DisciplePaths – Behind the Scenes or Out in Front?

Coaching Question:

“In your experience, is it important that we name each of our discipleship studies (boulders, rocks, pebbles) by which stage it’s in for people in the congregation to see, or is that more for our discipleship staff and team in a ‘behind the scenes’ sense?'”

Mike’s Answer:

I suspect you and I agree on this statement–the best answer is the one that will clearly and simply encourage people into growth opportunities that will move more people at each of the four stages of a disciples’ growth forward in their love for Jesus.

Using stage names publicly will only help if the majority of the congregation understands discipleship by stages because of various means of communication over months and years and recognize the titles you have given to the stages.

If that is not yet the case, then do not confuse people by putting it out there. Rather, simply describe a growth experience by what may be true for them. For example, you could say ‘If you are trying to grow in Christ and sense you need to take one step forward in growing more intimate with Christ, this group may be just what you need.’ And take more steps over coming months to help people understand discipleship by stages and what it can mean for them.

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A Framework for Focus: The Key to Getting Unstuck

One of the most important parts of my role as Communications Lead for Ascending Leaders is understanding not only what it is, exactly, that we do as an organization, but also why it’s needed. If I don’t understand the difference we make, then any communication of what we do or how we do it would be an empty vessel, words without meaning. I was drawn to Ascending Leaders because of my own passion for seeing people grow in Christ. In my ongoing quest to assimilate over a decade of work helping churches get more effective at doing just that, I’ve spent the past month researching our relationship with a few specific churches, each chosen to provide an example of churches at different—dare I say—stages of coaching. Here I’ll share the information I found most illuminating, before stating my personal understanding of the “why”.

Madison Church in Grand Rapids, MI, is crafting testimonies around the stages of faith to help people articulate their faith and understand the stages. Would you like to try your hand at it, and see what you might discover about yourself? Visit our blog for a guide on how to do just that.

A video of Mike Johnson’s “Stages of Faith” testimony is available to watch on our website or YouTube channel. Keep an eye out for more testimony videos from Ascending Leaders staff, as we continue to practice what we preach!

In Conclusion

Several key words and phrases came up repeatedly the research process: alignment, defining, assessment, measurable, outcomes, focus, perspective. The consistent theme I found was that the framework Ascending Leaders uses to help churches clarify their discipleship process takes “stuff” (and usually good but confusing stuff) and turns it into a well-defined pathway. Vital to this transformation is an outside perspective from a coach with an adaptive spirit, a common vocabulary among leadership, perseverance, a sensitivity to what God is already doing in the church, and a clearly defined and measurable desired outcome. The “why” a church might call us in to help turns out to be surprisingly simple: Do their people know where to grow? If they don’t, then they are STUCK. Coaching for clarity leads to momentum—and that means movement, or becoming unstuck.


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