Life on Life Marketing and Development Director
One of the benefits of the new Journey online is that discipleship group leaders can build their own course from a variety of available Journey curriculum sections. This flexibility allows you to customize your discipleship curriculum in a way that fits the needs of your specific group in each specific year, but it also requires thought and intentionality.
In this article, we’ll share three questions you need to answer and three steps to help you trust the Lord and make wise choices for your group’s course.
Why Build Your Own Journey Group Course?
If you’re familiar with the Journey curriculum, you know that historically the curriculum came in three standard years. Each year, your church would all do the Red Year, Green Year, or Blue Year together.
With the new Journey online experience, we’ve given groups the ability to build custom curriculums from a wider variety of Journey units. Each section still follows the same TEAMS format, but you can select the sections that are more important to your group.
Watch the video to learn the practical steps to customize your discipleship curriculum:
Why might you want to customize your discipleship curriculum? Here are a couple examples: if your group consists of college students, you may choose to skip the parenting sections. If your group has several young parents, you may choose to double up on the parenting sections.
It’s nice when pastors and leaders give you the ability to craft the course for your own discipleship group, but with that privilege comes some great responsibility and opportunity. Before choosing your curriculum, it’s important to thoughtfully consider what best fits the needs and development of those the Lord has given you to disciple in your group.
Do you feel the weight of that? Do you also see the opportunity to provide something that God could use to help propel those in your group forward in Christ, maturing and equipping them with you and by his grace?
What it comes down to is thoughtful intentionality. Remember, life-on-life missional discipleship is laboring in the lives of a few with the intention of imparting one’s life, the gospel and God’s Word in such a way as to see them become mature and equipped followers of Christ, committed to doing the same in the lives of others.
The Target or Goal for Your Group
Being intentional means coming up with and following through with a plan. I’m always reminded of the importance of intentionality with heart-transformation in mind when I read Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
We are to “consider how to stir up another.” If you are going to stir up someone, then you will be focused on invoking a heart response from them. The aim of that stirring is for people to respond with “love and good deeds,” the fruit of one who is maturing and being equipped in Christ by God’s grace.
This focus is not just on knowledge transfer, but on heart transformation. It’s the work of a leader who has walked closely with those she/he is leading, engaged them well about their needs and development, and prayerfully considered with the Lord what is best for them with a vision for their growth and development.
The result of which, is a leader in step with God’s Spirit having a clear aim as she/he labors well in the lives of the few God gave them, imparting their life, the gospel, and God’s word in such a way that God uses, to bring life transformation and disciple-making multiplication.
Having clarity and alignment about what to focus on with your group this year may seem fuzzy and far off for you right now. Good news: you are not alone! The majority of leaders start here every year.
Below are a few questions and some steps we have gleaned from some great disciple-makers that have proven helpful for such a task as choosing the best sections to cover in your discipleship group course this year.
3 Key Questions for Building your Course
Here are three questions you’ll want to prayerfully consider when choosing what sections best fit your group’s needs and development. (By “prayerfully consider” we mean you should really ask God these questions and depend on him for the answers, rather than trying to simply determine the answers on our own.)
1) Lord, where is my discipleship group now?
As you consider what to include in your discipleship course for your specific group, it’s important to know your group members and where they stand in their spiritual formation. The best way to know this is to pray and simply be present in their lives enough to see the answer.
Along with this, you can also utilize tools such as Life on Life’s Spiritual Formation Pathway. This pathway gives you a description of a disciple at each phase of their growth to becoming a mature and equipped disciple-making leader.
Other things to consider include the season of life/career each of your group members are in and the roles/relationships they have currently. Finally, what are their current challenges and opportunities/desires?
2) Lord, where do you desire my discipleship group to be by the end of the year?
It is important to ask God for a vision (a picture of a desired future) for each group member and your group as a whole. Why? Vision gives you a target and fuels your heart. On the flip side, action without vision often leads to you being spent, rather than feeling invested in the lives of those God gave you to lead.
Again, we have tools to help you through this process. The Spiritual Formation Pathway from Life on Life can help you gain vision and the Description of a Mature and Equipped Disciple to help define who we hope to help Christ followers become.
Your church may also have their own version of a Spiritual Formation Pathway and/or description of a Mature and Equipped Disciple. If so, be sure to refer to those as it will align you with your church’s vision and discipleship movement best.
3) Lord, What are the steps/section studies that will help my discipleship group get there?
If you have answered the first two questions, then the answer to this third question should already start to be clear. You have thoughtfully considered where each of those in your group are, and you have asked God for vision for each of them for this year.
More than likely, you may have seen some common themes between your group members and your own life. You have gauged where they are in the spiritual formation, considered the season of life they are in, and have looked down the pathway and have seen the desired future.
Now, you can review the curriculum section options your pastor or church has given you and choose your group’s discipleship course for the year.
This process may sound time consuming, and you may still feel uncertain you can make the best choices for your group. The following 3 steps are designed to help you not only get your choices made in a timely manner, but also to help you start your group’s year with great ownership, alignment, and momentum.
Three steps to help you trust the Lord and make wise choices for your group’s discipleship course
It’s important to involve your group members in this three step process. You will gain more insight into who they are, and you will inspire their hearts through a few simple exercises.
Step 1: Assessments and Envisioning (Solo)
Have each member of your group fill out a Life on Life Semester Spiritual Assessment. This will help them consider and share their current spiritual health and growth needs.
You can also ask each person to review the Spiritual Formation Pathway and description of a Mature and Equipped Disciple. This will help them further consider their spiritual growth needs and, with prayer, to gain a personal vision from the Lord for the coming year.
Ask them to write down a short list of their significant life opportunities and challenges in front of them now and/or coming up this year.
Step 2: Share and Discuss (As a Group)
Gather your group together in a meeting for the sole purpose of sharing what the Lord revealed to everyone during their exercises from step 1. As each person shares, listen for common themes and for comments that resonate well with others as they share.
It’s also good to pay attention to what people are not sharing. We all have blind spots we don’t see well. You may want to bring up those blind spots in the form of questions, or you may simply want to keep it in mind when reviewing the section options later. Be sure to take notes as you listen and interact with each member’s time of sharing.
A group discussion like this can really help you choose course sections, but also help your group bond and gain momentum together for the year ahead. You may want to review some of the possible course sections with your group during this discussion.
Lastly, this meeting can be more than just a planning session. It is also a great opportunity to focus on transformation, pursuing each other’s hearts as you learned during our Life on Life discipleship training.
Step 3: Pray and Seek out Wise Counsel (with your pastor or coach)
At this point, you hopefully have a pretty good idea of what the best course section options for your group this year. If you have not had the opportunity for an extended time of prayer for your group and the year, make sure you do so. If you want guidance, consider following our Life on Life training called the “Day of Kingdom Prayer” experience.
It would also be wise to connect with your pastor and/or discipleship coach to discuss your group’s discipleship course. They can help you process what you have learned and review your option choices. They can also help ensure you are choosing sections that align with your church’s vision and goals for the year.
Contractors who build houses need to make sure their work matches with the other contractors by communicating with the foreman. In the same way, we as disciple-makers should make sure we’re aligned with the rest of the people in our community.
This discussion time can also benefit your pastors or discipleship coaches. It is always encouraging to hear from discipleship group leaders who care for their flock. They also will gain valuable insight into the issues and challenges being faced by their congregation.
It is important to remember that prayerful intentionality when customizing your discipleship curriculum and choosing the course sections to best fits your group’s needs is worth the time and effort. If you have any questions be sure to check out our other blogs and the extensive FAQ on our Journey Online page.
By modeling this process for your group, you will better equip them to assess, envision, and align content for their groups in the future. Not only that, these 3 questions and steps can help them process and make decisions around their families, their work, and their communities.