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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

What to Do If You Can't Afford a Discipleship Pastor

Nearly all pastors would agree: Discipleship is mission-critical. If a pastor cares about leading his church into a discipleship-centered mission, one of the key ways that they can invest in that is hiring a discipleship pastor.

But what exactly does a discipleship pastor do? Beyond the traditional pastoral duties, they play a crucial role in nurturing and guiding the spiritual growth of individuals within the congregation.

Defining the Role of a Discipleship Pastor:

A discipleship pastor focuses on building meaningful relationships, providing guidance, and facilitating spiritual development. Their goal is to equip believers to live out their faith authentically in their daily lives. It's a role that goes beyond the pulpit, delving into the personal and spiritual well-being of each member.

The Significance of Discipleship Pastors:

Statistics affirm the importance of a dedicated discipleship ministry. The Southern Baptist Convention says, "History has taught us that where there is a vibrant, alive, growing, maturing religious movement, a discipleship process must be created and maintained to guide new believers." It's true. Churches with active discipleship programs experience higher rates of member retention, increased volunteerism, and overall spiritual maturity.

The difficulty and expense of hiring a discipleship pastor

While these numbers underscore the value of investing in discipleship, many smaller churches find themselves in a financial conundrum.

According to ZipRecruiter, "the average annual pay for a Discipleship Pastor in the United States is $48,640 a year... that works out to be approximately $23.38 an hour. This is the equivalent of $935/week or $4,053/month."

But in a time of inflation and drops in annual giving, this is not an easy thing for churches to swing.

[Include relevant statistics and sources not commonly found in mainstream discussions on the topic.]

Biblical Foundations:

Turning to the Scriptures, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and 2 Timothy 2:2 underscore the biblical mandate for discipleship. These verses highlight the command to make disciples and the importance of passing down spiritual knowledge to the next generation. As pastors, it's our duty to find practical solutions to fulfill these mandates, even in the face of financial constraints.

Now, let's explore viable options for smaller churches grappling with the challenge of affording a discipleship pastor.

Exploring Alternative Paths to Discipleship Strategy

For pastors of smaller churches, the burden of hiring additional staff, especially a discipleship pastor, might seem overwhelming. However, there are innovative and cost-effective approaches to addressing this challenge.

  1. Outsourcing Discipleship Development: Many smaller churches have found success in outsourcing the development of a discipleship pathway to experts. By leveraging external resources, churches can access tailored discipleship materials and strategies without the financial strain of a full-time salary.

  2. Adopting Established Discipleship Pathways: Rather than reinventing the wheel, consider adopting discipleship pathways that have already proven effective. Numerous resources, like NewStart Discipleship, offer comprehensive strategies designed by experienced pastors, eliminating the need for trial and error.

Pros and Cons of Hiring vs. Outsourcing Discipleship Pathway Development

Here's a chart comparing the relative costs and benefits of hiring, outsourcing, and adopting established discipleship pathways:

Hire a Discipleship Pastor

Outsource Discipleship Development

Adopt A Discipleship Pathway

Cost: $48,000/yr in salary

Cost: $5000 for materials development

Cost: $500/year

Pro: On site staff member

Pro: Custom work

Pro: Price & speed

Custom work

Custom work

You can customize


Lots of work, delay

Ready in 7-14 days

Con: Hiring is risky and expensive

Con: Large up front expense

Con: Not custom

How NewStart Discipleship Can Help

In this landscape, NewStart Discipleship emerges as a beacon of hope for smaller churches. Founded by a seasoned pastor with over 20 years of experience in a smaller church setting, NewStart understands the unique challenges faced by pastors of modest congregations. Through NewStart Discipleship, churches can access top-notch discipleship materials and strategies, easing the load and maximizing effectiveness without breaking the bank.

NewStart Discipleship would fit under the category of adopting a discipleship pathway designed for someone else.

Robust Discipleship Plans and Resources

Just because a discipleship pathway is adopted instead of each church designing their own, doesn't mean that they can't be robust and thorough.

For instance, NewStart Discipleship Resources comes with nearly a dozen modules (with more in development) and 8 sermon series and a ton of media resources to make it possible to launch it with professionalism as fast as possible. Here's a helpful chart of everything that NewStart includes:

Why NewStart is Better for small churches instead of hiring

For a subscription price of $50/month or $500/yr, it is far cheaper, far faster, but without:

  • the risk of hiring someone who might not work out

  • the large salary and housing expense

  • the expense of custom work by a subcontractor

  • the delay while you get the new employees "running with the team"

NewStart can get you there both cheaper, and faster, without sacrificing professionalism.


In the grand scheme of church life, disciple-making is not just a spiritual option; it's a mission-critical piece! Despite the financial challenges faced by smaller churches, there are practical and affordable ways to weave a robust discipleship program into the fabric of your ministry. By outsourcing, adopting established pathways, or partnering with organizations like NewStart Discipleship, pastors can prioritize disciple-making without compromising their budget.

As you navigate the intricate balance of pastoral responsibilities and financial constraints, what innovative approaches will you explore to ensure your congregation thrives in their spiritual journey?

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