Did it happen again?
You were sure this time would be different.
This new disciple (or disciple making group) looked like a perfect fit. Not only did you have fun together, but he was so hungry to learn and grow.
You were both excited.
Every time you met there was so much to discuss. He brought questions from his time in the Word. You had vision for how to help him grow. You were so excited to invest your life because you knew how it transformed you when someone discipled you. But now, well now, it’s just different.
Now the conversations revolve around family, hobbies, and current events. At times, they are stilted and surfacy. He’s not been as consistent as he used to be. First it was a work conflict, then he thought he was coming down with something, not long after he forgot to put it on his calendar. He always has a reason.
Looking back you don’t know what happened or where to go from here.
In this situation, disciple makers almost always blame the disciple. However, rapid FAT loss can usually be traced back to the disciple maker. This is a difficult reality to face.
All disciple makers need to know how to handle a disciple making relationship that’s lost its momentum. It happens to everyone! Here’s how to handle it when it happens to you.
First, look in the mirror.
Even though it’s tempting to assume the problem is with the disciple, it’s often a response to the disciple maker. Since the disciple maker is always responsible for the environment of the disciple making relationship, the first question the disciple maker needs to ask herself is, “Have I created an environment where the disciple feels loved and accepted?” If not, expect problems because people thrive in environments where they are loved and accepted for who they are.
This is true of old and young, male and female, rich and poor. This doesn’t mean the disciple maker accepts all behaviors or choices, but she does need to see and accept the person for who they are, where they are. Jesus did this masterfully with the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, and the dozing disciples of Gethsemane.
Again, the disciple maker is always responsible for the disciple making culture.
Healthy disciple making relationships have an environment that promotes healthy growth. The disciple is seen for who she is—and loved. The disciple maker pushes the disciple and challenges, but she also pulls that disciple into a relationship that is full of love and support.
Second go back to the start.
The second question a disciple maker should ask himself is, “Did I set clear expectations for the disciple?” When a disciple maker doesn’t clearly set expectations for the disciple making relationship, problems should be expected. Expectations should be developed collaboratively through dialogue and revisited whenever issues arise. Remember though, these set a framework for relating, not to hammer people who don’t live up to them. Revisit them as a way to reconfirm the common goals that you both started moving toward.
Discipling without clear expectations makes it nearly impossible to assess a disciple making relationship. Without a commonly held standard of what we are doing both the disciple and the disciple maker engage with unspoken expectations. As these expectations are unmet energy for the relationship wanes which then impacts engagement.
Finally use a tool to ask focused questions.
The questions we ask communicate the values we have. Just consider the difference in asking your six-year old, “Did you have fun at school today,” versus “Who did you help at school today.”
The tool I use for this stage is the Vision-Heart-Skill (VHS) tool. This tool is effective to investigate what needs attention. For instance, using VHS you could ask the following questions of both yourself and the disciple:
Vision: How do I fit into what God is doing?
“What part has God asked you to play in His Kingdom?
“What is your why for disciple making?”
“Why are we meeting?”
“Where do you want to be six months/ one year from now?”
Heart: WHY do I care? (Heart for People)
“Am I / Is the disciple prepared?”
“Am I / is the disciple consistent?”
“Am I / is the disciple excited about what we’re doing?”
“Am I / is the disciple praying towards multiplication?”
“Who is the disciple praying for?”
“What is the disciple hungry to learn / grow in?”
Skill: HOW do I do it? (People stop asking for curriculum when they feel equipped)
“What specific skills have I given? What skills has the disciple owned?”
“What skills does the disciple need? What skills is she asking for?
“What skills am I passing on? What skills is he passing on?
Thankfully, we can often feel the difference between a disciple making relationship that’s healthy and one that’s not. A healthy discipling relationship carries an energy that encourages both the discipler and the discipled. It pours out energy that multiplies fruit and three dimensional momentum.
When you find yourself in a disciple making relationship that’s lost momentum, don’t worry! Most disciple makers have found themselves in a discipling relationship has gone awry. Mature disciple makers learn why it happened and get back on track.
You too, can get back on track; just remember to assume responsibility by looking in the mirror, return to the start, and then ask good questions to understand what adjustments need to be made.
This post originally appeared at: How to Assess a Broken Disciple Making Relationship — Justin G. Gravitt (justingravitt.com)