Nearly every pastor of an evangelical church looks for ways to “make disciples”. It is one thing to have a mission statement that declares “discipleship” as the means of growing the church; the “how” of discipleship is much more complicated.
Some churches establish very detailed classroom environments with set days of the week where they share plenty of scripture and often times a component of teaching. Perhaps the participants interact around that scripture as well. However, some of the most effective churches in “making disciples” (based on the level of participation in all areas of the church’s life) have embraced the model where almost everything happens in a small group.
A better way to say it is that discipleship becomes the main responsibility of the small group leader, who is trained and equipped to help grow his or her participants into disciples while carefully addressing their personal needs along the way. Take a look at Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church for more on how he has built a congregation of 90% participation in small groups with 8,000 attendees!
There’s no real magic formula to this however; it is very achievable if it becomes the highest priority of the lead pastor and his team.
In the end, people come to understand what matters the most to you by what you expect of them. If you make the commitment “easy,” that is where they will land. If you challenge them, you may thin your crowds for a season but in the end you will build much stronger and more committed disciples.
I can think of no better way to make disciples than in community.