- You, as a shepherd/leader, are not ready for DC.
- Your flock/people may not be ready for it (yet).
You may not share our vision of ministry and discipleship. If your focus is on large group settings, then the small group setting of DC would be a distraction from your goals. If you prefer a passive model where participants mostly listen to a leader/teacher, then the heavy participation of DC’ers led by a facilitator will not be attractive. If you think that people will not do any work outside of your meetings with them, then you will not imagine that the five hours of prep in DC would work for your flock.
It’s tempting to focus on “the show” and to pay a lot of attention to numbers. But the upside-down ministry of Jesus was mostly about pouring His life into the lives of relatively few people. He certainly spoke to the crowds at times. But the bulk of His time was spent with the 3 and the 12. There were also the 70, the 120, and the 500. And enough competent disciple-making “infrastructure” was in place that the early church could easily accommodate instantaneous growth of 3,000 in Acts.
DC requires a big investment in time by the co-leaders and by the DC’ers. In the meantime, you’d have to say “no” to many other (good) opportunities. Is it worth it to make a long-term investment in your people—so that the ministry of your church will bear much fruit? Perhaps you already have plenty of strong lay-leaders and passionate volunteers. If not—and if you find yourself constantly putting out fires and repeatedly beating the bushes (or begging the same few people) for help—then this investment is probably worth your while.
OK, but this length of time—21 months?! Yes, discipleship and disciple-making take a lot of time. You’re not going to get what you want from a three-hour training or a six week study. Discipleship requires effort, a strategic approach, living life together (in a small group), and being able to handle the Word of God. Whether you embrace DC or not, you know that disciple-making requires time, disciplines, and intentionality.
The second potential problem is that it’s tempting for ministers to keep (too much) control. If you empower people to become disciple-makers, you’ll have to trust them and Holy Spirit to do the work of your church and the Kingdom. You may find that easy; some will find it difficult. The good news is that you can turn your energies to shepherding your leaders, pouring into them as they pour their lives into others.
Or more immediately, you may not have time to run DC yourself. Fine! Do you have competent staff members or lay-leaders who can do it? Can they run the group while you shepherd them? Or maybe you could do it, but your gifts and passions are elsewhere—for example, in evangelism. Fine! Tap the people around you who have a passion for disciple-making and trust them and the Lord to do great things through DC or whatever program you choose.
You might agree with our goals; you might like our curriculum; you might be excited to imagine such a transformative process. But you may not think that you have enough people who are ready for DC—at least, not yet. In some cases, you may have people who are ready spiritually, but not in a stage of life where they can commit right now. There are three other key possibilities.
First, you have people who can do DC, but you’d be surprised to learn that. You may be underestimating what people are willing and even eager to do.
Second, you might have people who can do DC, but you’re not in a position to discern who’s ready and who’s not.
Third, you may not have anybody who has built up sufficient discipline to do DC. You can deal with the first by simply asking people. You can deal with the second by prayerfully asking and hoping that you pick the right people and avoid a lot of attrition. But you can deal with all three by developing/offering a range of short-term studies—to
stimulate interest, to build discipline and spiritual muscles, and to see what people are willing to do.
We frequently talk with ministers at churches where discipleship looks like a monthly breakfast and a quarterly service project. Or they offer Bible studies, but most participants sit there passively. Or they offer studies of Christian books, but the reading is light and/or optional. In those cases, making the leap to DC—with its expectations of 5 hours of “homework”—will be difficult.
What to do? In particular, we’d recommend offering some meatier short-term studies—for many reasons. (Here are some suggestions.) First, it will whet the appetite of some people. Second, it will give you a better idea about who’s ready. Third, it will give them a better idea about whether they’re ready. With that in hand, then you’re ready to give DC a good shot.
There are two big barriers to discipleship. First, how do you get people to move from large group to small group—from anonymity and passivity to transparency, relationship, and participation? Second, how do you get people to do something outside of the group meeting—e.g., to read a book or study the Bible on their own? The best way to deal with these barriers is to cast vision from the front and to offer a range of studies—from lighter to heavier, from shorter to longer—with DC as a capstone.