Fall semester in the life of a college minister cannot be any more exciting! Welcome week, first day of class, meeting lots of new people, and having the opportunity to share Jesus among all the activities. This past semester God moved and we had several students decide to follow Christ and several who have rekindled their love for Jesus.
As we are working in our ministry to help raise up new disciples of Jesus one of the metaphors that stands out to me is a blueprint. I am not an engineer nor an architect but what is key before building is an outline—a plan of what you would like it to look like. Great architects would never start hiring crews out on a multi-million dollar project without first sitting down and carefully laying out a plan. In the same way, having a discipleship blueprint is key when ministering to the next generation.
Make the blueprint simple. Jesus encouraged children to come to him. What is so amazing about our faith is that it can be easily understood. That does not mean it is not complex and it does not mean that we can know everything about God. But it does mean that if our discipleship blueprints are extremely complicated that they are not really patterning themselves close to Jesus’s model.
Be an encourager. No one is ever doing as well as they would like, but they are also not doing as bad as they think. I was doing a discipleship meeting one day and the person sat down and told me, “Adam, I am just off. Something isn’t right in my life.” We talked through the blueprint that I use to coach our students. As we talked through it I realized the person was really doing a good job, but weren’t being given feedback in their spiritual life to know it. The only feedback they received was high praise when they were doing amazing or concern when there was sin potentially hindering spiritual growth. I think our job as ministers of the next generation is to let them know when they are doing an AMAZING job, when sin might be around the corner, and when they are doing a good job living for God.
The blueprint that we use should be self-evident. By that I mean that we should be able to sit down and talk through a situation and a person should be able to come up with their own spiritual evaluation to move forward. As a protestant, sometimes I feel like I function like an old school priest, where in order for someone to have confidence in how they are doing spiritually they need to come to me. However, the amazing thing with Jesus is that he is our High Priest and at any point we can go directly to him. Our models should reflect this self-awareness.
I have met very few college students that come in and are killing it in all areas of the discipleship blueprint. Even ones that have been in church their whole life need a good bit of coaching, but it is incredible to watch them grow into it. I am at the stage in my collegiate ministry career where I have known the seniors graduating for four years and have had the opportunity to watch them grow in Christ. The stories are countless. What God does in their lives as they mature in Christ is spectacular. It makes me thankful that God allows me to be involved in their life and that God uses us to accomplish His will on the campus.
The blueprint should include a plan for coaching. The design that our ministry uses for our student leaders is fairly simple but has done really well. They will do an interview at the beginning of the leadership year where we talk through goals and aspirations. They will do an exit interview at the end of the leadership year where we talk about how they did. We meet regularly for 30-45 minutes throughout the week. I see them on Tuesday nights for worship and usually one other time during the week for small group Bible study or a fellowship event.
Below is the blueprint the Little Rock Baptist Collegiate Ministry uses for discipleship coaching with five key areas.
Christ Centered Core:
These are things that I cannot gauge or calculate but are invaluable. They are a person’s heart that is after God and what God does in their prayer life.
(1) Sunday morning gatherings and being plugged into a local body of believers. In discipleship coaching the main question I ask to gauge growth is “Where did you go to church this Sunday and what did the pastor talk about?”
(2) Personal quiet times. Usually the church has a particular reading plan it is doing, so that is what I encourage students to do. The main coaching question I ask for this is “On a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 being one day how many quiet times were you able to do this week?”
(1) People investing in us is key to our growth as believers. This sometimes can take a little time as college students are in a place of transition. My coaching question is “As you have been praying for someone to disciple you– who has come to mind for you to ask?”
(2) Investing in others. Three key ways of investing in someone are ones that I got from John Sowers, who is known for his work in youth mentoring. Sowers says that “We want to Show Up, Live Out, Speak In.” If we show up enough in someone’s life and live out what we say we believe, then eventually that will give us the opportunity to speak truth into that person’s life.
(1) Personally sharing Jesus with others. This is one of my favorite times in any discipleship meet-up to hear this. The coaching question is “Where you are living, working and playing, who is someone in one of the areas that you would like to tell the story of Jesus to?”
2. God’s global mission. Especially in college, the time for missions is now. They have a season of time where missions are super accessible to them. The coaching question is “What is one mission trip that you are saving money for and praying to go on this calendar year?”
(1) Who are their close friends and what groups are they in outside of our ministry? Who would they have good biblical accountability with? How is the accountability happening?
(2) How much time did they spend this week with friends or groups of friends? (Needs to be a good bit of time here) and what is one thing that those friends or groups affirmed about you that is godly?
These are very simple. No rocket science involved here.
Over the last several years we have had 100+ students come through the ministry in a leadership capacity. When they apply and when we do the exit interview I ask the same question, “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being ‘Walking with God but need to improve’ and 10 being ‘Killing it! Spiritually I am on fire!’ Where would you rate yourself?”
I have seen that our leadership personally feels like they grow on average of +2 each year. Some grow way more some years. Some get worse (but those are very rare). Students that are ready to grow in God and try to cultivate a heart for Him have significant spiritual growth using these discipleship metrics.