The Christian life is a journey. Jesus repeatedly said, “Follow me.” Paul encouraged his converts to “press toward the mark” and wrote to Timothy that he had finished his own course. The job of local church leaders—especially adult Sunday school leaders—is to help people make forward progress along their journey of spiritual growth. Once people know Christ as their Saviour, how can we encourage them forward in the Christian life? Consider the three destinations of membership, discipleship, and ministry involvement.
When we lead people toward membership it begins when we effectively collect their information after they have walked through the doors. (After all, we can’t follow up on someone we can’t find.) In our church office, there are a few people whose job is to make sure no one slips through the cracks. In addition to visits in people’s homes by the age-appropriate Sunday school teacher, we also utilize mail and email to creatively thank folks for visiting. We invite every recent guest to our four-week New Members Class, which Pastor Chappell conducts three times a year.
Personal discipleship comes immediately after someone follows the Lord in believer’s baptism. Every new member is contacted and encouraged to partner with an experienced Christian for one-on-one discipleship. Their meetings occur during the midweek service and require approximately twenty weeks to complete. Over half of those who complete discipleship are ready to disciple others, allowing us to see 2 Timothy 2:2 in action.
Leading people toward ministry completes the loop. When people find ministry roles within the church or class, they are helping others take the steps they only recently took themselves. Those completing discipleship are on our radar to place in ministry. Because people are at different growth stages, we provide varying ministry opportunities consistent with their maturity. If we are not intentional about involving people, newcomers gravitate toward the incorrect assumption that they are unneeded.
The Christian life is “new territory” for those who have recently been saved in your ministry. Don’t expect them to know the way forward. Partner with them, and you will both enjoy the journey!