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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

Making Disciples Is Like Re-Parenting

I've been trying to make disciples in Oklahoma City for over 20 years. I also have 7 kids, so I'm rather experienced in both of these areas. And you know, I have lost count of how many times my wife and I have looked at each other and said, "Making disciples is like parenting, isn't it?"

Making disciples is like re-parenting blog graphic

In our culture, there's a huge number of families that are without 2-parent households. Even when they were present, parents can drop the ball. And when people grow up without both parents around to guide them, they often miss out on learning some important life lessons. When they start following Jesus, it's like they get a second chance to learn these things, but this time, from their spiritual family. This is an often-forgotten aspect of discipleship. We need to look at it, because if you don't realize this is expected, it can be frustrating to both you and the disciples you are making.

Discipleship Is Like A Child In a Family

In the Bible, becoming a follower of Jesus is compared to being born into a new family. Here’s how it talks about it:

In my 20 years as a pastor in a big city, I've seen many people who didn't get the guidance they needed when they were younger. Helping them follow Jesus often means teaching them life lessons they missed.

Three re-parenting lessons in making disciples:

1. Learning to handle life:

Just like parents teach their kids how to be responsible, in discipleship, we teach new believers practical skills. This might include how to manage their money, the importance of working hard, and how to organize their day. These lessons are part of becoming wise and living the way God wants us to.

2. Handling feelings:

Ah, our old friend "emotional regulation." People from unstable homes or dysfunctional families might not have learned how to deal with their emotions properly. They might get angry easily, avoid tough situations, or worry too much. In discipleship, it's our job to help them learn healthy ways to handle their feelings, teaching them patience, how to face problems, and trust in God during tough times, much like a patient parent does.

3. Getting along with others:

Knowing how to be a good friend and how to treat people kindly doesn't come naturally to everyone, especially if they didn't have great role models. In discipleship, we use what the Bible says about loving and caring for each other to teach these skills.

For example, in NewStart Discipleship, there's a module called "Moving from Me to We" that focuses on Bible teachings about being part of a church family and treating each other with respect and kindness... We spend 40 days covering the "one another commands" of the New Testament.

Making disciples isn't just about teaching Bible stories or making sure people know certain facts. It's about helping people change and grow in every part of their lives, including those practical areas that parents usually help with. It's about showing them how to live in a way that honors God, not just in church, but at home, at work, and in their relationships.

What it takes to make disciples like you're parenting:

1. Being patient:

Just like kids, new Christians might not get everything right the first time. They'll make mistakes, and that's okay. Our job is to help them learn and grow, gently correcting them and guiding them, just like a parent does, without getting angry or frustrated.

2. Keeping going:

Teaching and reteaching, having the same conversations over and over—it's all part of the process. Just like parents have to remind their kids to say "please" and "thank you," we might have to go over the same lessons with new believers. This doesn't mean they're failing; it's just how learning happens.

3. Having a plan:

Raising kids isn't just about reacting (or maybe over-reacting!) when things go wrong; it's about having a plan for their education, their health, and their growth. Of course there will be crises... that's expected. But you've got to have a framework, a structure for your discipleship plans that will help you keep plugging, even when there are disciples who make messes and need crisis help.

A Discipleship plan underneath the crisis management

Similarly, through NewStart Discipleship, I've developed a 1-2 year discipleship program for new Christians. It's designed to help them learn everything they need to know step by step, providing stability and guidance so they can grow up strong and healthy in their faith.

In the end, making disciples is a lot like parenting. It requires love, patience, and a good plan. But the reward—seeing someone grow into a mature, faithful follower of Jesus—is absolutely worth it.

If you're wondering how to make discipleship more intentionally, I'd encourage you to check out my program, NewStart Discipleship, to see a discipleship plan that runs under the surface like a conveyor belt, keeping new believers on track while you handle the crisis stuff.

In fact, if you'd like to download my free 35 page booklet, "How to Build a Clear Discipleship Pathway," you can do that right here, for free:

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