Last week I pulled back the curtain just a little bit on how I approached developing a discipleship series. Discipleship classes and programs can be challenging to develop and write because there are so many different directions it could go. For this reason, last week I focused on answering the question ‘why’. Why do you want to develop a discipleship class? The class I developed was focused around answering the question, “How do we develop a common theological foundation for everyone in our faith community to build upon.” This insured that everyone was at least exposed to the same information, everyone understood our core beliefs and tenets of faith, and if they chose to remain in our faith community, they would be on the same page with everyone else regardless of where in their faith journey they were.
Today, I want to zero in on creating a structure for your discipleship class. As I mentioned last week, our faith community is a part of the Assemblies of God fellowship, so our foundation of faith comes from the 16 Fundamental Truths we choose to adhere to. Now, the natural thought would be to take 16 Truths, or 7 Steps, or 5 Lifehacks or whatever content you are pulling from and just match the number of classes to that. Unfortunately, that may not work for your group. For instance, I knew that providing a 16 session class for new people to the church would be far too many. I had to find a number that worked for the people to attend as well as the content to be adequately given.
When you are boiling down your structure for the classes, ask yourself the same questions. For the audience that I am targeting, what is the optimal number of sessions that make it palatable for those attending while at the same time giving the information the necessary time it needs to be communicated? The warning I will express here for those of you like me who want to give an exhaustive presentation to do the information justice, don’t. You will paint yourself into a corner and have to find more content to work your way out of the corner.
Remember, people digest information slowly on average; especially information that is supposed to challenge them to make a life change. That is what a 20-minute sermon is more impactful than a 60-minute sermon. 60-minutes may be more entertaining, but 20-minutes will cause new patterns of behavior. In a discipleship class, the same is true. If your goal is to teach them about the salvation available through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, don’t go exhaustively with historical context, theological foundation, prophetic foreshadowing, as well as practical application. Give a little of this, a little of that, and provide them with enough information to get them interested, provide them with enough to have a basic understanding, and then build more opportunities down the road for deeper discipleship and greater engagement with the material. You will find those going through your discipleship coarse are retaining more, applying more, and have a growing appetite for more. You don’t have to beg them to come back for the next session because they are looking for the next opportunity to learn.
As for me, I looked at our 16 Fundamentals and grouped them in ways I felt would provide the shortest path through the wealth of information, which ended up being 7 conversations. Since we launched 2 years ago, what I have learned is that 7 weeks of one-hour sessions were too many for people to consistently attend. So, we have moved it from a weekly format to a one-day conference style event that is held over the course of 8 hours. It may be a long day for some, but it is far easier to attend a conference style meeting where people are provided lunch, they are able to ask questions, and are walked through a broad base of Christian basics. The other thing is that it allows a faith community to build relationships together while growing deeper in their understanding of God’s truth.
This is what you want for your discipleship class. However you approach it, you want to create a structure that works for you, but is also engaging for your people.
I would love to hear how you developed your discipleship class, or maybe you are struggling to work through your discipleship class structure and would like to have someone from the outside give you some constructive feedback. You can let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email and I will be happy to help.
I am also available to come to your church and take your faith community through a one day conference of Foundational Christian Theology that focuses on Jesus, the Bible, The Church, and four other topics. If this is something you are interested in, please email me and let’s schedule it.