Just because a woman shows up to discipleship time with you does not necessarily mean she is growing spiritually. She may simply enjoy your company and is glad someone will listen to her vent about things in her life. While we want to be a kind friend, and perhaps counseling is needed, discipleship is meant for spiritual growth. So the question becomes, “What do you do when you are meeting with someone and they don’t seem to be growing spiritually? Do you break up or keep going?”
When you are meeting with a woman who does not seem to be growing spiritually, start by discerning what kind of progress you hope to see in her life.
The two goals when discipling another woman are:
1) They grow in Christlikeness over time (in words, actions, character, etc.).
2) They mature to the point of discipling another person.
Let’s address #1 first. Here is an inventory of tools at our disposal to use when we don't see the desired growth taking place.
1. The Discipler Evaluation. We can self-evaluate our personal discipleship efforts and make changes to increase the quality of our investment in others. "Does Your Discipleship Need a Tune Up? -- Part 1" addresses this.
2. The Discipleship Evaluation. We then evaluate together. Each person answers a few questions about how the discipleship time is going to see where tweaks can be made for the future. Read more about this in "Does Your Discipleship Need a Tune Up? - Part 2."
3. Grace and Truth Over Time. These are key components of discipleship. If one is missing, your efforts will stall out. Extend grace (don’t expect perfection ... be a safe person, care). Speak truth (being truthful about issues, even when uncomfortable, is part of being a discipler). Give enough time for a change. Don’t expect immediate results and look for growth over time.
4. Speak the Truth in Love. Our disciple may not know there is an issue hindering her growth if we don't tell her. See chapter 8 of Discipling Women for two helpful sample scripts.
5. Suggest Growth Ideas. Are we giving them ways to change? Are there suggestions to help them see growth or are we merely pointing out the problems? ("One idea I have for you to help in this area is _______.")
To address issue #2: When a woman is mature and not bearing fruit in the discipleship realm, meaning she is not multiplying her life by investing in another, I would ask why?
1. Does she feel she is not ready? If you feel she is ready, then perhaps she needs you to breathe some confidence in her. Perhaps you both disciple someone together to help her see she can do it.
2. Does she not have time? Help her see that pushing pause on another area (or delegating or saying no) can free up time for this valuable endeavor.
3. Other issues that could be causing a roadblock here are: Lack of desire, lack of Biblical conviction about discipleship, lack of Lordship with time, an unhealthy relationship, not feeling she would be a good example in some area, or a lack of an intimate walk with God.
There are women who don't want to multiply their lives, but love being given attention and poured into (being discipled). I tend to navigate them into a situation where they are in a small group Bible study but not getting the lion's share of my time or investment. I pray that they will come to a Biblical conviction about discipleship and multiplying their lives into others. As I pray and wait, I dive deeper with other women who are hungry to take steps of faith, share the gospel and get in the discipleship boat with others.
I recall as young discipler meeting with three women for regular discipleship. We were just about to start our second semester of discipleship when one gal nervously spoke up.
“Lori, I wish we could just talk about how we are doing during this time.”
Another gal said, “I wish the time was not so rushed.”
The other gal, “Can we talk about anything else besides the Bible sometimes?”
I was a little taken aback. Didn’t they appreciate all the time I poured into my Bible lessons with them? Did they not see how much scripture I had led them to memorize? Didn’t they appreciate the gospel training I had taught them so they could reach others for Christ?
I had thought everything was OK. I now realize how much courage it took them to speak up and suggest changes. As I evaluated my discipleship efforts later that evening, I realized how task driven my discipleship had been. Our time full of scripture memorization, check-off lists and answers to a training manual we were going through along with a Bible study.
I made numerous adjustments to my discipleship approach based on their feedback. As I grew as a discipler, our relationship deepened as friends. I began to start the time with small talk, just casually asking how they were doing. We either did the training manual or the Bible study but no longer both in the same meeting. I now knew what they were dealing with in their personal lives (not just spiritually), therefore our prayers together we much more heartfelt. I even scrapped the discipleship content one week. We made dinner together instead and I taught them one of my favorite recipes!
Your disciple may not feel the freedom to suggest changes that would enhance your time together. So why not build in a regular evaluation time, (twice a year perhaps) to have an open, honest conversation about your regular time together?
Just say, “Next week when we meet, I would love for us to talk about how our discipleship time and relationship is going. What suggestions or ideas you may have to enhance the time moving forward?” Below are some suggested questions.
Discussion Topics for Discipleship Evaluation
1. What I have enjoyed the most about our time together is ...
2. What I would like to adjust as we move forward is ...
3. Questions and topics that I hope we can cover in the future are ...
4. Other issues I would like to talk about are …
My hope is that as both of you share ideas, suggestions, thoughts and feelings about your time together, your relationship with deepen and topics perhaps you both felt awkward bringing up would be discussed.
It takes humility and character to listen, adjust and improve. When the women we are meeting with feel like they can share ideas (topics of study in the future, hurt feelings, wanting a challenge, etc.), you both grow to new depths with the Lord and each other.
P.S. I have a form pre-made for this inside my free Discipleship Starter Kit. See page 16 for Discipleship Evaluation for Both the Discipler and Disciple.
How does one evaluate the quality of their discipleship? What should be the litmus test to see if their discipleship is actually effective and results in life change and more Christ-likeness in their disciple?
As you evaluate your discipleship, you can start by thinking through the basic elements of a discipleship appointment. On a scale from 1 (being low) to 5 (being high) how well did you:
Keys to Evaluate in Growing in Your Discipleship Efforts
Small talk: This element of a discipleship appointment is important as you want your disciple to know you care about her entire life ... not just spiritual things. In this time, you gauge how she is doing and feeling. You also need to be aware of any significant aspects of her life at the time. I have been guilty of completely jumping over this element to get to Bible content, reading, memorization, etc. This did not do well as I tried to build a relationship with my disciple!
● To improve: Before the discipleship appointment, think though areas to ask her about that were brought up at the last meeting. Share about your life as well so this does not resemble an interview!
Accountability: This is where both you and your disciple share areas of your life you are wanting to improve upon. Perhaps your disciple wants to spend regular time in the Word each day but the business of life seems to crowd out the set aside time. You can commit to pray for her. Ask her how it is going while also helping her think through ways to succeed in this area.
● To improve: Share real, authentic areas of improvement needed in your life. Trust that when you share your real life and ask for help and prayer, your disciple will feel more comfortable reciprocating. Life change and transformation will then begin to happen.
Content: This is where something biblical is taught, studied, discussed and applied to life. The goal in discipleship is for your disciple to look more like Jesus as you meet with her. This takes place week after week as you take her to a passage of scripture. Study it and talk about it.
● To Improve: For the first 6 weeks, make your content "Start Here: Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ" (to ensure she understands the very basics of the Christian faith). After those lessons are complete, you can see Chapter 10 in "Discipling Women" for numerous options and ideas for content. This year, I used the One Year Bible and would choose something from that week’s reading to discuss, study and then apply to our lives. Last year, I did a study about different cults and world religions as my disciples kept asking questions in this realm.
Prayer: This is where you pray with her for anything she recently mentions in the small talk, accountability and content portion. Ensure you are praying out loud so she learns how to pray, not just about prayer.
● To improve: Don’t run out of time for this. Seeking God on her behalf, along with her, is key to her growth. Give time for her to pray out loud as well to gain confidence in her own prayer life. Lastly, don’t forget to pray for people to come to know Christ. Keep a prayer list together of people you are praying for.
The Bible is clear that God causes all the growth in a person’s life. Our role as disciplers is to be used by God as loving, encouraging, Christ-centered teachers in another woman’s life. It is always beneficial to keep in mind that time is valuable, we only have so much of it. We need to regularly evaluate our discipleship ministry. Tune ups are important given the huge task of ripe harvest fields and few workers.
"Help! I currently disciple one woman and ‘casually’ another. But making time for it with children is a challenge!”
One gal recently downloaded my free Discipleship Starter Kit and commented that her biggest obstacle was time for discipleship with kids in tow. Finding time to disciple others can be challenging during many seasons of life. Kids at home (because of age or homeschooling) can be extra challenging. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when discipling others in this stage of life.
Helpful Hints when discipling with kids at home:
Don’t try to do TOO much at this stage of life.
You may need to disciple just one woman. When I had a 1 year old and a 3 year old, the most I could do was meet once a week with one woman. Now that my kids are in elementary school, I can disciple many more. Always take into careful consideration the ages of your kids (and number of kids!). I personally did not disciple anyone when I had a newborn. I had to wait until they were on some sort of predicable schedule to know when my windows of opportunity would be.
Have them come to you.
Find a corner of your home to meet and don’t worry about cleaning and such. I find this much more doable in a busy season of life. It also cuts out drive time.
Use naps wisely.
I was able to disciple one gal per week when I had two littles. It worked out perfectly because just as my boys were going down for their afternoon naps, the local high school was getting out. She would come to me (so I was not paying a babysitter) and we would sit at my dining room table. As my kids grew, they could watch a movie, play quietly, etc. I lead a Bible study once of other moms where the kids would play upstairs and I would usually have a snack for them to eat. Their ages were similar, so it worked out.
Consider the content of your Bible study.
Consider using something in the content portion of your discipleship appointment that does not create a lot of prep work for you during the week. Maybe utilize my Bible study "Start Here Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ." It contains all the answers in the back and an easy-to-follow leaders guide (free PDF download).
Push pause when needed.
Feel free to take breaks from discipleship during Christmas holidays (when things can be crazy) and summers when school-aged kids are home more. I push pause on discipleship for these times when needed. You can always pray for each other, send encouraging text messages, etc. to bridge the gaps.
Group women together.
Consider grouping your women in one group (if you are discipling multiple at different times). Even if they are at different spiritual levels, it can work. The discussion can be rich and if one is further along spiritually, she can help the others grow. In this endeavor, she will gain valuable discipleship experience to use when she disciples others in the future. Once I had a small discipleship group consisting of a solid believer with a newborn baby, a spiritually knowledgeable sophomore in college and a new believer going through a divorce. I grouped them together as I only had time in my schedule for one meeting a week. I was a bit nervous about it but it ended up being a blast! Each week was an adventure!
Recruit kids to help.
As my boys aged, they began to help me when preparing for discipleship. They now straighten up the couch pillows, set out the snacks for both the ladies and kids, answer the door and greet the ladies by name. It’s a family affair now!
You may be wondering, "Is it worth it?"
Is it worth discipling another woman when children are young? Absolutely! As my kids have gotten older, they have witnessed me investing in other women. I have not merely taught them about discipleship and the Great Commission, but I have demonstrated it in front of them.
My greatest hope is that my children would disciple others in junior high, high school and beyond! I hope as they disciple others, they will be able to recall the times they greeted a woman at the door who needed help spiritually. I hope they remember the times they set out the snacks and the times they heard me praying and teaching others from God’s Word. I hope I am their example as other women (who had kids in tow) were my example!
Recently I ate lunch with a group of women who serve in the women’s ministry at their church. We were discussing the details of me speaking at their upcoming women’s retreat.
As I met each lady at the table, one made a mention that she had gone through my “Start Here" Bible study. After lunch, I asked her to share with me the details of how she had been connected to my book.
She went on to explain how a friend's invitation led her to church. Toward the end of the sermon, the pastor asked if anyone would like to come forward, pray and place their faith in Christ. When she heard that invitation, something stirred inside her heart. She felt the need to walk forward, pray, ask Jesus to forgive her sins and trust Him for eternal life.
Afterward, the woman who brought her to church, along with another, began to meet with her weekly using my book, "Start Here: Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ." She said, “Lori, that Bible study helped me start my walk with God. I don’t know where I’d be had those two ladies not stepped in and swooped me up!”
Consequently, her story reminded me of one of my favorite passages in scripture from Acts 17:26-27.
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
These verses teach us that:
● God created mankind. He is our creator and has an order to his creation -- it is not haphazard or by chance.
● God determined the times set for them, meaning he determined when a person would live. This means if they should be on earth now, or back in the 1800s, the 1500s, or even in the future.
● God determined the exact places they should live. He decides if a person is born here in the United States, in the Philippines, in South America, etc.
But why? Why be so careful, so exact as to when we would live and where? Well, scripture tells! So that we would seek him and reach out for him and FIND HIM.
God, knew the best set of circumstance for each individual person to come to know him personally. For me, the best set of circumstances to come to know him were: being born in 1972 here in the United States. He knew the best time for your grandparents to know him -- where they should live and in what country. The same for your ancestors and the same for your children and grandchildren in the future. He sets it up so that we are in the best possible set of circumstances for salvation and to be with him for eternity.
And so it is with the women around us.
Might it be that the women around us are here now because God knows their path will cross yours? That God knew you would be reading books and blogs about discipleship and you would catch a vision for your life being used by God to further the Great Commission?
Throughout the book of Acts, men and women are sacrificing, some even their very lives, to spread the gospel and disciple young believers. Today, you and I are carrying on that work! One by one, we are taking personal responsibility to pass on our faith and disciple others in the Christian faith.
Make your prayer today— “Lord, you have put people on earth, in my surrounding area, to cross paths with mine so I can help them come to know you and grow in you. Lord, who can I swoop in on and help today?”
“I want to disciple someone but I don’t know enough.”
“I don’t have the confidence to disciple others.”
“What if she asks me a question and I don’t know the answer.”
One of the reasons women don’t disciple others is because they mistakenly believe they don’t know enough to help another along in their spiritual journey. They feel paralyzed by the fear of not having enough information or experience spiritually to help others.
When Jesus had his public ministry on Earth, it lasted approximately three years. This means His disciples had, at the max, three years of experience and knowledge to begin to disciple others. When Jesus was in the midst of his ministry, He was already sending them out to help others (before the three year mark)!
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, ’The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Luke 10:1, 2
You could surmise that if you have been a Christ follower for at least three years, participate in Bible studies and attend church on Sunday mornings, you possess something of spiritual value to pass on to others.
Keep in mind you gain valuable knowledge and experience as you disciple others . When I was discipling others, questions would come up I did not know the answers to! Those tricky questions would push me to find the answers and thus gain knowledge.
Tips for gaining confidence in discipling women
1. Realize you will never know it ALL and this is where you can trust God will help you. He wants you to disciple others with what you have right now!
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19, 20
2. When your disciple asks a question which stumps you, say, "That is a great question! Let me do some research and I will give you the best answer next week."
3. Teach your disciple HOW you find the answers. I show my disciples where to go to find answers to their questions. Great resources are:
After a person places their faith in Christ, they then begin a lifelong journey of spiritual growth and maturity. As a person learns more about God and His Word, and spends time in prayer and fellowship with other believers, they grow in Christlikeness.
Not only is this process lifelong, but it can often be up and down, forward and backward. It can even side to side! But take heart … over time, the big picture of our lives should be one of spiritual growth and maturity. I like what Paul says in Galatians 4:15, that he feels like he is, “In the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you …” He was desperate for these young, new believers in Galatia to grow and mature in their new walk with God.
The above diagram shows six steps along the Pathway to Christian Growth. Understanding each step can greatly help a person know where they are at today. More importantly, it helps understand how to continue to grow for the future.
1. The Pre-Believer
This is how a person is born, without the Spirit of God in their lives.
1 Corinthians 2:14 — “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God …”
Ephesians 2:11 — “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
How to Help to Move Forward:This person needs God to grant them repentance, lead them to the truth, and help them come to their senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). Also helpful would be a solid Christian witness in their life shining the light of Christ and sharing the gospel.
2. Questioning Seeker
This person is questioning. What happens after death? How the world come to be? Is Jesus real? Can I trust the Bible? God is revealing Himself to them through creation.
Romans 1:19-20 — “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
How to Help to Move Forward:This person needs to be born again spiritually (John 3:7). A Christ follower in their path is certainly helpful to give a clear explanation of the gospel and an opportunity to respond in faith (John 14:6).
3. New Christian
This person has repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christ (not in good works or being a good person) for salvation and eternity in heaven with God. They are born again and saved. The Bible calls them infants in Christ or a ‘babe’ in Christ.
Romans 10:9 — “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 — “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
1 Corinthians 3:1 — “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly — mere infants in Christ.”
How to Help to Move Forward:Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17). A mature believer is also helpful in guiding and disciplining while helping them plug into a Bible-based local church.
4. Growing Christian
This person is no longer an infant in Christ but a ‘spiritual man’ growing in their ability to resist temptation. They are yielding to the Holy Spirit and also bearing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives on an increasing basis.
1 Corinthians 2:15 — “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.”
Galatians 5:22-23 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to be discipled and to ask for and accept opportunities for growth. This includes participating in missions, volunteering with a ministry and learning about their specific spiritual gifts.
5. Leading Christian
This person walks with God, studies the Bible consistently and is an example to others. They are a leader in the church and ministries. They are often the ones people go to for advice, prayer and wisdom in different aspects of life. This person is likely a discipler, a Bible study leader, a ministry worker.
1 Timothy 4:12, 13 — ” Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
2 Timothy 2:15 — ” Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to guard against pride. More people are seeking their wisdom and they move into more positions of leadership. They need to remain teachable and focus their time on what they are uniquely gifted and created to do. They need to seek accountability and fellowship.
6. Great Commission Christian
This person lives with an eternal mindset and strives to layup treasure in heaven. They purposefully seeks opportunities to share their faith in Christ and disciples others. They seek to multiply their life with their finances, time and talents.
Matthew 28:18-20 — “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Hebrews 12:1-3 — “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to continue the basics of spending time with God in both prayer and Bible study. They should not let Christian busyness rob them of intimate time with God. They should continue to trust God for new chapters in their walk with Him. Furthermore, they should seek to take fresh steps of faith.
A Few Reminders: The pathway to Christian growth can be bumpy with a twists and turns and the feeling of taking two steps forward and one back! But the overall picture should be one of growth and maturity over time.
As you look at the Pathway picture above … where would you say you are at currently? Where would you like to grow and mature? The good news is that where you are this moment is not as important as where you are going!
A great place to start your pathway to Christian growth is with my Bible study - Start Here Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ. These 6 lessons can help you (or women you are discipling) grow and mature and be a tool in God’s hands to help others in the future!
If you would like a copy of this Pathway diagram in a full-page view please email me at Lori@LoriJoinerMinistries.org and I will gladly send.
Questions? Please reach out to me at lorijoinerministries.org.
In Part 1 of the “Speaking the Truth in Love” series, we talked about five elements to keep in mind when confronting your disciple about a particular issue that may be hindering her growth in Christ. In this installment, we will look at some sample scripts I have used, along with advice when NOT to confront.
Begin this challenging conversation on a positive note. Share with her something you are proud of her for and affirm her in some specific way. You could tell her you’re proud of a recent step of faith she took, her readiness to learn, or of the single act of bringing a spiritually lost friend to church. Then segue into the truth, always speaking in love.
“Since we’ve begun meeting for discipleship and getting to know each other, there’s something I’ve noticed that I wanted to bring to your attention. It’s hard for me to bring this up because I care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. However, because I’m committed to your growth in every area of life, I didn’t want to put off talking about this with you. Over the past _____________ (time period) I’ve noticed that you ____________ (fill in the blank).”
Not only do you want to share the truth in love, but you also need to genuinely help them change for the better.
I remember talking with a disciple, Cheryl, about the critical way she spoke to others. I reminded her of a recent incident in which we brainstormed for an upcoming event. At one point she replied to another woman’s comment with “That’s a stupid idea.”
I gently explained that in the future she could suggest a different idea or say nothing at all. It is not enough to just tell them the truth; help them make the necessary changes. Remember to be specific as you talk. Whatever the issue is, it will be a challenging conversation. But skirting around the real issue won’t help her. It will likely confuse her more.
Knowing when to address an issue and when to keep quiet will take some experience. This list below can help you know when NOT to say anything.
Do not confront a person unless:
Being confronted with blind spots in my life has helped me grow and mature, as well as minister to others more effectively. This is a necessary part of discipleship relationships — or any friendships, for that matter. Don’t put off talking with someone and speaking the truth in love. They’ll thank you for it later, just as I have thanked those who have pointed out my blind spots over the years!
If you desire more information on this topic as well as other scripts to use please see my book Discipling Women. You can find it at: LoriJoinerMinistries.org.
I was on a summer-long mission trip in the Middle East when Linda, one of the project directors and my summer ministry partner, approached me.
“Lori, there are a few things I’d like to talk to you about,” Linda said.
“Sure,” I said.
“Lori, you’ve been so fun to partner with on this trip. Your boldness for Christ and flexible personality are great assets to our team.”
“Thanks!” I said, feeling proud of myself.
“I have noticed a few things, though that I wanted to bring to your attention and talk about this afternoon,” Linda continued. “When we all get together at night and talk about our day, you have a habit of interrupting when someone else is talking. And often you talk about yourself and things you have done without really listening to others and asking about their lives.”
Whoa! I was not expecting that.
Linda talked with me at length over this. I was quite upset, even though everything she said was true! I later wrote in my journal and asked God to help me become more “others centered” and less “me centered.” That conversation with Linda has had a significant impact on my life and ministry. Being able to focus on others, rather than being self-consumed, has helped me be a better discipler and friend.
I am certain it was not easy for Linda to talk to me about what she’d observed. I know this from experience. When I’ve needed to confront women about issues in their lives, it’s always been hard for me. It takes a step of faith and involves risk.
Below are a few fundamental items you need to grasp before you confront a disciple or friend about an issue.
Years later, I saw Linda at a conference and thanked her profusely for having the guts to talk to me about my blind spots. Her talking with me that day many years ago was a gift that has helped me more than she could comprehend.
In part two, I will share some sample scripts I have used when speaking the truth in love, along with advice on when NOT to confront. If you want this information now, see chapter 8 in my book Discipling Women. You can find it at LoriJoinerMinistries.org.
In Part 1 of this series, we explored how being plugged into a church and being teachable are two characteristics of a maturing disciple ready to disciple another. In this part, I discuss with you being both reliable and outreach oriented.
Unreliable vs. Reliable
Unreliable –“Something came up, I won’t be able to meet for our discipleship appointment today.” When this is happening more often than not with your disciple, she is not ready to disciple another woman. While she has good intentions, she may be in a stage of life where she is not able to commit. She may be undisciplined in time management or simply are not ready to prioritize discipleship in her schedule. If she can’t keep a commitment to you, she may struggle to keep it with one she disciples in the future.
Reliable — A maturing disciple says, “I’ll be there a few minutes early, looking forward to our time!” She looks at her schedule, sees where her discipleship time is and plans around it. She takes responsibility, strives not to show up late and comes prepared. This woman is a person you can rely on. She has made growing in Christ a priority and guards the time the best she can. You can bet that when she disciples another woman, she will be there. She will be prepared to meet with, love on and invest in her!
Not Outreach Oriented vs. Outreach Oriented
Not Outreach Oriented — “I don’t think I need to talk to people about God. They know I’m a Christian and they can ask me if they have questions.” While we don’t want to be a pushy salesman about Christ, there are people who are too shy to ask. As a leader, we take the initiative to share the Good News about forgiveness of sins in Christ and the love of God. Just as God did not wait on us but sent His son to die for us, we also take the initiative to share about our faith in Him. While certainly some are not as outgoing as others, there there is a difference between a shy personality and a staunch unwillingness to reach out.
Outreach Oriented — “I invited Carol to grab coffee next week. I was telling her about my faith in Christ and we ended up talking so long that we had to schedule another time to get together!” A maturing disciple looks for opportunities to share her faith. She invites a woman to a Christian gathering such as church or Bible study. She has prepared a short synopsis of her personal testimony about how Christ has changed her life. While it is normal to feel nervous when talking to others about Jesus, a mature disciple prays to be used by God to reach others. She actively looks for opportunities to show care in the name of Christ.
If you are discipling a woman with one of these issues … or even think YOU need to tighten these areas up in your own life … take heart! We are all a work in progress and today is a new day to seek the Lord for change. My book Discipling Women explores these topics and others, as well as how to talk to your disciple about this and move her, and you, forward.
When a woman you are discipling begins to disciple another woman herself, it is such a thrill! So knowing when to challenge your disciple to begin investing in another woman is key. Two necessary milestones your disciple needs to have in place are a concrete placement of faith in Christ and a season of growth in Christ. Once you are sure of those two items, you can begin to assess other areas as well. I address two of them below.
Not Plugged in vs. Plugged into a Church
Not plugged in — “We don’t attend church regularly.” While there can be many reasons for this — business, tiredness, traveling — when a woman is not plugged into a local church, she is not ready to disciple another. Baptism, tithing, worship, Biblical teaching, Christian fellowship, serving and the Lord’s Supper are all done best with other Christ followers. Therefore, your disciple needs this piece in place before she begins investing in others.
Plugged in — The maturing disciple is a faithful part of a local church. She has gone past merely attending and is actively involved, serving and worshiping with others. She is tithing, giving, fellowshipping and using her gifts in the Body of Christ. When this woman disciples another down the road, she can invite that woman to church. This models an important part of a believer’s life.
Not Teachable vs. Teachable
Not teachable — “That’s just the way I am.” When you bring up situations you have observed over time in the life of your disciple which need attention and she exclaims “That’s just the way I am,” and refuses to make any (even small) adjustments, she is not ready to disciple another. When a woman takes offense to correction instead of being thankful for your help, honesty and love, she is just not ready.
Teachable — A maturing disciple says, “Help me be ready to disciple another. Show me my blind spots.” She is at least willing to hear you out on a situation and, even if at first they are hurt, will come back around and say, “Thank you! I needed to hear that.” A woman who is humble and teachable is in the perfect place to disciple. She will seek you and the Lord for help in making a lasting impact in the life of another!
If after reading this you are saying to yourself, “HELP! I am discipling this person,” or “Help, I am this person,” take heart. We are all in process and there is always room for growth.
In a future post, I will share how to have a conversation with your disciple about needed changes that can help her be ready to disciple others in the future. I call this Speaking the Truth in Love. If you want the info now, please order my book “Discipling Women.” I have an entire chapter on this subject along with scripts you can use to get the conversation rolling.
Here for You, Lori
Many women are confused when it comes to the initial content they should use with the woman they want to disciple — and for good reason. With so many great resources available, clicks online or a trip to a Christian book store can be option overload! You may wonder, “Should I teach about prayer, the Holy Spirit, or heaven/hell first? Should I start with temptation, spiritual warfare, creation, fruit of the Spirit, grace, parables?” All are great topics — but where should we start with our disciple?
I have discipled women of all ages and stages in their walk with God for over 20 years, and I ALWAYS start with the same 6 foundational lessons no matter what! If my disciple is a new believer in Christ — the same 6 lessons; if my disciple is a woman I met at church — the same 6 lessons; if my disciple is unsure where she is on her spiritual journey — the same 6 lessons. I use the SAME foundational lessons.
Listed below are those 6 foundational topics for each believer. I use these with EACH person I disciple (even if they have been a Christian for a long time). I hope each woman I disciple will eventually pass on these same foundational lessons to their future disciples who may be brand new believers (and thus need these foundational lessons).
I taught these 6 lessons so many times that I authored a 6-week Bible study book based on them. I titled the book … drum roll please … Start Here Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ.
Each chapter explores a topic and includes relevant scriptures. It discusses questions, pitfalls to that topic, and offers additional reading and space to journal and reflect on how the new knowledge should apply to a woman’s life. Each chapter also contains a glossary of commonly used Christian words and answers for common questions as well. These chapters are fabulous for one-on-one discipleship and small discipleship groups.
You can order your copy of Start Here Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ here.
Why not order two — one for you and one for your disciple? Even if you haven’t started yet, get ready, as now you now know what to do
For me, discipling others is a way of life-and it can be that for you too! Whether you work in an office, are a stay-at-home mom, or a student who wants to invest your college years in others, discipling people along the way is a fantastic and meaningful way to live.
I look for opportunities to share my faith in Christ and disciple others in the areas I am already plugged into. I see each area as a mission field with discipleship opportunities just waiting to happen. One place I am plugged into is the gym where I participate in group fitness classes. I figure if I’m going to spend time working on my health, I want to have it count for eternity as well. So each time I go to the gym I try to remember the names of people I’ve met so I can greet them later. I start up conversations by reading people’s T-shirts and inquiring about them. I smile, say “Good morning,” hold the door open, and take note when they have not been there in a while.
A woman in my fitness class mentioned her mom was very ill. I prayed for her mom on my own and then asked about how her mom was doing the next time I saw her. Another woman told me she wouldn’t be at the gym for a while because she was going to have a surgery. I asked to pray with her to have a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. An employee of the gym approached me one day and asked if I could recommend a good church because, as she put it, “It’s time for me to get on track.” I later follow up with these women for another conversation over coffee. These are fun meetings where I see how things are going and at some point I ask about their spiritual life, invite them to church, or invite them to be a part of my Start Here discipleship group.
This same mindset can be applied any group you are plugged into-the moms in your children’s play group, the other students on your volleyball team, your neighbors, your tennis league, your office coworkers, etc, etc. If there is a coffee shop you frequent, get to know the employees and learn their names. A few years ago I got to know Sherlyn, the young girl who always fixed my hot chocolate at a nearby coffee shop. I made a habit of greeting her and making small talk with her. Over time we became friends. One morning I asked if she’d like to come to church with me. She not only came, but also rededicated her life to Christ. Later, she ended up meeting her husband at my church, and now they’re both full-time missionaries!
To see the Lord working at my gym, coffee shop, and neighborhood, and using me as His vessel in the process is a thrill. Telling others about Christ and walking alongside them as they grow in their relationship with God can be simply who we are. A lifestyle that overflows from our heart.
How about you? Take stock of the areas where you are already plugged in. Ask the Lord to help you see opportunities to share Christ and disciple women in those areas. Then step out in faith and be His instrument in someone’s life. When you meet together, consider asking them to do Start Here Bible study. It is just six lessons and can really help them build a solid foundation in Christ. I took out all the guesswork and put all the answers in the back of the book! So go for it! Order yours here.
I have made cookies with my two boys since they were really little. Our favorite recipe to make together is oatmeal chocolate chip with extra chocolate chips thrown in … basically a big chocolate chip with a few bits of oatmeal! Recently, we were making these cookies, and a great opportunity to lay groundwork in their hearts about people was unexpectedly presented. I needed two eggs, and I happened to have one white egg and one brown.
“Look, boys. These eggs are different colors. But when I crack them in the bowl, they are the same inside. The yolk is yellow, and the clear runny part is the same for both eggs, but the shell is a different color for both. People are like that. God made people with different shades of skin — some are darker and some lighter. But on the inside we are all the same — a brain, a heart, and the ability to think and make choices.”
I am teaching my boys what Martin Luther King, Jr. said when he hoped his children would, “Not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
It’s what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Moreover, Paul states in the Book of Acts, “From one man, He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.”
Here Paul was speaking to the Athenians, a Greek people who prided themselves on being racially superior to all other people. Paul told them here that they, like all other people, had descended from one source: Adam. Therefore, this fact excluded the possibility of the essential superiority of any race.*
My boys will one day face the temptation to have an “us versus them” mentality. I don’t know in what form it will come. Perhaps a person at school will repeat a hate-filled comment about an entire people group based on skin color (or eye shape, or accent, etc.). My boys consequently have the choice to go along and agree or disagree and speak the truth.
The truth is that, similar to an egg, our outsides may look different, but on the inside we are the same. Made from the same Creator with the ability to choose right from wrong, to love and care, to speak or be silent.
As I strive to raise my sons in a Christian home, I teach them not treat someone any different simply based on the color of their skin. Skin color is obviously different and is acknowledged as such. But I teach them to treat people the way Christ would no matter the differences — to love and care for people as brothers and sisters in Him.
While this, of course, is not the whole of my teaching to them on this subject, as young children, this is one of my first layers. My hope, my prayer, is that the groundwork of eggs helps them to know the truth and further speak the truth when needed.
What ideas do you have? I would love to hear how you teach your children about love and acceptance of all people. I await your answers! Until then, I will have some of those oatmeal (extra) chocolate chip cookies!
*Dr. Constable’s Notes, authored by Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Acts 17:26
Wanting to disciple a woman but not knowing who to disciple can be a quandary for many women. They have the knowledge, the heart and the time. But where is the woman for them to pour into?
This does not have to be elusive. Below are some real examples from my ministry this past year of how I started a discipleship relationship with a few ladies.
1) Gym friend: I got to know a gal at my gym as we had worked out in the same classes for years, and we had several side conversations. After she told me about a particularly hard time in her life I said, “I was wondering if you would like to meet more regularly this spring to study the Bible together. I use the book Start Here; it has 6 foundational lessons, and I think you would be encouraged and learn more about a personal relationship with God.” We met that spring, studied each lesson together and prayed. She not only learned about God, but placed her faith in Jesus Christ as well.
2) Mom on swim team: My boys were on a year-round swim team, and I got to know another mom as we would chat during practice times. As we began to talk about where we went to church and a bit about our spiritual journeys, she confided that she had placed her faith in Christ years before but had not been discipled. I knew in my heart she would greatly benefit from having a woman in her life helping to grow her faith in Christ. I said, “This fall I will be discipling two other ladies in my home each week for about an hour, and I would love for you to be a part.” She agreed to come a few weeks later. Since starting she has said, “This group is exactly what I needed.”
3) Mom from school: On the playground one day, my son invited his friend from school to church. So I contacted his mom and asked if he could come. That Sunday not only did the boy attend our church, but his mom came as well. She decided to join our church and be baptized shortly thereafter. I said, “I would love to meet with you weekly to help you grow and deepen in your relationship with God. This summer I am gathering a few ladies in my home each week. The kids can play upstairs while me meet and study the Bible. Would you like to come?” Not only did she plug in, but she is now able to teach her children about the Lord from what she is learning.
4) Parking lot friend: A friend saw me dressed up the other day in the parking lot. I had come from a ministry luncheon, and she commented on my looking so fancy! I mentioned where I had been and that I regularly meet with women to help them spiritually. She said, “I need to meet with you; I need help.” I said, “I would love that! I have a small discipleship group starting in January I would love to invite you to be a part of. In the meantime we can get together to talk more—just you and me.”
Finding a woman to disciple is a matter of prayer and keeping your antenna up. I pray each day, “Lord, please use my life to help others. Please cross my path with those who need Your love and guidance today. I want to be a tool in Your hand to love on others.” Then I keep my eyes and ears open to His leading and step out in faith to invite women to learn and grow.
P.S. Once you do connect with a woman to disciple-download my free e-book The Discipleship Starter Kit on my home page! Let me know how it goes-I would LOVE to help!
It’s the number one hindrance facing women when it comes to discipling other women. I don’t have time. They don’t have time. Who has the time?
I surveyed 100 women formally—and countless others in casual conversations—over my 20 years in women’s ministry to discover their biggest roadblock to pouring their life into another woman spiritually. Time was the #1 answer. I get it. As a mom of two elementary boys with a full schedule of speaking engagements, writing deadlines, and running a ministry, the sheer thought of trying to line my schedule up with somebody else’s is almost impossible…Almost.
I want to help you! I love discipling women, and I know first-hand the challenges to make it work in numerous phases of life. Here are some of the ways I have found time over the years:
College years: Late afternoons I discipled women in my residence hall, typically in my dorm room. I kept a small fridge of cold soft drinks. When we added a sweet treat and our Bibles, we were good to go!
Single years: After college and before I married at the age of 34, I was able to use evenings to disciple women. One dear friend and I met for two years at a local restaurant on Tuesday nights for discipleship. We had a corner booth and were on a first-name basis with the wait staff!
Baby years: Newborn baby haze, when you don’t even know what day it is—let alone where your Bible is—can be challenging for discipleship. However, once your baby is on some sort of schedule it becomes much easier to find windows of opportunity. I used one nap time per week to disciple a gal from a local high school. It turned out that when my son was going down for his afternoon nap, she was getting out of school.
School years: This is the phase I am currently in. I start a small discipleship group this Friday afternoon with some women I know from the gym. I am so excited to disciple them and challenge them to share what they learn with other women this year! I’ll be done with this discipleship group in time to get the boys off the bus! Perfection!!!
Empty nesters: I know a dear woman who is the grandmother of 14. She is busy with church obligations and is a phenomenal help to her large family. However, she still leads a small group of women spiritually—encouraging them with God’s Word as they face life’s twists and turns.
I hope these ideas help spark hope that you can find time in your day to get in the boat with another woman and help her spiritually. I would LOVE to hear where YOU find time to disciple women. Where do you meet? When? What stage of life are you in? I’ll compile a list of answers and share!
P.S. I took all the guess work out of what to do in your first eight weeks discipling another woman. Download my free e-book, The Discipleship Starter Kit, from my website (www.LoriJoinerMinistries.org) and see my eight-week daily calendar of what to do to get started!
Walking to the bus stop to greet my first grader, my four year old and I chatted about his day. I recalled to him how friendly he was at the gym that day and what a good memory he had when recalling names of people he knew there. He has a real knack for making friends and has an extremely outgoing personality. As we walked hand in hand I helped him make the connection to how God made him. “You have a special gift. God has given you a gift in remembering names and being an outgoing friendly person. I believe God will use that gift of yours as you grow-perhaps you will be able to make another person feel welcome when they are new, you will be able to invite them to play or to church and one day I believe God will use your special gifts to lead people to a relationship with Him.”
Ok, so to keep it real I am not sure how much of that he could grasp-he was after all wearing a super hero cape, hand-me-down Buzz Lightyear boots and wanting me to let go so he could go soaring down the sidewalk. But I am starting now, to help make the simple connection from the gifts and talents my children have to how God can and will use those for His glory and His kingdom.
How about you? Do you have a really creative one-a child that just blows you away with their ideas, inventions, creations? Do you have a child that is a kind-hearted soul that nurtures animals, friends, with hugs and care? Do you have a child that can work wonders with tricky math problems and has an incredible numbers sense? Or how about a dreamer-a wild imagination is what the world needs-God has placed that imagination there-perhaps your child with her imagination will picture the world without poverty and that plan, that dream will become a reality. Make the connection. We are born with gifts and abilities and a destiny. Who we are from our hair color to our eyes to our personality is not by chance-it is by design. I want to help my children see that their personal make-up is not a chance but an opportunity to live and shine for Him.
Parents-how do you do this with your children? Do you have teenagers, grown kids? Please teach me what this looks like and how to make the connection as my children (4ys and 6ys) get older.
“I remember the first day I threw up,” Allison told me. “I was on a Girl Scout camping trip and felt I had eaten too much. Just that week I had watched a Baywatch episode where the star of the show, played by Pamela Anderson, was being confronted with her eating disorder. There was a detailed scene showing her character throwing up her food by sticking her fingers down her throat. So I excused myself to the bathroom and tried to do what I had just seen on television — throw up by putting my fingers down my throat. It worked, and so began my six-year battle with bulimia. “In high school, I began to date Justin. ‘Awful’ is the only way to describe him accurately. He wanted me to be super-skinny and encouraged me to do anything to stay thin, even if it meant throwing up my food. He would say things like, ‘You are so beautiful and skinny.’ Struggling with low self- esteem, I did my best to please him and stay thin by continually throwing up my food. It became more than just something I did every once in a while; I was now bingeing and purging three or four times a day.”
Upon returning from a date, Allison would grab an entire box of Raisin Bran and milk. “Any food taken with milk or Coke would always make the throwing-up part a lot easier,” Allison continued. “I would binge on Raisin Bran, milk, and Coke, and then purge it after every date I went on. I just couldn’t cope with how he treated me. I felt used and worthless, and bingeing was my solace.
Allison had become accustomed to her dry mouth, aching throat, and what she calls “chipmunk cheeks.” “My face and cheeks were so swollen from the trauma of throwing up all day that it literally looked like I had something stuck in my cheeks,” she said. “Even now, I cannot look at pictures from those years. It’s just too painful.” When Allison’s hair began falling out in chunks, she realized the extent of her addiction. She approached her mom with the news of her problem, and her mom responded simply, “Just don’t do that.” Allison was reaching out for help, but still felt stuck. No longer trying to hide her secret, she would walk into a bathroom, even with three other girls in the next room, and purge her entire dinner.There are many reasons women struggle with eating disorders, including a need for control, a distorted body image, media propaganda and fear. Eating disorders are complex. The roots of these issues often have nothing to do with food at all. If someone you disciple has an eating disorder, Discipling Women will help you understand the warning signs, the different types of disorders, and how to walk through the healing process.
Whether speaking, training, or discipling, Lori brings a passion to see women raised up to be all they can be in the Lord, teaching to women of all ages on a wide variety of topics. She currently makes her home in Katy, TX, with her husband Alan and two young children Josh and Jake.