Five Tips on When to Release Responsibility in Disciple-making


Jesus gave authority and power away before his disciples were fully ready. Do we? Sometimes I am afraid to give away responsibility. What if they mess it up? Most of the time I am slower to give away power and authority than I suspect Jesus would be.

Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) model everything after Jesus. Paul’s a great model too. Today I read Luke 9 in my daily devotions. I got stuck on verse one, “He gave them power and authority…” Then, in verse two, He sent them out to use it, however imperfectly.

We find the releasing of authority repeated in the Great Commission. “All authority in Heaven and on Earth I have given to you. Therefore, go and make disciples…” (Matt. 28:18). After a few years with this rag-tag team of people, He gave them everything that was His. But first, He gave them power and sent them out when He was still nearby to see how they did with it.

In Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) and Church Planting Movements (CPMs), we apply a model of experience, debrief, train, and repeat. Before people are “ready” they are doing and trying. This is not without feedback and the help to learn as they do.

Will everything get done perfectly? No. But it wouldn’t anyhow. By letting people learn by doing (with feedback), and allowing mistakes to happen, brings much greater fruit!

Relationship of Trust is Essential

This model requires a relationship of trust. The leader/mentor has to trust the person enough to let them try and fail (or succeed). The disciple-maker has to trust the leader/mentor enough to risk and go for it. They must also be humble enough to report, receive feedback, and then try again.

We need to trust the Holy Spirit as well. He is in them. He can guide and help the new disciples. We don’t have to tell them everything or take full responsibility for those we are training.

Allow them to fail. Be nearby to help and to answer questions. Listen carefully as they describe what happened when they “went out to proclaim the good news and heal the sick.” Ask good questions. But don’t pull back power. Extend trust before they are completely ready.

They Messed Up!

A group of people I’m training have been doing online Discovery Bible studies. This is part of the Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements course curriculum. A practical experience with a group makes a huge difference.

We’ve been thinking through the question. When do we let them lead a part of it themselves? How many times do you model before letting them take the reins?

When giving the Look Up section to one new trainee to lead, instead of reading the scripture, they decided to preach. Not what we were looking for! Though we’d modeled discovery learning, he reverted to his traditional model. Was it too early to let him lead this part? Moses was a good guy, but for years he had only seen a preaching model. Discovery learning was brand new for him.

The group leader had to interrupt and ask Him to not preach. It was hard to do this without shame. Thankfully Moses is humble and teachable and the leader was kind. This trainee learned by doing. The next time, he would do things differently. No amount of teaching beforehand could help him unwind twenty years of preaching-style models in working with Scripture. He had to learn by making a “mistake” in an actual disciple-making group. Then he received gentle correction and encouragement from the leader. The next time he would do things differently.

In another group, one of the members was assigned to do the Look Forward section. When it was her turn, she completely forgot what she was supposed to do. Needless to say, the group could have gone better that day.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

Luke 9:1-2 NIV

Five Principles on When to Release Responsibility

1) Give responsibility and authority before they are ready.

We tend to wait too long to allow others to lead. This can come from either an unhealthy perfectionism or a need to stay in control. Recognize those things in yourself and turn from them. People learn by doing. Give them that chance to grow.

2) Keep things simple.

Over-complicating the way we do ministry will slow down reproducibility. It makes people think that doing the work of the Lord is only for experts. Be intentional at simplifying what you do on every level. This doesn’t mean “dumbing it down,” but does take discipline. Can you do the same thing in a simpler, more reproducible way? Deep, profound transformation can come through the Holy Spirit’s anointing on a “light baton” tool in the hand of His disciple.

3) Be willing to embrace a few messes.

Movements are messy. If you need to be in control of everything and never want any mistakes, don’t try to launch a Disciple-Making Movement!

The mess that comes when we release authority to new people is part of the process of growth. Embrace it and see it as an opportunity to train. When mistakes are made, we don’t leave them. Clean it up with them, and train in the midst of that. Instruct and model through the messy stages of a leader’s growth and one day they will likely go beyond you.

4) Stay close and always debrief, especially in the early stages.

One mistake DMMers have made at times is to hand over authority and then disappear from the picture completely. Many of us who have apostolic gifting like to move on and start new things. Once we’ve given over a responsibility we forget about that person and work. This is not the way Jesus led. He raised up others and gave them opportunities and responsibilities. Then he debriefed them, giving feedback.

Don’t abandon those you’ve passed the baton to. Stay present in their lives, even if you are not in their meetings anymore.

5) Model releasing leadership.

Servant leadership releases others. It doesn’t seek to be the big leader who gets all the glory. Develop those around you to go beyond you. This is the heart of the Father in you. Parents want to see their children exceed them. Their success is not threatening but honors them. As you release responsibility and authority to others, become their greatest cheerleaders. Don’t only be the ones who correct their mistakes.

Affirm and champion them. Let others see that you are not threatened by others’ success but thrilled to see them become fruitful and effective in what they do.

Who are you developing as a leader? Are you trusting them with greater responsibility, and with the authority to take things forward? If not, what prevents you?

Let us know in the comments below or tell us your thoughts on this on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.


  1. Bill

    Giving authority and using easily replicable methods is very important. We were trained to use the MAWL method. Model. Assist. Watch. Leave. It’s too lengthy to go thru in a comment but we found it very effective in training to lead a 3 3rds meeting.

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  2. Pastor Edith Edward

    First of all I want to apologize for haven’t been reading your emails. The fact is that I just lost my husband in August 19th 2022. And since then I’ve been up and doing with the ministry work. Although it has not been easy because of the economic problem in our country Nigeria. But all the same the work of God must move on I’m trying my best to gather disciples in my own area as possible as I can. By the grace of God I’m also training two of my women in the church and I pray that God will help us in Jesus mighty name Amen.

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  3. Rajendra Madagaon,

    I am Pastor Rajendra Madagaon….
    I am doing church planting ministry in Karnataka Mysuru…
    I am doing ministry among local tribes people more discipleship traning to young youths and families…

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