If you make it out to a Little League baseball field this time of year, you’ll inevitably hear 11- and 12-year-olds talking about their heroes. Watch them long enough as they swing their bats and throw baseballs around, and you’ll hear comments like these:
“I want to pitch like Tim Lincecum.”
“I want to hit like Albert Pujols.”
“I want to be a great outfielder like Curtis Granderson. I want to rob home runs off the wall just like he does.”
They mimic their heroes’ batting stances, pitching windups, and leaps against the outfield fence. There is joy and devotion in the way they talk. And there is also practice, repetition, and discipline as they strive to be like their heroes. I know. I’ve been coaching Little League baseball since I was 18. Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard a parent or a player complain about one of my teams practicing too much.
My question for you is, do you practice in your young adult ministry? More specifically, does your young adult ministry practice discipleship?
Some labor under the illusion that discipleship is a class that meets every Sunday at 6 p.m., and after you finish 12 core studies, you’ve arrived as a disciple of Christ. You walk in by yourself and you walk out by yourself, with academic knowledge your primary takeaway.
Others resist the notion of doing anything that bears any resemblance to a program, preferring a random approach to making disciples. They hope something happens in the course of a small group, a Sunday School class, or a worship service that helps someone become more Christ-like than they were the week before.
However, neither approach cuts it in the 21st century. A “Great Commission” approach to discipleship requires both genuine Christian community and a high degree of intentionality.
Here are some non-negotiables for discipleship in young adult ministry:
- A commitment to study, meditate on, and memorize Scripture—both individually and in small groups of believers. You can do it strictly using the Bible or you can supplement it with solid, theologically sound Bible studies like the ones developed by Threads, Lifeway, or any other reliable Christian publisher. But this is not about purchasing books, attending groups, and consuming Bible studies. It’s about having the living Word of God take over your mind, heart, and soul. Help your young adults get on a regular Bible reading plan, help them get on a plan to memorize Scripture, and ask them to engage in regular Bible studies together.
- A commitment to pray—both individually and corporately. Do your people know how to pray? Have you taught them? This is an absolutely vital part of their growth in their faith.
- A commitment to meeting regularly in groups of three or four to discuss and pray over what God is teaching all of them through His Word, what He is doing in their lives, and the struggles and decisions they’re facing. This is not sin management. This is discipleship the way Jesus did it. You can call them accountability groups, growth groups, or mutually supportive relationships. Whatever you call them, they are essential. They are usually most effective when they are gender specific.
- A commitment to multiplying discipleship. Every person in your young adult ministry must understand they’re expected to disciple others as they become properly equipped. They don’t have the luxury of merely “being fed” without leading others to the feet of Jesus, feeding them and preparing them to disciple others.
- A commitment to a lifetime of discipleship. Discipleship doesn’t end with the completion of a 101 or 301 class or a six-month commitment to meet with another believer to study the Bible. It’s a lifetime commitment to learn how to imitate and become like our Master, Jesus Christ. We don’t stop learning and we don’t stop growing until we meet Him in heaven.
- A commitment to understanding that discipleship is not just about reading and discussing. People grow to become more like Jesus in thousands of ways, from digging wells in Liberia to supplying clean water to people who need it, from helping with recreation at VBS to serving coffee to people who visit their churches. Serving others in the name of Jesus is just as important to becoming like Him as reading about His ministry in the Gospels.
None of this is particularly easy; it’s no easier than fielding endless ground balls on a 90-degree day and having a few bad hops create several bruises on your arms and legs. But if you love baseball and dream of playing like the guys who do it at the major league level, you endure the days like that.
If you truly want to follow Jesus, to become His servant and to help others follow in His footsteps, practicing discipleship is required. Don’t leave discipleship to chance. Don’t make it a program. Make it a living, breathing part of your daily ministry. Make it a practice.