Excerpt from Worth No Less by Jason Thompson
The Rooted curriculum is not a magical cure. There are other excellent discipleship curriculums that might work just as well. Here are some reasons Rooted worked so effectively for us:
We had complete buy-in from top to bottom.
Instead of the traditional sign-up sheets and online registration, as if Rooted was simply another event, we made it the class that mattered. We talked it up for six months—from the stage, in our emails and newsletters, and in our personal conversations. By the time we launched, we had created excitement and anticipation. And it was all we offered. We shut down all other Bible studies, life groups, and special events. We responded to every request to get more involved or get connected with the same response: Sign up for Rooted. Sometimes ministries compete with one another for resources and member participation. But for Rooted, we formed a unified front and implored everyone to join one of these discipleship groups. Well over half of our regularly attending adults accepted the invitation and completed the journey. Discipleship can’t be one of many options; it has to be the priority.
We established a clear process for training and developing believers.
Churches are notoriously bad about training leaders. If you show a little willingness to volunteer and a little potential to lead, we plug you in. We could not afford to do that with this program. So, our staff went through the Rooted process first. Next, our potential discipleship group leaders worked through the Rooted process. We hosted an intensive two-hour training, walking them through how to lead each week. Once we launched the groups, we prayed for each group leader by name and followed up with each leader at least once a week. Churches are fond of talking about “Next Steps”, which usually consist of step 1–get saved, step 2–get baptized, step 3–join the church, and step 4–join a small group. If pushing people in this direction is the beginning and end of your church’s discipleship process, it’s unlikely that you will produce many disciples. Our church wasn’t. By providing a clear direction for how we planned to build disciples and then equipping leaders to facilitate the process, we changed the culture at our church.
We provided common ground and a firm foundation.
Most churches are made up of people from different religious experiences and backgrounds. Too often, churches assume people understand more than they do. The discipleship program helped us identify areas where people needed more information or assistance in understanding.
Several members who had been Christians for years, even decades, shared they never understood who the Holy Spirit was or what purpose He served. Lifelong Christians had never been baptized. Many members had no familiarity with breaking the bonds of spiritual strongholds. Respected leaders admitted they struggled with tithing. Christ-like men and women came to see God in a different light and develop new life-changing habits.
Our church taught the importance of the Holy Spirit and baptism, but like many churches, we assumed most people knew what we were talking about, and we failed to provide an opportunity for back-and-forth discussion on the topics.
This process put all of our participants on the same page, unifying us and creating a firm foundation. It’s a starting point. Now we are working on the second level of discipleship training with five separate classes, one for each of the five disciplines we feel Christ fostered in His disciples. Bible study. Prayer. Worship. Evangelism. Leadership. These won’t be lecture classes. They will be life application classes where we send people out to practice and live out the model Christ has provided in these areas.
We need to expect more from ourselves and our churches. No follower of Christ should rest until they have found someone or some church to disciple them, and no church should rest until they have an effective plan in place to disciple members. To be effective, a discipleship plan must involve actively living and serving with fellow believers and daily application of spiritual disciplines.
Most church attenders are immersed in the world. They are bombarded by worldly perspectives in what they watch, what they read, where they work, and who they hang out with. We break free from the world and grow in Christ when we change our habits. We must immerse ourselves in the Word, in prayer, in worship, and in Christ-centered community. True discipleship involves opening up our hearts, our homes, and our schedules to others. Unless we disciple our people with intentionality and love, the way Jesus did, we will always feel like something is missing. We are meant to be fully-formed followers of Christ, and healthy discipleship is the way to get there.
Jason Thompson is a teacher, pastor, and author living in Simpsonville, SC. He graduated from North Greenville University on a soccer scholarship and received a Masters’s in Teaching from Converse College. Jason has been working in full-time ministry since 2011. He is currently the Teaching and Discipleship Pastor at Renovation Church in Simpsonville, SC. Jason spends most of his working hours teaching, developing curriculum, and overseeing small groups and discipleship programs. In 2021, Bold Vision Books released Jason’s first book called Worth No Less, which is a book on discipleship and finding our value in Christ and His Church.