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The older I get, the more I realize that it is the simple things most people find the hardest to practice well. With this in mind I want to give you some very simple and practical things to consider as you are planning for your Disciple Now. You might be amazed at how a little eternal perspective can totally change how you plan and, more importantly, what the Lord might do as a result of seeking Him first.
- Begin with Prayer. This is so easily forgotten but is so vitally indispensible. Consider the viewpoint of famous preacher C.H. Spurgeon who said, “…[the] power of prayer can never be overrated. They who cannot serve God by preaching need not regret. If a man can but pray he can do anything. He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer has Heaven and earth at his disposal.” There is no obstacle that can stand in the way of the Lord working in and through you and your students and families when you start your D-Now on your knees.
- Begin with the Word. So many times I have heard about student pastors who spend more time thinking about a D-Now concept than they do in searching the scriptures. Nothing pains me more than to see God’s Word cut and pasted to fit some “awesome” D-Now theme. Start with the Word and let that drive what you do. You may not be able to stick with one text for all your sessions, but you can at least be expositional in how you handle your passages. This fidelity to God’s Word will reap benefits long after the weekend is over.
- Begin with the Community. How often do we look to the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we serve to help guide the ministry effort? The gospel is our message, but that message has to be planted in the soil of biblical community in order to grow. Let your own dependence on a small group of brothers and sisters in Christ set the example for your students and families. Let your community be your source of encouragement, accountability, and prayer.
- Begin with where You Are. Everybody likes to dream big, and there is something to be said for it, but the best place to start is where you are. Don’t try to compete with the mega-church down the road. Cast your vision big but do it within the character and framework of your people. Don’t try to do something that is incompatible with who you are as a ministry. Besides, just because it worked at First Baptist doesn’t mean that it will work at your church.
- Begin with Service. A D-Now that doesn’t engage your students and families in serving each other and the unbelievers in your area is just a party. Parties are great, but they are not life changing events that further the cause of the gospel. Get your people out of their comfort zone by rolling up their sleeves and taking on a hard task that will open doors to the gospel. This might be serving at a homeless shelter, taking food to low-income families, or doing a service project in an economically depressed neighborhood or school. You will be surprised at the many needs that are yards away from the door of your church and are waiting for you to meet them.
So before you start looking at budgets, volunteer lists, and providers of blow-up games, take a few minutes to consider the previous five steps. You might be surprised by how an eternal perspective can ensure that the effects of your D-Now last long after the fellowship hall is clean and the kids have gone home.
Curriculum Author and Editor
What a joy it has been for me to be involved in recruiting and training workers for church ministry for over twenty-five years. Ephesians 4:12 is clear as to the pastoral responsibility for those we shepherd — Pastors are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, but this can be difficult when no one is offering to help. At Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC where I serve, recruiting can be a daunting task as we need over 300 volunteers to carry out our various weekly ministries. There are seven priorities that help us at Providence, and I hope they will encourage you as well.
1. Pray. Luke 10:2 provides us with the absolute best place to start: “And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” For many, this might seem too basic, but it shouldn’t be. We pray regularly in our staff meetings for this need. We also ask those who serve with us to join us in praying this request.
2. Recruit on Vision not on Need. Most everyone desires to give their life for something that is bigger than themselves. There aren’t many people who wake up every day just to fill a time slot, yet many church leaders recruit as if all they need is someone to fill a space. Their conversation begins with “This is going to require much from you and anyone could do it.” Our work is eternal, and we are asking folks to serve the bride of Christ. God has invited mankind to play a role in his redemptive story! That is amazing! Offer people an opportunity to be involved in this eternal task by sacrificing things that are fleeting and fading for that which is eternal.
3. Ask for Help. Putting our needs in the bulletin and sending a few emails is not enough. Ask your pastor to help, go to lunch/coffee with a potential leader, and be intentional. Everyone on my staff knows that I am going to ask someone almost every day to join us in the work that we are doing. It is easy for me to do so because I believe in what I am doing and I am passionate about it.
4. Provide an Example. For the past several years, I have had the opportunity to help lead a 9th grade small group Bible study. I can’t tell you how many times people have approached me about this and told me that they are inspired by this simple example. This summer I helped Tina (my wife) at our 11:00 hour take care of babies. It is important to me that everyone on my staff is serving in some capacity in the roles that they are inviting others to perform. Jesus himself is our greatest example of this type of service.
5. Recruit Long Term. When you are first meeting with those you are considering for your team, share with them that the work requires more than a year. Obviously there are exceptions to this recommendation, but we want those to be the minority. We have six ladies at Providence that have a combined number of ministry years in our church of 139 years. Their husbands have also been serving for this length of time. I will let you do the math, but that is a long time. One thing I can tell you about each of these leaders is that they are more excited today about serving the church and the next generation than they have ever been. This should be the norm for our ministries.
6. Train Them. If you will listen to your leaders, they will tell you where they need the most help. Is it with their children? Is it in their marriages? Is it with class order and activities? Is it with helping them see the big picture of the church’s work so that your ministry doesn’t become a silo? Is it with balance in their lives? Or perhaps, they need theological training? Always remember that your training meetings are like a football huddle – Everyone needs to know what play they are running or they will loose focus. Our leaders meet once a month for training, and I am glad to say that we have a great response as our leaders value this time together and the training they receive. They feel connected and prepared to serve the Bride of Christ in the coming weeks.
7. Care. How do we show care to those we love and to the ones closest to us in life? Typically, we remember their birthdays and anniversaries, we take care of them when they are sick, and we celebrate their victories. This week I called a small child to wish them happy birthday; I sang a birthday wish on another person’s recording; I sent a text to a friend whose dad passed away on the date a year previously; I went to the hospital to see a youth who was having knee surgery (her parents are teachers in our ministry); I called and prayed with a lady whose mom wasn’t doing well (her mom passed away the following morning); an elder and I confronted a brother that we are concerned about; and Tina and I had a few guests over to our house. None of these things are really that big, but it is my hope that these small deeds in Christ’s name will show those on my team that I love them and that it is a joy to shepherd and care for them.
These seven priorities really help us stay focused on the task at hand while recruiting and shepherding our team. I hope that they will help you and your church as well. Always remember when recruiting for the next generation to perform background checks and to call references. It is an absolute joy and privilege to serve the bride of Christ and to proclaim the truth of the gospel to others. God bless you in your ministry!