How to Choose an Effective Initial Discipleship Plan

Systems manager. That doesn’t sound like a very exciting title! Are systems restrictive and boring? Do they take away our freedom? Or do they actually set us free? When it comes to Disciple Making Movements, using simple systems is extremely freeing. They help the movement reproduce naturally and easily. A DMM practitioner is in some ways a systems manager. One of the first simple systems you need in place is a Short Term (Initial) Discipleship Plan.

As soon as people begin to believe, establish a reproducible plan for training new believers. The lessons must be simple enough that anyone can teach them. The new disciples must quickly be able to use the same system with those they lead to faith. This reproducibility is key in multiplying a movement.

Your Spiritual Birthday

“Today is your spiritual birthday!” I declared. Using Lesson One of Ying Kais’ Baby Lessons, I encouraged a new disciple to write her name on the line and fill in the date. My friend had just prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

In the coming weeks, I taught her one new lesson each time we met. We talked about; prayer, daily devotions, the church, baptism, the Lord’s supper, giving, sharing her faith, God as her Father, and other foundational principles.

This laid a strong foundation of basic understanding. By the end of those lessons, she was ready. With her husband’s blessing, she decided to take water baptism. Her next step of obedient faith will be to start a new group with her friends. She will begin teaching them the same lessons we just went through together. She has already begun to talk with some friends about this, inviting them to study God’s Word with her.

Effective short term discipleship plans produce immediate results. The person who has gone through them quickly begins to train others in the same way they’ve been trained. If that is not happening, you may need to re-evaluate the reproducibility of your initial discipleship system.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

1 Peter 2:2 NIV

Choosing a Short term (Initial) Discipleship Plan

There are many options available. You can also create your own plan to fit your particular context. Consider the culture and needs of those you are wanting to reach. If they are an oral culture people group, a plan that uses stories and drama may be best.

Here are a few of the most commonly used short term discipleship plans:

This is a story set that teaches seven primary commands of Jesus; Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, Make Disciples, Love, Lord’s Supper, Give. It was first developed by George Patterson, one of the fathers of church planting multiplication.

This is a series of short lessons developed by Ying Kai of T4T. They include: Salvation, Prayer, Daily Devotions, the Church, the Father, and Your Spiritual responsibility. Get an adapted version for Oral cultures of the Baby Lessons or Ying Kai’s original set here.

  • ST4T Story Set

This is a set of Bible stories that gives the new believer a basic overview of the Biblical narrative. For an excellent manual on how to craft these stories and what to include click here.

Start Here is a book of lessons for early discipleship that includes: God’s love for us, How to Pray, Jesus is the Way to God, Role of the Holy Spirit, Trusting the Bible, Our Part in the Great Commission. This is recommended by Campus Crusade.

There are other options as well. Use one that seems to fit your context well. Or develop your own. But whatever you do, keep it simple and relatively short. It should not be more than six to eight lessons.

The lessons or stories need to connect people to Jesus. They must help them understand both their responsibility as a disciple and how to grow strong in their faith.

What is your plan?

Take time this week to talk with your team or others about this. Explore the various options or begin to design a plan of your own.

If you have something you’ve been using but see that it is not immediately reproducible, take time as a team to evaluate it. What could be changed or adapted to make it simpler for new believers to immediately use as well?

I’d love to hear about your Initial Discipleship plan! Describe it in the comments below. Maybe you have other plans not mentioned above that you’d like to recommend for others to consider using. Please let us know about them below or on the DMMs Facebook group.

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