Updated: May 6, 2019
When my wife Amy and I were traveling throughout the USA and sharing the gospel we came into a small town where I was invited to gather regularly with men for a study of God's Word on Thursday evenings. Over the next few months, I began to develop relationships with each of the men within this group. It was beyond just getting together and studying the Bible. There was something much deeper. I did not realize it, but this was to become my first lived out example of being an intentional discipler.
When I look back on this experience, I see 5 basic principles about discipleship that seem to surface. When you become intentional in your pursuit of Christ, encouraging others to do the same, think about these before you begin. Setting expectations and providing a shared vision for your time together will help you to move forward together.
Principle #1: Meeting time and location should be scheduled.
Discipleship is something that is done together and therefore should be planned out together. Not only does this help in the scheduling process, but it also allows all parties involved to feel valued and important. When we gathered for men's study each week, we didn't just study. We scheduled a time in which we each brought some food to share and then we spent time just doing life together and sharing about what was going on in our lives. One guy named Kyle, he always cooked the same thing, pizza from the corner gas station and always greeted us with a welcoming smile. The consistency of our relationship allowed us to build trust and kept us in the loop of one another's lives.
Not only did it help us to be scheduled, it also helped our families to know that every week we would be at the same place. For many wives I am sure they looked forward to the break. lol
Principle #2: Plan the duration of time you will meet together.
It is important tot understand that times and calendar obligations can change as life often does. For this reason, it is important to not only decide when you will meet, but for how long you will meet as well. Honoring these commitments not only helps you stay focused on the purpose of these opportunities but shows one another that they are valued. By setting a start and end to each meeting and also the duration of the discipleship relationship you allow for an assessment of progress. In determining the duration of times that you will get together a deadline or goal mindset is incorporated and therefore each session will have more focus and intentionality.
Inevitably, life throws in a curve ball every now and then and sometimes the relationship can no longer continue in the same capacity. In our case, the Lord called us to continue traveling. In my opinion, the best way is to start short and extend as is beneficial. However, if schedules change or the mentoring is not proving beneficial, this provides a natural end to a regular meeting time. It does not mean that the relationship ends, just that the consistency of times together may decrease. I find this principle to be one of the most important to discuss early on in order to prevent hurt feelings or unrealized expectations.
Principle #3: Plan what you will study.
Deciding what you will go over and study each time together so that both parties are prepared is very important. Maybe it is a chapter of a particular book or discussion of certain questions for accountability. Having something to help guide your conversations is highly recommended. It's just too easy to simply “catch up” and discuss life without every going deeper and knowing God in more intimately.
Principle #4: Initiate social times together.
Mentorship and discipleship are far more than just study times though. It is about doing life together. I would regularly get together with men outside of our weekly meetings. Building these friendships allowed us to be more open, vulnerable, and real during our discipleship times. These were times when we built our friendship informally that blessed our more intentional times together.
If you are only meeting once a month and rarely see one another outside of your time together, it may prove difficult to develop an open and honest relationship that is productive for spiritual growth.
Principle #5: Pray for one another.
I find prayer to be one of the most important aspects of any mentoring relationship. Each time you meet together, make sure to each share ways you can pray for one another. It is helpful for the mentor to share his or her prayer requests, as well as those of the mentee. Understanding that mature Christians still struggle and have prayer needs is an important lesson for those they are mentoring. It allows the younger believer to enter into and hear the struggles of their mentor. Being open and honest before the person you mentor may be the very thing she needs to allow her to open up with you in deeper ways.
One of the most intimidating things about entering into a mentoring relationship is the fear of failure. Openly communicating about expectations and considering these principles can help to begin a relationship that will bless both participants. This type of discipleship builds the church in powerful ways. Be encouraged – mentoring relationships are worth the time, energy, effort and thoughtfulness you put into them.