Recently, my pastor began the Sunday morning message with this statement:
“I am best discipled through my eyes.”
It was a powerful statement that led me to wonder: How am I best discipled? How is each person in my family best discipled? How are the ministry volunteers I lead best discipled? What about the kids in my high school and middle school — how are they best discipled?
As ministers of the gospel — whether in a staff position or as a volunteer leader — it’s very important that we consider the many varied ways that individuals and groups are best discipled.
As in all things, Jesus is our model for this. When we look carefully at His life, we see that He had deep wisdom and discernment on how to disciple each person He encountered.
The bleeding woman was discipled best through touch ✋ (Matthew 9:20-22).
Peter was discipled best in the simple, routine context of his everyday vocational life of fishing 🚣♂️ (Luke 5:5-11).
The Samaritan woman was discipled best simply by being acknowledged, spoken to and heard 👂 (Luke 4:17-26).
Jesus knew how to specifically disciple individual people by doing a few very basic things: being with them, listening to them, and asking them questions. In other words, Jesus’ individualized discipling strategies didn’t depend on His divine power or knowledge, but rather grew out of His intentional and relational humanity. We can, and must, follow that example.
We must pay attention to how people learn.
We must pay attention to how they interact and engage with others.
We must pay attention to how they process experiences and information.
And we must pay attention to all the different ways that Jesus discipled the individual people He was with. He used sight, taste, touch, sound, tangibles, and more.
We must also pay attention to the different ways that Jesus discipled the large groups of people around Him.
The 5,000 were discipled best through the taste and sharing of a meal 🍞 (Matthew 6:1-10).
Jesus often discipled His closest friends by telling stories and parables. ❓
And He discipled the religious leaders — through a powerfully nuanced challenge — by drawing in the sand ☝️ (John 8:1-8).
As we disciple a growing diverse population of kids — different ages, different cultures, different abilities, different interests, different backgrounds, different family structures and more — are we considering all the different ways individual kids need to be discipled? Are we getting to know individual kids deeply enough that we can tailor our method, style, conversation and interaction to meet them in a way that effectively engages both their heart and mind?
Jesus’ life and ministry makes it clear that we are called to do just that. Now it’s up to us to know our kids (and leaders, as the case may be) well enough to disciple and lead them in a way that best connects with and serves them on their path to becoming more like Jesus.