Tag Archives: discipleship

paul martin connects coaching and real discipleship

i just returned home from nashville, where i had the 5th of 6 meetings with my youth ministry coaching program cohort that meets there. such an amazing group of youth workers, and we had an amazing time together.

recently, YMCP grad paul martin riffed on the connection between coaching and discipleship on his blog. i really loved the post — not only because he affirms me and YMCP, but because i hadn’t really thought of YMCP as discipleship before. but, in many ways, it is. here’s what paul wrote:

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Mark Oestreicher’s Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). As an graduate, I have posted and talked to church leaders and youth pastors about the many benefits of coaching. If you’ve never heard of it, definitely go check it out. There isn’t a better opportunity for new and old youth workers out there.

I’m not writing because of the benefits of coaching programs. This is about the church. Simply, the church has failed in doing its primary function of making disciples. It reminds me of the beginnings of organizations like Young Life. If the church were doing what it should have been doing to help teenagers in the first place, there wouldn’t have been any need for Young Life. Likewise, if the church were discipling young people (and old people too) into coworkers in their communities, coaching wouldn’t be needed.

The church downgraded discipleship into a system of education. It now has measurable outcomes based on life stages and spiritual maturity. This removed it’s mission replacing it with the mindset of a factory foreman. I said in another post that the church had castrated itself. I wish that were true. At least then this mindset would have died, and the church could have been reborn. Instead, the church has courted people through one-off prayers of conversion leading to an epidemic of illegitimate children. It’s shameful.

There are many cures needed to help the church steer out of the mess it has made. Coaching is the best I’ve seen. It’s hard, glorious, slow, painful, redeeming, Biblical and proven. Why would any church seeing the constant failures of the current system hesitate to make use of a coaching program? It’s way cheaper and less time consuming than seminary. On the other end of the spectrum, it infinitely more effective than small groups, conferences or, as in the case of most leadership development in churches, nothing. This is a no brainer.

cohorts are now forming for the fall of 2012, with plans for san diego, nashville, and three other cities. click here for more info.

the 10 commandments of discipleship

my friend paul martin is one of the smartest, most thoughtful youth workers you’ve never heard of. part of the reason you’ve never heard of him is that he doesn’t self-promote or jockey for exposure. paul had a blog that was really worth reading; but he shut it down and started a new one recently in an effort to focus his content more specifically on discipleship and youth ministry. he’s an outside-the-box thinker who is seriously worth following.

his new blog is ‘being ministry‘.

here’s a taste of why i’m pimping him here — paul’s post called ‘my ten commandments of discipleship‘:

My guidelines and promises to myself in discipling others:

1. Thou shalt not bring thy own stuff into the relationship and make everything about you – So many times I see people do this and do it myself. Something the person I am discipling says triggers something I remember about my own life. It’s OK to share a story, but this can get out of hand quickly.

2. Thou shalt come prepared – Arrive early, having prayed, spiritually nourished and emotionally stable. Everyone has bad weeks, but that should be the occasional occurrence, not the norm

3. Thou shalt wait – Don’t come into the meeting with lots to say before you even make eye contact. Things may have changed since the last meeting, or you might just need to listen. Don’t arrive with your guns ready.

4. Thou shalt not wait – Don’t be afraid to jump into a situation that needs clarity, needs interrupting, or needs your help. You have been invited into that if you are in a discipleship relationship. Don’t flinch.

5. Thou shalt not make this into therapy – Discipleship, though it may look like it at times, is not therapy. The only counselor that should show up is God’s counsel.

6. Thou shalt not call out every problem you see – Often there are lots of issues going on all at once. It’s like golf, you can’t focus on your grip, your stance, the position of your arm, your backswing, your head, your eye contact, and the many other minutia at the same time. Don’t over burden disciples with all that they need to work on. Give them one thing, or two.

7. Thou shalt not condemn when you don’t see the progress you wished for – It’s not fair or helpful to show too much disappointment in someone’s working through their problems. They know they didn’t measure up this week. They need safety and support, and they came to you for it.

8. Thou shalt not micro-manage – Too many suggested solutions create co-dependance and enabling behavior. It feels good to be needed, but don’t cave to giving all the solutions. Let your disciple start coming up with their own solutions.

9. Thou shalt always challenge AND affirm – One of these is completely ineffective without the other. Both need to be present for a consistent movement forward.

10. Thou shalt have faith in God to do the work you can’t – You can’t make the real changes. Those are God’s realm. Be faithful to what you are called to. Don’t try to be God, and don’t take credit for God’s work. Just be faithful.

Q&A on Discipleship, Missions, & the Evolution of Youth Ministry

the fine people at the adventures in missions youth worker blog asked if i would do a Q&A on discipleship, missions, and the evolution of youth ministry; and i happily complied. click here for the whole post.

here are the first two questions and the answers i gave:

Q: What has changed about the way youth workers (yourself and in general) disciple students over your career in youth ministry?

There’s been a healthy shift away from a one-size-fits-all mentality. We were really into creating “discipleship programs” that offered one path, one option, when I was a young youth worker. Of course, there’s many still pursuing this route. But, my thinking is (and the thinking of lots of youth workers these days) that a mono-optional “program”-driven approach isn’t honoring to either the disciple or to God. It’s not honoring to the disciple because it only allows for one kind of disciple, the kind that is naturally wired for the expectations and path of the program or approach. And it’s not honoring to God because it denies, at its core, the gorgeous diversity of God creation as seen in the body of Christ.

The move toward mentoring as a key theme in many youth ministry discussions is a reflection of this shift. the old approach was to programmatic; the new (and, really, super-old, in that it’s the way Jesus discipled!) is relational. The old was all about “do this”, while the new (super-old) is all about “follow me.”

Q: What’s the same?

Teenagers are living in a different world, to be sure. But they’re still teenagers, and they’re still dealing with all the developmental realities of a post-pubescent awakening. They’re still wrestling with core questions of Identity, Autonomy, and Affinity (or Belonging). All of these necessarily play into any discussions about teenage discipleship, since they were and are central to the everyday experience of all teenagers (whether they’re aware of these issues or not). Another way to say this: teenagers are still wrestling with who they are (identity), they’re still wrestling with how they’re unique and to what extent they can influence the world around themselves (autonomy), and they’re still wrestling with the question of to whom and where they belong (affinity). All of these are deeply discipleship questions, at the end of the day. Or, at least, they should be!

the remaining questions were:

Q: What’s the best “how-to” discipleship advice you’ve ever received?

Q: What’s one trend in youth ministry today that you disagree with (or want to change)?

Q: Why are (or why aren’t) mission trips good for building students’ character? How high of a priority should they be in youth ministry?

but you’ll have to click through to see my responses.

hello, my name is randomness; nice to meet you

adventures in missions has launched a new blog for youth workers. particularly, the blog (with posts from various aim staff, as well as a handful of youth workers), focuses on discipleship, and how short-term missions can play a role in that. good stuff. i encourage you to check it out. i’ve added it to my blog reader.


Lord Jesus Christ suffers minor injuries in downtown Northampton crosswalk mishap

[the police] said officers checked Christ’s identification at the scene and confirmed it was his legal name.

(ht to scott miller)


entire wedding party falls into a lake — no one thought about the dock not being made for that many people!


a totally hilarious espn column about an extremely strange “sport”: the sauna world championships. seriously, give yourself a 3 minute break and read it. you’ll be refreshed.


andy martin’s wonderfully weird and strangely beautiful little bit of musical animation…

Dry Fish from Andy Martin on Vimeo.

(and here’s a “making of” bit)

Q&A on discipleship

i was asked to respond to a series of questions for an article in our spanish youth ministry magazine: lider juvenil. the questions are on youth discipleship. you can see from my answers that i struggled with some of the wording! but, here are the questions and my responses:

When youth ministry talks about “discipleship”, what are we talking about precisely?

Jesus instructed his followers to “go and make disciples.” He didn’t say “go and make converts” (we seem to regularly forget this). A disciple is simply a follower. So, when we talk about discipleship, we’re talking about helping youth become followers of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t just mean a one-time decision. Being a “disciple” of Jesus means living a radical, counter-cultural lifestyle that imitates Christ: a life of grace and love, of caring for the poor, of being passionate about justice, of being people of integrity and humility. Wow! Can you imagine what it would be like to have a whole youth group full of teenagers who fit that description?

What is the difference between discipling an adolescent and discipling an adult?

In one sense, there’s no difference. We all need to be encouraged to bring our lives into alignment with the values, teachings, and life of Christ. But, certainly, adolescents have some differences from adults.

First, teenagers are less likely than adults to choose a path of discipleship on their own, without an adult mentor to help them learn what this looks like. The brains of teenagers are still forming, and the most under-developed part, called the “frontal lobe”, is the part that’s responsible for things like speculation, decision making, priorities, and thinking about implications. This is the stuff of discipleship! So, we need to come alongside teenagers and help them think about implications of following Jesus. As we help them with this, they’ll become more accustomed to using this part of their brains.

Second, the good news is that teenagers are notoriously passionate. You might say they are hard-wired for passion. This is very different than most adults. When a teenager really connects his or her life with the selfless life of Jesus, they are often willing to really give themselves to it. In other words, teenagers can engage in discipleship in a way that will radicalize their own lives, as well as their friends, their families, and their churches.

Why is it that churches do not focus on discipling adolescents, considering that it is in this stage that character is formed in a holistic way?

Great question! I think there are a couple reasons churches falter in this area.

First, churches often think of adolescents as “pre-adults”. In doing so, they downplay the role of teenagers in the body of Christ. People often think of teenagers as “the church of tomorrow.” There’s some truth to this, of course. But we need our churches to re-align their thinking on this, and consider teenagers as “the church of today!”

Second, i think many churches just don’t understand the developmental reality of the spiritual opportunity that exists with youth ministry. Young people are making decisions about who they are and who they want to become that will impact them for the rest of their lives. When we understand this, we come to a place where we put more emphasis, more resources, more time and energy into youth ministry.

There are groups that have a diferent vision of discipleship. Some call them emergent churches, where there isn’t a classic “structure”, but instead kids are reached through diferent strategies. What do you think about this? Is it efficient?

A “classic” structure of discipleship has – i think – erred in the direction of utilizing a banking model. The idea is: if we cram kids full of enough Bible information, they will become disciples. This approach to discipleship assumes that information leads to transformation. But this is usually not the case. Yes, an understanding of biblical truth is important. But if it’s not lived out, then what use is it?

The emerging church is difficult to describe. But one thing emerging churches seem to have in common is a desire to “live in the way of Jesus.” This embodies a fancy word: praxis. Praxis is the combination of reflection and action. In the context of discipleship, a praxis approach means that we help followers of Jesus (teenagers, in this case) learn to live like Jesus; and, then, we do theological reflection in that context.

No, it’s not efficient. But i don’t think efficiency is a value of the Kingdom of God!

What are the steps to develop an effective discipleship with adolescents?

I’m not a big fan of “steps”, to be honest. I think that implies that discipleship will look the same in my context as it does in yours. And that is not the case. Discipleship is not formulaic.

Look at the “steps” Jesus provides:
• To the rich young ruler, Jesus says, “Sell all you have and give to the poor.”
• To the woman at the well, Jesus says, “Go, and sin no more.”
• To the disciples, Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”

In other words, Jesus clearly didn’t think discipleship was a formula either. He was responsive to the differnet context for each person he encountered.

So, if i were to offer “steps”, i would say this:
• Get to know the teenagers in your ministry
• Get to know Jesus
• Live in the way of Jesus yourself, so you become a living labratory for your own reflection, and for your teenagers to observe
• Exercise prayerful discernment, with your teenagers, about what an approach to discipleship should look like in your context.
• Try something. Live a life of faith in action together.

From your perspective as director of YS and one of the speakers at the Spanish Conventions, are there diferent issues regarding discipleship among latinamerican kids and northamerican kids?

Well, yes, in the sense that there are different issues regarding discipleship for any one youth group in comparison to any other youth group.

I do think there are some contextual differences that we could generalize become northamerican kids that present different hurdles to discipleship:
• North America is an extremely individualistic culture. This is a problem, when it comes to discipleship, because discipleship should be a communal experience, not just a solo activity.
• North America is an extremly materialistic culture. Our kids have a lot of “stuff”, and (remember what Jesus said to the rich young ruler?) stuff often gets in the way of discipleship.
• North America is often (but not always) a very driven culture. Kids are expected, often by their parents, to excel in sports and other activities, in addition to school (so they can “get a good job someday”). And this often gets in the way of discipleship.

One hurdle I’ve observed in Latin America, that seems to be a bit less of a challenge in North America, is that asking questions and expressing doubts are often seen as threats, or seen as a sign of spiritual weakness. But asking questions and processing doubts are an important part of the discipleship process. We have to make it safe for kids to wrestle honestly with real life, and with their deepest thoughts, ideas, concerns, questions, and fears.

If you could express in a few words what is the ABC of successful discipleship for adolescentes, what would you say?

Ah, we’re back to “steps” again.

While i’m not a big fan of that wording, i’ll say this: The ABC of successful discipleship for adolescents is engaging them in Kingdom living.