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An 'operating system' for making disciples

Seeking True Discipleship

One Friday morning, the lead pastor of a young, thriving church sits at Chick-fil-a with his men’s group. As he looks around the table, he notices two things: 1) only half the guys in his group are present, and 2) of the ones there, only half came prepared. And this is the Lead Pastor’s group! His conclusion: “If this is our primary discipleship process, we’re in trouble.”

It’s a common sentiment I hear from church leaders. What they’re doing is working. They’re growing … more people, more events, more money, more groups … but they struggle where many churches struggle … helping their people become all-in leaders and disciple-makers, not just disciples.

What these churches need isn’t a whole new model when it comes to discipleship and community, but they might need an updated operating system.

Think about it this way: every year, Apple comes out with a new version of the iPhone and a new operating system. Most Apple users don’t get a brand-new phone every year, but they do update their current phone to the new operating system. Why? Because it improves the performance of their phone and all their apps.

Radical Mentoring is an operating system for making disciples. 

Ok, great, but what does that mean? What does this new operating system “do?” What new features and improvements will it bring to my church? Here are four ways small group mentoring can “upgrade” your current discipleship process:

1. Safe space for vulnerability. Having everyone share their full, no-holding-back faith story, starting with the mentor, creates a safe space for vulnerability and accountability that puts relationship ahead of content. This empowers the group to go further, faster and leads to conversations that matter. 

2. Authentic community. By focusing on stories, mentoring groups create an environment for people to be real, encourage each other, and drive relationships deep. Of the 450+ people surveyed after their mentoring season, 95% said they experienced authentic community in their group, and 88% described their group’s relationships as “very deep” or “deep.” 

3. More capable leaders. Every church needs more leaders, and they need the leaders they have to grow. Spending intentional time covering important topics under the guidance of a mentor will increase anyone’s leadership capacity. And it allows churches to identify people who never felt able or qualified to lead, give them assurance that they can, and mobilize them into service.

4. Increased intentionality. When our involvement is optional, when we can go or not go, take it or leave it, then our hearts won’t be in it. In a mentoring group, mentees have to apply and then sign a covenant, saying they’ll show up on time, every time, having read a book and completed their homework assignments. This level of intentionality leads to growth and change and will spill over into other aspects of a mentee’s life.

Small group mentoring works best as an extension of your current discipleship model. The people who graduate from a mentoring group have spent nine to twelve months learning from an older, wiser mentor and developing deep, authentic relationships with a group of people. They not only become better spouses, parents, friends, and Jesus-followers, they go back into their small groups, Bible studies, and church-wide events and improve the quality of these activities, bringing the authenticity and intentionality they learned during their mentoring season.

The lead pastor I mentioned at the top? Small group mentoring has become the foundation of their church’s discipleship process. Here’s how they look at it now…

101: Events – periodic events (i.e., men’s hike, women’s gathering, etc.) aimed to inspire people and encourage them to take the next step and serve or get into a group.

201: LifeGroups – weekly small groups aimed to help people “learn about God, pray, eat, laugh, and share life” with others in their church community

301: Mentoring Groups – high commitment groups that meet for 3 hours, once a month, for 9 months, aimed to “yield a deeper walk with God and a biblical perspective on many aspects of life” under the guidance of older, wiser co-mentors.

That same pastor had this to say about how it’s worked, “Radical Mentoring is the best thing we have done because it is helping us make more mature followers of Christ…it gives people tools to be lifelong disciple-makers.”

We’ve seen this work at churches of all shapes and sizes, and we’d love to help you explore how small group mentoring can enhance your church’s discipleship system. And the best part, our entire resource library is available to you for free. When you go here to get access, you’ll receive everything you need to launch Radical Mentoring groups for men or Known Collective groups for women, including our coaching and guidance. Learn more here.


Originally Published at ChurchAnswers.com

Kevin Harris is the President of Radical Mentoring, a non-profit focused on encouraging and equipping churches and mentors to use Jesus-style relational mentoring to create environments for people to be real and develop authentic relationships.

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