How Does Our Church Get Ready?
The development of a comprehensive, six-year youth discipleship curriculum is historic. Church leaders and even parents will be excited to learn that teenage Christ followers can be so thoroughly equipped for a lifetime.
Some churches may express their excitement by wanting to begin teaching the curriculum in the winter of 2016. That may not be the best plan. Because of the potential the curriculum carries, leaders may be better served to plan carefully for its implementation.
Potential Downsides to Beginning the Study Too Soon
1 Beginning too soon may mean teenagers have not had time to make a commitment to the process.
The Disciple6 curriculum is not designed for Sunday school. The curriculum is not designed for a weekly youth rally or any other gathering of teenagers who have not made a concrete, long-term commitment to the process.
Most churches will need the full spring and summer to create in the teenagers a hunger for deep discipleship and an understanding of the covenant they are making.
2 Beginning too soon may mean group sizes are too large.
The Disciple6 curriculum will best lead to transformation in groups made up of one or two adults and about three teenagers. This discipling model mirrors the intensive investment Jesus made in Peter, James, and John. What one-on-three disciplers are doing is biblical and effective, growing disciples through relationships while sharing life.
An adult discipler who goes into the world of a teenager shows that teenager he or she is valuable as a person, not just a church statistic. But going to a sporting event or band concert takes time. Deep conversations with lots of listening take time. Walking together, life on life, takes time. Adults who have their own jobs and their own families cannot make that kind of investment in more than three or four teenagers.
For almost every church, planning toward discipleship groups of that size will require enlisting many new leaders. Senior pastors, youth leaders, and parents probably will need the full spring to call out sufficient leaders.
3 Beginning too soon may mean adult volunteers have not been trained and discipled.
Churches today sometimes place adults who never have been intentionally discipled in leadership roles with teenagers. Leaders ask adults to create a transformative, small-group experience when the adult never has been part of a group that did more than listen to “the lesson.” Spiritual lethargy does not generate transformation, and adults cannot create what they never have seen. Most churches will need the late spring to disciple and train the adults who will lead covenant groups.
4 Beginning too soon may mean parents have not become strong advocates for the process.
Few parents have ever seen a six-year plan for discipling their teenagers. Parents who love Jesus could become strong advocates for Disciple6. Such parents can encourage and pray with their teenagers about joining the process. And parents can make the weekly meetings a high priority in family schedules once fall arrives. Church leaders can use the spring to assemble parents and bring them on board as strong advocates.
Possible Preparation Process for 2016
The senior pastor preaches sermons designed to:
- Awaken the hearts of adults to the glory of Christ.
- Turn adult hearts toward the next generation, including teenagers.
- Awaken the hearts of teenagers to the glory of Christ.
- Turn teenage hearts in the direction of discipleship through covenant groups.
Youth leaders and parents continue to lead teenagers toward a Christ awakening and toward joining a covenant group for discipleship.
Church leaders prayerfully enlist adults who experience the Spirit’s leadership to guide a covenant group.
Church leaders gather future leaders for covenant groups for discipleship and for training in group leadership.
Youth leaders use assemblies, camps, retreats, mission trips, and evangelistic outreaches to prepare teenagers for covenant group discipleship.
Toward the end of summer, teenagers make concrete decisions to enter the discipleship process and make a covenant with the other students in their respective groups.
Covenant groups begin meeting weekly. Except for holiday weekends, the groups will meet weekly for thirty-five weeks.
Note: For a much more thorough discussion concerning the preparations for covenant-group discipleship, see The Senior Pastor and the Reformation of Youth Ministry