What is M.A.W.L.?


Acronyms are funny. They don’t translate well into other languages. At the same time, they do help us remember things. One of the acronyms I’ve heard used from my early days in church planting is M.A.W.L. I believe it was first used by David Garrison in his Church Planting Movements booklet. What does it stand for and how can it help your disciple-making?

M.A.W.L. stands for Model, Assist, Watch and Leave. It has to do with the disciple making process.

Jesus used this process with His disciples. He modeled how to do the work of the Kingdom. They went with Him, watched Him and learned. He then invited them to assist Him in the work. They joined Him in feeding the five thousand, and in healing the sick, casting out demons, etc. He then sent them out to do the same. Then He checked in with them (watch) to see how they were doing. Jesus left and returned to Heaven, giving them a command and commission to carry on the work.

The mission I have worked with for years is good at model and good at leaving. We don’t do so well on the assist and watch parts of M.A.W.L. Modeling is fun and exciting. If you are a natural pioneer, you also like to leave, moving on to new places and visions.

The assist and watch parts of M.A.W.L. are vitally important. They are essential aspects of the disciple making process.

Leaders Are Trained Step by Step

Raj was a passionate, emerging leader. He had great potential. Young and capable, the team leader was excited to have him be a part of the work.

They went together to a new village and began to prayer walk, looking for the Person of Peace. They enjoyed their time together and quickly grew close. The team leader shared stories from God’s word while Raj looked on. After a few weeks of watching, the leader told him, “Today, we will work together. I will start the conversation, then you tell the story. At the end, I will wrap it up and invite them to make a decision or application. How does that sound?”

Excited, Raj prayed all night for this great opportunity. He knew God was opening this door and would use him.

When they went to the village, they quickly found people willing to listen. He was surprised how easy it was to do what he had been watching his leader do for several weeks now.

The following week, his leader said, “You’ve been watching me pray for sick people. Today, if we meet a sick person, I won’t pray. You will pray for them!”

Step by step, Raj grew in his disciple making skills and confidence. More and more, his leader was stepping back and letting him take the lead. When he would make a mistake, or get stuck, he would correct or help him.

One day, they were ready to go out to the village. The leader said, “Today, you will take a new person with you and I will stay back. I have other work to do. Take Matthew, the young man who accepted Christ last week along. Let him watch you. Show him how to find Persons of Peace as I have shown you.”

The M.A.W.L. process was starting over, once again.

Do you take the time to train your disciples in the field? Do you take them with you to visit new people? Do evangelism? If so, do you let them take the lead and watch them, observing and giving input later to them, positive feedback?

As busy leaders, it is easy to skip ahead and release people too quickly. They can then flounder or lack the confidence to carry the disciple making work forward. Stay with them, but don’t do it for them. That is the tricky part! When we are present, we are tempted to take the lead.

Which of the four steps do you find easiest to do? Model, assist, watch, or leave? Which is most difficult for you to use with those you are training?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook Group.

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  1. Nora

    I find the steps of model and leave the easiest ones. To assist and watch I must learn or have patience to not release them too quickly.

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