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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

10 Bad Excuses pastors give for not having a discipleship strategy

In the hustle of ministry, where every dollar counts, and time slips through the cracks, small church pastors find themselves juggling not just spiritual guidance but also financial constraints. Picture this: Pastor James, tirelessly tending to his flock on Sundays, and yet, the concept of a robust discipleship strategy seems elusive. The struggle is real, but so are the excuses.


Let's unravel the top ten bad excuses pastors often give for not having a discipleship strategy and explore why they may be hindering the true potential of their ministries.


top 10 bad excuses for not having a discipleship strategy


Top 10 Excuses pastors give about discipleship


1. "I Don't Have the Time"

Excuse #1, the classic time crunch. According to a Barna Group study, 40% of pastors work more than 60 hours a week. Yet, amidst the chaos, the excuse of time becomes a silent accomplice to the neglect of intentional discipleship. Can pastors afford not to make time for the very heart of their calling? If you've got a well-manicured lawn, but you're not making disciples, there's a word for that: Mission failure!


2. "My Plate is Already Full"

The overloaded plate syndrome - a common ailment among pastors. With the demands of preaching, counseling, and administrative duties, the idea of squeezing in a discipleship strategy might feel like mission impossible. However, a LifeWay Research study reveals that churches with a strong discipleship focus often experience increased member engagement, potentially lightening the pastoral load in the long run.


3. "We're Too Small for a Discipleship Program"

Excuse #3 stems from the misconception that discipleship programs are exclusively for large congregations. However, research from the National Congregations Study found that small churches are uniquely positioned to foster intimate, impactful discipleship relationships. Size might just be an advantage, not a hindrance.


4. "Our Budget Can't Handle It"

Finances often serve as a formidable roadblock. According to a State of the Plate survey, 20% of churchgoers don't contribute financially, leaving many small churches financially strapped. However, effective discipleship doesn't always require a hefty budget. It demands creativity, commitment, and a shift in priorities.


5. "I'm Not Qualified to Lead Discipleship"

The imposter syndrome echoes through this excuse. Many pastors feel unqualified or inadequately equipped for the task of discipleship. However, the Great Commission was not given to the perfectly equipped but to those willing to step out in faith. NewStart Discipleship stands ready to provide resources and strategies, bridging the gap between perceived inadequacy and effective discipleship leadership.


6. "I Can't Afford to Hire a Discipleship Pastor"

This excuse rides on the coattails of financial constraints. The reality is, hiring a dedicated discipleship pastor may not be feasible for many small churches. However, NewStart Discipleship offers a lifeline, providing cost-effective materials and strategies tailored to the unique challenges faced by smaller congregations.


7. "Discipleship is a One-Time Event"

Some pastors fall into the trap of viewing discipleship as a one-time event rather than a continual journey. Discipleship is a process, not a checkbox. Churches that recognize this see long-lasting impacts on their community and members.


8. "Our Church Members Are Not Interested"

Excuse #8 assumes that church members lack interest in discipleship. However, a surprising statistic from a Pew Research Center study indicates that 79% of religiously unaffiliated Americans believe in God, suggesting a latent spiritual curiosity that intentional discipleship could tap into.


9. "We're Doing Fine Without It"

Contentment can be an excuse in disguise. While a church might seem to be doing fine, the question remains: Could it be thriving with the added focus on intentional discipleship? The status quo might be the biggest obstacle to progress.


10. "I Don't Know Where to Start"

The final excuse is often a masked cry for guidance. Thankfully, NewStart Discipleship exists to answer this call, offering pastors a starting point, a roadmap, and the tools needed to cultivate a thriving culture of discipleship in their small churches.


Are You Settling for Excuses or Striving for Transformation?

One of my favorite phrases around our family is this, "You can make excuses or you can make progress. But you can't make both."


Here's my question: Are you willing to shed the excuses, embrace the challenges, and lead your congregation into an intentional discipleship strategy, or will you settle for the status quo? The choice is crucial, not just for the church but for the lives you have the power to impact.


Here's how NewStart (my discipleship company) can help:


Responding to Excuses with NewStart Discipleship Solutions


Excuse #1: "I Don't Have the Time"

Solution: Clear Discipleship Strategy

NewStart Discipleship understands the time constraints pastors face. Our team can save you time by creating comprehensive discipleship materials and strategies tailored to your small church's unique context, allowing you to focus on your pastoral responsibilities while nurturing meaningful discipleship relationships -- in other words, you can focus on being the biggest cheerleader for your new believers, and leave the hours of creating strategy to us!


Excuse #2: "My Plate is Already Full"

Solution: Onboarding Process 

Getting started with NewStart Discipleship is easy. We offer a streamlined onboarding process. I provide a 30 minute video giving you a complete walk-thru of the members area, and am available for texts or calls if you've got questions. The whole goal is ensuring that incorporating a discipleship strategy into your busy schedule doesn't become an overwhelming task. Our user-friendly approach is designed with busy pastors in mind.


Excuse #3: "We're Too Small for a Discipleship Program"

Solution: Done-for-You Discipleship Bible Studies: 

I'm a small-church pastor. Here's what I believe -- Size should not be a limitation. NewStart Discipleship provides ready-to-use, theologically sound discipleship Bible studies. No need to reinvent the wheel; we've crafted materials that suit the dynamics of smaller congregations, fostering meaningful spiritual growth. For instance, here's one that we offer to new believers at our church: The NewStart Discipleship Journal. For more info, you can check it out here.


newstart discipleship journal for new believers mockup


Excuse #4: "Our Budget Can't Handle It"

Solution: Low-Cost Discipleship Help 

We understand the financial challenges faced by small churches. NewStart Discipleship offers an affordable discipleship solution at just $50 per month, ensuring that you receive high-quality discipleship materials without breaking the bank. If discipleship is really the unchangeable mandate of Jesus, then great discipleship help shouldn't have to be a luxury!


Excuse #5: "I'm Not Qualified to Lead Discipleship"

Solution: A discipleship plan Created by a Pastor with Experience 

NewStart Discipleship is not just a theoretical concept. As a 20-year pastor, I've walked the pastoral journey and understand the challenges firsthand. Our discipleship strategy is born out of practical experience, providing you with insights and tools that resonate with the realities of ministry.


Excuse #6: "I Can't Afford to Hire a Discipleship Pastor"

Solution: Discipleship Help From a Team, Remotely

If you hire NewStart, we go beyond providing materials. We actively engage in the work of discipleship for you. What if you had someone who was actively spending 5 minutes per day with every disciple, teaching them how to have devotions, understand the Bible, and pray the Scriptures? And what if that discipleship team member didn't require a salary or housing allowance?


That's what we do. Our team becomes an extension of your ministry, ensuring that the discipleship process is not just effective but also manageable within your existing resources.


Excuse #7: "Discipleship is a One-Time Event"

Solution: Clear Discipleship thinking: 

NewStart Discipleship emphasizes a continuous, intentional discipleship journey. Our strategy ensures that discipleship becomes an integrated part of your church culture, fostering lasting spiritual transformation rather than being treated as a one-time event.


It's not a discipleship class, or a 1 time seminar. It's a daily strategy to make sure that your new believers become "self-feeders" who develop the habits necessary to continue to transform them into the image of Christ.

Excuse #8: "Our Church Members Are Not Interested"

Solution: Something crystal clear to promote 

Let's be honest, sometimes the reason people aren't interested, is because they haven't heard a crystal clear, compelling vision! What if you had a clear discipleship pathway that you could promote? What if you had discipleship sermons and illustrations that would point the way?


Sometimes, interest is sparked by engaging materials. What if you had professionally crafted Bible studies capture attention and ignite curiosity? NewStart Discipleship can turn disinterest into a hunger for spiritual growth through well-designed and thought-provoking resources.


What if you had a resource table for discipleship, like this one?


picture of a discipleship resource table


Excuse #9: "We're Doing Fine Without It"

Solution: Clear Discipleship Strategy

Nothing is more proverbial than succeeding at things that don't matter. You could succeed at having a great music program, a decent attendance, and a budget that operates "in the black." But if you're going to make disciples, that's going to take intentionality. Even when things seem fine, NewStart Discipleship helps you surpass the status quo. Our strategy encourages a proactive approach to discipleship, instead of waiting around hoping that it happens as long as people keep attending.


Excuse #10: "I Don't Know Where to Start"

Benefit: Professional Program Materials: NewStart Discipleship provides not just resources but professionally designed materials. From graphics to printed resources, our program ensures that you start with polished, high-quality materials, giving you confidence as you begin promoting discipleship within your congregation.


In fact, we provide discipleship coaching, and significant discipleship training modules to help you get going on this most crucial task, this Great Commission from Christ.


Will You Choose Excuses or Embrace Transformation?

With solutions at your fingertips, the choice is clear. Will you continue to cling to these excuses, or will you embrace the transformative potential of NewStart Discipleship? The power to revolutionize your discipleship strategy and, consequently, the lives of your congregation is within reach.


What's stopping you from taking that leap?

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