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.
Discipleship with Kids in Tow!
"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!
Swooping in to Disciple
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?”
Speaking the Truth in Love Pt. I
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.
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.