This is my third and final post on Intentional Discipleship.  I am putting the finishing touches this fall on a book aptly named Intentional Discipleship that will be out next summer.  The book is a theologically grounded how to book on developing your own Intentional Discipleship model.  But in wrapping up this series of posts, I wanted to share our greatest learning from developing these plans with other churches and give you a sample of what I’ve been talking about in the last three posts.  This post will make more sense if you’ve read the Driver’s License Myth and Training Fleas.
The Journey of Student Discipleship
We will using Germantown UMC’s Student Ministry Intentional Discipleship model as our example today.  GUMC’s Student Ministry leadership with through my Intentional Discipleship model training to create their journey below.  The first thing they did was to decide what the primary stages of faith were.  GUMC named their stages:

  1. Invite – A stage where students are being invited to start a journey of faith
  2. Believe – The stage where a student becomes a follower of Christ and begins the discipleship journey
  3. Growing – A stage that continues throughout life, but one they defined as the time when students are actively pursuing God
  4. Go – The stage when a student has put their faith into action.

The next thing that the ministry team did was to decide what stage each program of their ministry was currently programmed for, then they looked to see what stages they were over programmed for and what stages were under programmed.  The questions at the bottom of the Driver’s License Myth helped to guide those decisions.  Then, the team made intentional decisions about how those programs would meet the various discipleship stages going forward.
Finally, they developed a metaphor for their student discipleship journey.  You can see that they changed the names of their stages to go with their metaphor.  So the inviting stage became checking out the view.
GUMC Intentional Discipleship PlanYou can see how this metaphor will be helpful as they help students and parents to identify what programs they should attend based on where they are on the discipleship journey.  Students can answer the question, “where you at?”  This tool helps GUMC stay intentional about what they do at each program.  When they unpack it each August, it gives direction to students about what to expect when they attend each program.
Programming the Gaps is the Key
For the first three years that I taught churches how to create intentional discipleship plans, we would program for each stage of faith; but in the middle of working with one church a student said, “but if we program for the stage won’t they just stay there?”  Unintentionally my language had conveyed that the programs should be developed for someone at that stage.  What this student was pointing out is that programming happens in the gaps!
My first three years were not a waste, because intuitively I already knew this and programs at the Checking Out the View stage were not created to keep students there.  But the language of programming the gaps really helps to bring alive and clarify the purpose of the programs as they relate to the stages.  Checking Out the View programs were to pull, draw, create space for the Holy Spirit to move someone to Base Camp (Believing).  Base Camp programs were pushing students to begin to Climb the Mountain.  You get the idea.
Our youth ministry programs should be pushing, pulling, and creating space for Holy growth.
I have a ficus three that is 10 years old and only 3 feet tall in my kitchen.  My mom’s ficus try is 8 feet tall and the same age.  Why the difference?  We have limited our plants growth by keeping it in the same pot.  It does not have room to grown.
Our programs can function like pots, if they do not intentionally create space for growth.
I hope these three posts have got you thinking about your programming and how you can be more intentional about developing a discipleship plan for your students.
Growing together – What programs have created the most growth in your youth ministry?  Does my theory hold true?  Is it because you programmed the gap?