The 7 critical questions of church discipleship strategy


When a church develops (or redevelops) its strategy for ensuring that believers become disciples who grow and multiply, there are seven broad questions that it must answer.

Without fleshing out how a church goes about answering these questions, I list them here, with subquestions. Ask yourself and your team, "Which questions have we not asked ourselves? To which questions have we assumed consensus answers that ought to be tested or made explicit?"

7 Questions of Church Discipleship Strategy

(Q1) Planners: "Who is going to be part of the envisioning enterprise?"

  • What size will the planning group be?

  • Who will lead it?

  • Will it be composed strictly of discipleship leaders or will there be participants at large or leaders from other areas?

  • How will the congregation give input and gain ownership?

  • Who stands in the margins and how will we listen to their voices?

(Q2) Process: "How do we believe people in our context become and grow as disciples?"

  • What "shape" is the typical discipleship journey—linear, spiral, branching, irregular?

  • What are the stages along the way?

  • How do people encounter the Bible at each stage?

  • What role do personal relationships play at each stage?

(Q3) Program: "What are the church's delivery vehicles for discipleship content?"

  • What role can the church meaningfully play at each stage of the discipleship journey?

  • How often do we expect people to show up somewhere?

  • How much should we deliver in person and how much digitally?

  • What programs do we have to start, stop, retool, or consolidate?

(Q4) Priorities: "How do we define what a person 'perfect in Christ' (Col. 1:28) looks like?"

  • Of all the sound doctrines, which are of supreme importance?

  • Of all the good character qualities, which are of supreme importance?

  • Of all the useful skills and habits of a disciple, which are of supreme importance?

  • To what extent are these prominent in our preaching, our learning materials, and so forth?

  • How do we make them prominent?

(Q5) Power Tools: "What handles can we give people to help them make genuine progress as disciples?"

  • What verbal handles (e.g., phrases, proverbs, parables) can we put in their minds?

  • What physical handles (e.g., evangelistic materials, reminder objects) can we put in their hands?

  • What digital handles (e.g., reading plans, study guides, apps, inspiring images) can we put on their devices?

(Q6) Promotion: "How do we communicate the discipleship vision?"

  • How do we define concentric circles of stakeholders with whom to communicate progressively?

  • How will we integrate feedback into our plan as we communicate?

  • How can we communicate the discipleship vision visually?

(Q7) Personnel: "How do we cultivate the reproducing leaders who will actualize the discipleship plan in the church?"

  • Is our ministry structure built for progressive development of leaders?

  • How do we enable servants to move from one level of leadership to the next?

  • What are the most critical skills to be acquired at each level of leadership?

  • How do we teach those skills?

  • Which individuals are likely to be the spark plugs of leadership development in our church?

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© 2020 by Cory Hartman