You can't ignore individual disciples as part of discipleship!

Disciples and Discipleship: The Importance of One-on-One Time


When people think about disciples and discipleship, they typically picture small groups of people meeting together. And while group time is an essential part of discipleship, it is important to remember the value of one-on-one time. 

In this article, we’ll explore the importance and value of meeting with individual “disciples” as part of the discipleship process. We’ll also highlight a few different methods for meeting with group members one-on-one, and finally suggest some different conversations that would be ideal in a one-on-one environment. 

Remember, you don’t want to ignore individual disciples as part of discipleship!

Let’s get started.

Disciples and Discipleship: Why One-on-One Time is Important

There are a number of reasons why one-on-one time is an important aspect of discipling and discipleship. Here are just a few:

Quality Time deepens relationships: Spending time with group members is a great way to deepen your relationship with those individuals. By carving out intentional, one-on-one time you can show the other person that you value him or her, create deeper levels of trust, and strengthen the relationship. 

One-on-one time creates a safe place for sharing: While some group members may be an open book, others will need a very safe place before sharing intimate details of their life. When people have trauma in their past, sin struggles in their hearts, or difficult relationships in their life it can be really hard to speak up. Although discipleship groups should be smaller, they may still be too big for someone who is nervous to share what is really going on in their life. Meeting with these individuals in a one-on-one environment will give them a safer place to share what’s going on in his or her life.

Learn more about their story: We encourage every group member to share their spiritual journey in the beginning of discipleship groups, and these are a great start! There is only so much time, however, during each group meeting. If 6 members meet for 1.5 hours, that’s only 15 minutes (on average) for each person to share. Meeting with 1 person gives them so much more time to share their story, giving you insights into their lives and providing an opportunity to show an interest in their lives and gain a deeper understanding for their  spiritual, emotional, and even physical health.

2 women share coffee and stories - disciples and discipleship

Intentional investment time: Each individual will have unique needs, desires, and hopes. One-on-one time provides discipleship leaders with an opportunity to pursue the heart in a deeper way, and then intentionally invest in their individual needs and goals. It also provides plenty of space for equipping people on things like studying God’s Word, evangelism, and more.

Accountability and encouragement: Accountability can be a healthy and helpful part of discipleship, and is sometimes most effective in a one-on-one environment. Many people are more defensive when others are present, but more willing to listen when spoken to in private. Accountability is not just about pointing out sin, of course, we also want to provide encouragement and celebrate growth!

Time for prayer: Praying for your people is vital for disciples and discipleship. As we’ve already seen, people are more willing to share and have more time to share what’s really going on in their lives when meeting one-on-one. This provides more opportunity to learn about the specific needs of a group member, more space for actual prayer, and more opportunities to follow-up with those prayer issues.

Discipleship is meant to be life-on-life: We truly believe that the best type of discipleship is life-on-life, and it’s hard to truly be life-on-life when you never meet each other in a one-on-one space. These one-on-one meetings provide you an opportunity to model Christian living, and don’t always have to be serious. There are many different ways to live alongside someone. One-on-one time can be fun and worked into the regular parts of life.

Let’s explore some of the different ways you can connect outside of group time.

Different ways to connect outside of your group time

There are countless different ways you can connect with group members outside of group time. For simplicity’s sake, we have categorized these into three types of connections:

First, you can connect socially. These kind of meetings are all about building stronger relationships, and often focus on joining together to do something you would do anyway. You might go on a retreat together, enjoy a night out, go on a double date (if you and your group member have significant others), attend one of your kid’s activities together, enjoy a concert, run a race together, shop together, and so much more!

The goal here is simply to live life alongside someone else. This could be a fun activity, but it could even be doing chores together like going to get groceries.

two men watch a baseball game - disciples and discipleship

Second, you can connect informally: These meetings are similar to social connections, but often focus more on having quality time without a real agenda (or possibly, you as a leader might have a loose agenda). These kind of informal gatherings could include getting coffee, lunch, attending a sporting event, going on a playdate with your kids, or exercising together. 

Finally, we encourage times where you connect formally: During formal meetings, both of you typically have an agenda. These group meetings are ideal for things like accountability, asking powerful questions, pursuing someone’s heart about something going on in their life, or following up from group time.

When it comes to disciples and discipleship, it is important that you connect outside of group time. For more ideas on this, checkout our article with 11 opportunities for life-on-life discipleship outside of group.

What are examples of formal conversations during one-on-one times?

When having formal conversations during one-on-one meetings, it is important to have a plan beforehand. This plan should have some specific goals, but also be flexible because you never know what someone will share – it’s important to address whatever heart issues are raised.

When it comes to planning and creating an agenda, we find that having a few questions is one of the best ways to prompt great conversation. Here are a few questions you can consider to lead your formal conversations:

  • Do you have anything you want or need to discuss?
  • How do you want to be different at the end of this discipleship year?
  • How is your time with the Lord?
  • What is God teaching you?
  • What do you need to believe about the Lord right now?
  • Are you struggling to reject any lies in your life?
  • Where are you struggling to obey the Lord in this season?
  • Where do you want to grow and How can I come alongside you? 
  • How is your marriage? (don’t wait to discuss in marriage unit only) 
  • Would you like to discuss any struggles you have shared in our group time?

This list is just the beginning of course, you should feel encouraged to add to it or edit it to meet the unique needs of the individual you meet with in your group. You can also encourage your group member to prepare ahead of time – do they have questions they want to ask you? Do they have anything they want to make sure you discuss?

Conclusion: Don’t Ignore Individual Disciples in Discipleship

Many of us live busy lives and it can be hard to make time for one-on-one meetings, but this makes them all the more valuable. We may live in a time where everyone is connected to hundreds or thousands of people through social media, but these connections are often very shallow.

We need deep, life-giving relationships and one-on-one time creates space for building those deeper relationships. These one-on-one meetings are not just valuable for the members of your group, they are also immensely valuable for group leaders. Don’t neglect this essential part of discipleship – find time to meet with your discipleship group members one-on-one!

And if you would like to learn more about training disciples, checkout our free video course on how to train disciples