Recording Discipling Moments: Organic & Formal
All discipling (“helping others become more like Jesus by…”) falls into two basic categories.
As leaders spend time with students outside of a small-group or other structured spiritual context, they may have the opportunity to guide conversations and experiences towards spiritual things. These conversations, plus leaders’ attitudes and actions, all provide potential discipling moments.
Though it may sound counter-intuitive, organic discipling only happens if leaders are prepared for the possibility. You can plan for organic discipling by honing these skills:
Be a good conversation starter.
Have good conversation-starting questions ready, always, everywhere.
Some students are quiet, cautious, and don’t believe an adult would be interested in what they have to say. Prove them wrong.
Don’t give up if your first question flops. Students are too often on the receiving end of someone who “gave up.” Don’t be one of them.
Be a good listener.
Take careful note of everything they say.
Do not plan a response while they are talking. Just listen.
Ask relevant and engaging follow-up questions to keep the conversation going.
Be on the lookout for moments when a follow-up question could make a natural turn towards faith, truth, doubt, God, and following Jesus.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Note where you are, who else is present, and what’s happening.
Be on the lookout for ways you could naturally and safely serve or help someone.
Model natural and enthusiastic service and kindness.
As leaders spend time with students in a planned spiritual context (such as Campaigners, or a small group, or a one-on-one) and engage in a planned experience (whether worship, service, or study), they intentionally guide both conversations and experiences to a place of learning and growth.
Though it may sound counter-intuitive, formal discipling is often most powerful when it feels organic. But in order for formal discipling to feel truly organic, it must be carefully planned and skillfully executed. In the case of a small group Bible study, these steps will help you prepare for organically styled discipling:
Know the Bible passage inside, outside, upside down.
Make it the focus of your personal daily Bible reading for the week prior.
Read what comes before and after it — an entire chapter at least, and the full book if possible.
Read what wise teachers and theologians have said about it. Free online commentaries abound.
Serve the meal (the specific passage of your planned reading and discussion) but be sure it is grounded in solid nutrition (the overarching doctrinal truths that shape and inform the passage).
Lead students towards truth by way of guided discovery.
Telling students “what the Bible means” is not the goal (though you should have studied this for yourself and should feel confident about your own knowledge, and you should make sure the conversation doesn’t lead down a road of untruth).
Use guided questions related to observation and understanding (e.g. “Why do you think Jesus said that to the women?” or “What do you think the woman expected Jesus to say?”) rather than factual questions (e.g. “What did Jesus say to the woman?”)
Teach students how to notice things before asking them what they noticed.
Be flexibly focused.
Welcome questions and doubts, counting them as opportunities for increased understanding and growth.
Be ready with your own observations based on your personal study, but allow for students to observe something unexpected and (sometimes) far more profound.
Do not force the passage towards “personal application.” Sometimes the most profound result and most appropriate response to scripture is simply having spent time in God’s Word, immersed in His written revelation, listening to the voice of God meet us there. There does not always need to be an immediate follow-up action step. Demanding scripture to function in this way is to reduce it to a behavioral handbook.
Between both organic and formal discipling, it’s safe to say that any time a leader is with a student, there is the opportunity for discipleship (living my own life in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus) and discipling (guiding, encouraging, and helping another person live their life in pursuit of becoming more like Jesus).
Written by Crystal Kirgiss (email@example.com)