When it comes to meeting with your disciple – the actual appointment when you sit down together – there are five things that need to happen 99% of the time. Each of these five elements creates the outline or the template for each of your discipleship appointments. You do not need to dream up what to do each time you meet with your disciple or small discipleship group.
This template is consistent, predictable, and should be something your disciple not only anticipates but is able to replicate when they begin to disciple others.
Recall that discipleship is not just for your disciple – it is also for who they will turn around and disciple one day. So the very template of what to do during your weekly time together should be transferable.
Instead of winging it or fretting over it, the template of a discipleship appointment should not change. Here are the elements of a discipleship appointment, one by one!
#1 Small Talk
Small talk involves getting to know the disciple and different aspects of their life. This is an important step for task-oriented people. Make sure the person knows you care about all aspects of their life, not just the spiritual side. In small talk, you ask about their family, background, outside hobbies, etc.
This sharing back and forth about life is done at each appointment. Don’t fall into the temptation to jump over this element to get to a checklist of items. This is an important time for you to gauge how your disciple is doing. Find out what is on their heart and mind that day.
Being a task-oriented person myself, I used to have to write myself a note in my discipleship planner that said, “Lori, ask her how her day is going!”
Accountability is when we reveal real struggles and shortcomings in our lives to receive help, guidance, and support. It requires both vulnerability and authenticity. During accountability, both the discipler and disciple share about an area which is currently a struggle. Each agrees to ask each other about that area regularly. They pray for each other and encourage each other toward complete victory. The discipler should share about their struggles first to model authenticity and transparency.
Perhaps you ask your disciple to hold you accountable to memorizing scripture and not yell at your kids so often. They may ask you to hold them accountable to be more uplifting to their spouse, or in reaching out to neighbors and inviting them to church.
The content portion is where you teach them from scripture something they can eventually pass on to another. This segment consists of time in the Word, perhaps doing a Bible study together. A discipleship appointment doesn’t merely consist of meeting together to talk and catch up. It needs biblical substance. There is content involved as you are discipling a person with an end in mind. You have a destination. The goal of discipleship is for them to look more like Christ and eventually disciple others. So opening and reading the Bible together each time you meet helps accomplish this goal.
I recommend the first six weeks of content with any disciple be the foundational biblical lessons in Start Here 6 Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ.
During the appointment, spend time praying for each other and for others. Ask God to help you both apply what you’ve learned during the content portion of the appointment, for items you shared about during accountability or small talk. Always pray for lost people in your life. These are family members and friends who have yet to place their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. You may choose to write down these prayer requests so you can pray for your disciple daily until you meet again.
When you are able, try to do ministry together with your disciple. Perhaps you both meet with a new person who attended an outreach or visited your church for the first time. Let them watch and observe you as much as possible. I always want one of my disciples with me as I share the gospel with others.
One of the women I disciple and I met with a visitor to our Bible study. My disciple was able to see me get to know her and navigate our conversation into the spiritual realm by asking about her spiritual journey. Then, I was able to share my testimony of placing my faith in Christ and asked this woman if she had ever made a decision such as that. Your disciple will learn more in one hour of real ministry than telling them about it for five hours!
This final outreach part of the template will be the most challenging to make happen. So aim to do the first four on a consistent basis and do number five when you can.
Exceptions to the Template
Of course there will be times when you may need to toss this template all together. I recall heartbreaking times with the women I have discipled in the past where a family member had died, a divorce was taking place, and other devastating news. In those instances, just push pause on the template and be there for your disciple with love, listening, and spiritual guidance.
The beauty of this 5-element template is that it takes the guesswork out of planning to meet with your disciple. You can easily think through the elements, plug in what you want to teach and focus on for each element, and not feel you are winging it. Further, this helps your disciple learn what an appointment should look like when they disciple someone in the future. You are setting them up for future discipleship success.