Mentoring & Discipleship: 10 tips for growing disciples

Contributed by: Luke Shaw, Diocese of Nelson

growingdisciplesSJesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Disciples are people who are captivated and changed by God’s grace and are in the process of becoming more like Christ. They encourage, love and forgive others. They are growing in knowledge of the Word; they pray, worship and fellowship hard, and are connected into the life of their church family. Disciples actively go and make other disciples.

Here are ten tips to help you grow your young disciples.

1. Relate

God is relational and he has designed us to be in relationship with him. Our first port of call once someone has made a decision for Christ is to be their biggest supporter and someone they feel is genuinely invested in who they are and who God is calling them to be. Disciples take time to grow just like the relationships that will support them, and you must earn trust before you have the right to speak into another person’s life.

2. Know their context

Make it your mission to understand your young person’s story and their culture. Discipleship is not one size fits all. Each person called by Christ is unique and specifically wired and will walk the road to being a fully fledged disciple differently. How can you tailor your methods to best suit?

3. Eat together

Eating together and catching up was Jesus’ bread and butter method for building relationship, discussing faith and hearing what was going on for his crew. It develops community with others and gives you a chance to check in and keep on the pulse of where your youth are at in their walk.

4. Walk Alongside

Jesus walked with his disciples and was a part of their everyday lives. Being present with your young people and doing things like visiting them when they are sick, attending their school production, or dropping off a cooked meal when their family has a baby, speaks volumes and demonstrates authenticity.

5. Mentor them

Youth need mentors – people who can be faith anchors and regularly check into support them and impart wisdom from experience. Parents, grandparents, blokes, business women, youth leaders, young adults and elderly parishioners can all make great mentors. Peer support works too.

6. Open the Bible together

A disciple needs to have an understanding of the big story they are a part of and be able to explain it simply. Buy them a Bible if they’re without, show them how to read it and understand it. Keep it fun. Write a list of key verses they’ll need to have a grasp of. Design a reading plan.

7. Gracefully encourage them

Being a young disciple is hard yakka. They have immense pressures facing them and can struggle when they make mistakes and fall. Obedience to Christ is born out of having a radical encounter with his grace. We obey because of what he has done and who he is for us. Discipleship that is all about rules, regulations and behaviour management can produce religiosity and obligation, rather than freedom. What does Jesus say about the topic?

8. Create space for encounter

Providing space for your youth to pray, worship and encounter God’s Spirit is essential. He is the best mentor and encourager and the one who ultimately sanctifies and shapes their lives for his glory. He knows them well.

9. Be Church

Theory alone will never cut it. Don’t just talk it up, do. Don’t teach your youth how to go to church, teach them how to be church. Put the Word into practice together, bring the gospel message alive by your actions.

10. Show the way

Never underestimate the power of an observed life. You have to be prepared to show the way and role model what a disciple looks like. If you aren’t doing it, how can you expect them to? Live it.