What is stopping me from making disciples?
There are basically only 3 things that stop a pastor from moving forward with a discipleship plan:
I don't have any disciples at the moment.
I don't have a plan.
I have to ask someone's permission. (Here's the one we're dealing with today!)
I talk to a LOT of pastors of smaller churches, and they frequently see my discipleship pathway, and say, "Yeah, that sounds great." But then, a shadow falls across their face, and they'll say something about "I'll have to check with my church board (deacon board, elder board, leadership team, finance committee, etc)."
According to a survey conducted by the Small Church Discipleship Institute, 65% of pastors in smaller congregations expressed the desire for a structured discipleship plan but faced obstacles in implementing one due to financial constraints.
And, like it or not, in a smaller church, the church board is frequently the guardian of the purse strings. So, the need for a clear discipleship strategy can collide with the reality of a board that leans more towards maintaining the status quo than investing in spiritual growth.
Here's how you can lead your church board to value discipleship:
Principle 1: Budgets and Shared Values
As I look back at over 20+ years of pastoral experience, a story comes to mind that illustrates one of the biggest barriers that kept me from action early-on.
It was early in my ministry. We came to this church right out of Bible college in 2003, and had 12 people our first Sunday -- including my wife and I! When we were at about 25 people (about 1 year in), about 13 of them left, taking with them about 50% of our tithe income.
So... if you're tracking with me, we had few people and approximately no money. But somewhere along the line, I got used to thinking that way. So when I was in a board meeting a little later, and found us literally making a motion to purchase supplies including toilet paper 😆...
It suddenly hit me, "I'm nuts if I continue this." It's insane to put that kind of barrier between you and actions that need to be taken!
So I asked the church board to set up a budget. It was a very simple one, and only one some core items.
I didn't realize it at the time, but that simple budget was a statement of agreed-upon values. We didn't have to ask about buying toilet paper -- we already agreed that it was needed. It set me free to take action.
That budget became the place where I went to get things done so many times. I didn't have to sell each project or purchase. I just had to convince the church board that I needed a budget line for things that were important to our mission, then do them regularly.
Next, I asked the church board for a budget line monthly for discipleship. I think it was $20/mo at the time. They said yes, and I started purchasing other people's discipleship systems, trying to find something that would work the way I envisioned.
It took a while of examining other discipleship systems before I decided to create my own discipleship pathway.
But the important thing was that I learned that this "shared values" principle could be applied to discipleship.
Principle 2: Don't sell a discipleship project to your church board. Sell commitment to the mission.
Discipleship is not a bolt-on addition to a church, like an optional part on a car. It's the powertrain! It's the entire mission.
You must convince the church board that the mission is "Make Disciples!"
Does your church board know the Great Commission by heart? Do they know that the main verb is "make disciples"? If they don't, and you don't tell them... when will they ever learn that?
So, when you're speaking to your church board about this, it's not about them supporting you first -- you have to ask them to commit to the mission, and support you as you execute that mission.
An Action Plan for Leading Your Church Board:
If you're wondering how to do this, here's a series of action steps you can implement literally this week:
STEP 1: Text Your Board
Text your board members and ask if you can have a board meeting this Sunday (or soon thereafter). Get it on the schedule, then you will have some accountability to take the rest of the actions.
STEP 2: Connect with Each Member
Call each board member and tell them you've been praying about your church's discipleship, and you'd like their thoughts on how it could improve. Listen, share a thought or two of your own. Ask them to pray about it.
The relationship and the listening will count for a lot! Don't underestimate the power of listening and asking questions.
STEP 3: Prep Your Resources
Print out the free copy of NewStart Discipleship Journal, to have it available to show.
STEP 4: Use the pulpit to highlight the mission.
Preach a sermon about discipleship on Sunday (If you want a free one, visit this post). Remember, what the pulpit doesn't speak to, soon becomes a non-issue... if you don't lead from the pulpit, your people will not be led by the Word!
STEP 5: Edit and Use this Script.
In the board meeting tell your church board:
"Brothers/sisters, I appreciate your partnership in the work of this church. I want to up our game in discipleship, because we all know that if we don't make disciples, nothing else matters -- Christ told us we had to make disciples! The truth is, that (here's the money quote) new attenders don't pay the bills -- disciples do. If we want to see the money come in, the mission MUST go forward. I'd like to have a regular line in the church budget of $50 a month to promote and resource disciples in our church, just whatever is needed to make sure that we're able to make disciples that STICK and GROW. (Another money line here:) If we get 1 disciple that sticks, and they drop $10 in the offering every week, it costs us basically nothing. We need some heroes that would care enough about the Great Commission to vote for this. Would you be willing to support me in this while we try it for a year?" 😁
Coincidentally, $50 each month is what a subscription to NewStart Discipleship toolscosts. But, if you want to do an annual price, it costs less than that!
The Crying Need for Pastors to Lead their Board On Discipleship
The truth is: You've got to lead. If you don't, everyone else on the board will lead toward their own agenda, and that will usually look like:
So, if you're waiting for someone else's permission, and that's what's got you stuck... then I just solved your problem, if you're courageous enough to pray, and act.
So go ahead. Download the discipleship sermon, send those texts to your church board, and let's get some movement toward the mission of discipleship!
The path to leading your church board to value discipleship is not an easy one, especially for pastors of smaller congregations. However, the journey becomes more manageable with a clear strategy, the right resources, and proactive efforts to influence the mindset of the board.
NewStart Discipleship is happy to stand as a partner in this goal, offering practical discipleship solutions to empower pastors to transform their churches.
What impact could a devoted focus on discipleship have on the spiritual landscape of your congregation? The answer might just be the catalyst for a new chapter in the life of your church.