The Importance of a Discipleship Plan for Your Church
Updated: Sep 27
A discipleship plan is a roadmap for helping members of a church grow in their faith and become more committed followers of Jesus Christ. By creating a plan, churches can provide a clear pathway of structure and support for their members, helping them to deepen their relationship with God, by obeying the commands of Jesus and reflecting the character of Jesus.
In this guide, we'll explore the importance of a discipleship plan and provide practical tips for creating one that works for your church.
The old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is cliche, but still true. While most churches would claim that they value discipleship, the lack of a clear discipleship pathway or strategy indicates that their commitment to discipleship isn’t as intentional as it could be.
Let’s discuss clarifying our strategy for discipleship.
What is a discipleship plan?
A discipleship plan is a strategic approach to helping members of a church grow in their faith and become more committed followers of Jesus Christ. Through a discipleship plan, churches can become intentional about making disciples, who are learning to:
Obey the commands of Jesus
Reflect the character of Jesus
Embody the values and priorities of Jesus
Build the Kingdom of Jesus
Creating a clear plan for discipleship in the local church typically involves a series of intentional steps or activities designed to help individuals accomplish these priorities. A discipleship plan may include things like Bible studies, small group discussions, mentoring relationships, and service opportunities, all aimed at helping individuals grow in their faith and become more like Christ.
In this post, I'll use some synonyms for a discipleship plan, which will include, discipleship strategy, and discipleship pathway.
The benefits of having a discipleship plan
Having a discipleship plan in place can bring many benefits to your church community.
First and foremost, it prioritizes what Jesus says is the mission of the church in Matthew 28:18-20. The Great Commission is a mandate to make disciples.
Second, it can also help create a sense of community and belonging within the church, as members come together to learn and grow in their faith.
Additionally, a discipleship plan can help identify and develop the spiritual gifts of individual members, which can lead to more effective ministry and outreach efforts.
Finally, a discipleship plan can help your church grow and thrive, as members become more engaged and invested in the life of the church.
How to create a discipleship plan
Creating a discipleship plan for your church can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Books have been written, and video programs have been created that have taken this complex project and turned it into a process that can be followed.
Here are a few of the tips contained in “Getting Started With Discipleship” from NewStart Discipleship:
1. Start by identifying exactly what kind of disciples you’re trying to produce.
What is a disciple?
We'll discuss this in more detail in other posts. But for now, let's just say that, a disciple is one who learns from Jesus in order to develop his character, obey his commands, and imitate him.
As Dallas Willard once said, "Discipleship is becoming who Jesus would be, if he was you."
2. Make your entrance and pathway crystal clear.
No discipleship strategy is adequate unless people can clearly understand how to enter it, and navigate it effectively. You have to be able to answer questions like these:
What is your entry point to your discipleship pathway? Is it a sinner's prayer? Baptism? Membership class? Something else?
What is step 1? Is it a Bible study? A mentoring relationship? Filling out an interest card?
What is step 2? And step 3?
Time for a hard truth: In most churches, these steps of a discipleship pathway or plan have not been clearly planned out. Everyone agrees that discipleship ought to be important, but they have no discipleship plan!
Your church can be an exception to this rule, if you'll take time to go ahead and create one.
Strategies for discipleship development could include Bible studies, developing new leaders within the church, or improving the overall spiritual health of your members, empowering them to develop spiritual disciplines... or creating opportunities to serve the unfortunate and learn servanthood.
3. Identify the resources you'll need.
Consider the resources you have available.
What discipleship curriculum will you use? How will you integrate it with technology in a "smartphone world?" What key leaders will you need to have on board for your plan?
4. Plan your communication about your discipleship plan.
How will you describe your plan?
How will you ask people to be involved?
What's your 5-minute pitch on discipleship?
How can you convince people to prioritize discipleship in their life?
Once you complete it, you'll want to find ways to use your worship service to promote and communicate your discipleship plan. Your most powerful platform to communicate the priorities of the church is the worship service.
I share much more about this in the Getting Started with Discipleship video course, and in a companion blog post.
The other sessions in this course include:
Session 5: How to Get Your first 3 Disciples
Session 6: Using your worship service to promote discipleship
Session 7: Plan to multiply from the beginning
Session 8: Recruit a champion
Session 9: How to Convince Your Church Board to Move Forward
Session 10: Find a Partner (Think Who, not How)
5. Take Action: Implement and evaluate your plan.
Once you have developed your discipleship plan, it's important to put it into action and regularly evaluate its effectiveness.
This may involve tracking attendance at discipleship Bible studies, surveying members for feedback, and assessing the growth and development of new leaders within the church. Use this information to make adjustments to your plan as needed, and continue to refine your approach over time. By staying committed to your discipleship plan and regularly evaluating its impact, you can help your church grow and thrive in meaningful ways.
The impact of a successful discipleship plan on your church community.
A successful discipleship plan can have a significant impact on your church community. It can help members deepen their faith, develop meaningful relationships with one another, and become more active and engaged in the life of the church. By providing opportunities for spiritual growth and development, your discipleship plan can also help attract new members and retain existing ones.
Additionally, a strong discipleship program can help develop new leaders within the church, ensuring its continued growth and success for years to come.
This module from my discipleship coaching program is provided for you for free. If you want more content, check out "Why You Need a Discipleship Coach."