Six steps to building a successful Discipleship Pathway
At the 2023 Upper New York Annual Conference, attendees were inspired by the Rev. Trey Wince’s engaging learning session on “Building a Discipleship Pathway.”
Rev. Wince began his time with some humorous personal stories to connect with the audience. One story involved getting a shot at the doctor’s office, which happened to be located within a teaching hospital. His shot was administered in front of 30 students surrounding him. He knew the shot was to be in his buttock area, so he dropped his drawers. Incidentally, the shot was administered at his hipline meaning he only needed to fold his pants down an inch.
He skillfully used that awkward moment to explain how embarrassing it could be for someone to walk into a church and do something that is not customary for congregants in the Church to do because the expectations weren’t explained to them anywhere.
He pointed to the four “Ps” coined by Will Mancini as to why people show up to church: place, programs, personalities, and people.
Rev. Wince added another p, referencing Ecclesiastes 3:11, “(God) has set eternity in their heart.” People are looking to churches so that they understand God more and are able to sort out why God put them on this planet…to begin to understand their purpose.”
Rev. Wince said, “In intentional discipleship, people get to understand their purpose a little more clearly.”
He then provided the audience with a recipe for developing an effective discipleship pathway:
- Start with a clear definition of discipleship.
Rev. Wince described how this may seem obvious to pastors, but not to congregants. He gave an example of a church he worked with: “They said, ‘A disciple is someone who is committed to continually learning about Jesus. We do that by worship, service, reflection, and retreat.’ They were that clear. Common language. They even explained how they got it done.”
- Break down your definition.
“People engage in what they understand. We have to start with a definition…we have to be comfortable with that definition being packet-size even if it doesn’t reflect our entire doctoral thesis,” Rev. Wince said. He continued, “We are going to break down our definition and ask ourselves, ‘Are these the key categories that match a life of discipleship?’” If your answer is “no,” the definition will require tweaking.
- List your activities.
List everything your church does each year: missions, small groups, youth events, etc. List everything.
- Connect the dots by matching each priority with each activity.
Rev. Wince clarified that this means to take the words that you said a disciple is and connect them to the activities until all activities fall within one of your key categories of a disciple.
- Check for alignment.
“This can be the part that can sting,” Rev. Wince said, citing the possibility of one of your disciple categories only having one activity connected to it.
- Craft a clear and simple message.
Rev. Wince put this step simply, “Whoever tells the best story wins!”
Rev. Wince concluded by encouraging the audience to continually tell the story of their church repeatedly as they invite people in. He explained the importance of talking about the place they want to be even if they’re not quite there yet and to always point it out with pride when they see congregants fulfilling part of the church’s discipleship definition.