In Barna’s State of Your Church report, one of the key shifts identified that churches will need to make toward renewal is, “A renewed Church needs leaders who are in tune with the flourishing of the people they are serving and discipling.” Barna has identified the areas of personal flourishing as faith, relationships, vocation, financial well-being, and (physical and mental) health.
We know that what we measure is what we give attention. Because most judicatory leadership has primarily measured church vitality by worship attendance, church leaders have concentrated on worship attendance. Consequently, much of our attention, focus, time, and budget have been allocated for worship – mostly in the building on Sunday morning. Yes, worship is important! Yet, what we have come to realize is that just because someone has sat on the pew for twenty, forty, or seventy years does not necessarily mean they have matured as a disciple.
Most churches I’ve encountered over the past decade in my consulting work lacked a pathway for discipleship. Think about that. Making disciples is our mission, our purpose for existing as a church. Yet, the majority of churches do not have an intentional process, pathway, or system for helping a seeker become a follower and a follower to become a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ. In addition, there is no correlation to the day-to-day ministries of the church to the intentionality of developing disciples, let alone disciple-making disciples. This is one of the key foundational reasons our churches are in decline. This lack of discipleship over the decades is the price we are paying for the shape the church is in today.
Now for some good news! In Barna’s research, they discovered that not only were church goers interested, but the community was interested in attending classes in the areas of personal flourishing identified above. What are your next steps?
- If you don’t have a discipleship pathway, create one. There are many resources available. Check out this guide, Phil Maynard’s resource, or Schreiner and Willard’s resource.
- Get out into your community and talk with unchurched people and community leaders. Ask them what resources they would like to see offered in the five areas of personal flourishing. Don’t assume! Inquire about locations where they would most be comfortable participating in classes and under what kind of leadership.
- Connect the information you heard from your community to the seeker steps in your discipleship pathway. Do the same for the people inside your congregation. Help them identify where they are in the discipleship pathway and offer ministries to help them take their next faithful step.
- Step out and get started! Continuously evaluate and adjust as needed.