and see how you and your spouse raise your kids. Invite them over to watch sports. Go for a grocery run, get breakfast, or play disc golf (or whatever it is you like to do). Just live life and invite them in to see how a godly, faith-filled person lives and loves Jesus.
Consistently pray and allow the Holy Spirit to lead Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Pray for opportunities to disciple. Pray for the children, students, and adults in our church. Pray for yourself and the person you are discipling. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you as you help others to love Jesus. We cannot love God and support others in their Christian walk without the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, don’t rush things, be flexible, and take it one day at a time. Discipleship is all about helping others love Jesus, and it is well worth the amount of time it may take to impact the next generation with the power of the Gospel.