There are several factors that must be considered when creating a discipleship ministry. Many of these are key factors that are critical to the effectiveness of the ministry. While there are many key factors that could be listed, a only a few of the most critical will be mentioned in this article.
One major factor that must be considered when trying to develop or maintain a Christian discipleship group that fulfills its biblical purpose is the foundation of the discipleship group. The foundation of any discipleship group must be Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, the foundation for any teaching from the discipleship group must be Scripture. If the foundation of the group is not Jesus Christ, it cannot actually be said that you have a discipleship group, since you have the wrong foundation. In addition, Scripture, as the word of God, is the appropriate foundation for encouraging spiritual growth within the disciples in each group. We are trying to mold people into the image of Christ, not into our image or into another image that we think they should look like.
A second major factor that must be considered when creating and maintaining a discipleship group that fulfills its biblical purpose is the size of the group. Some discipleship groups have only a small handful of people. Other discipleship groups have 20 or more participants. Your discipleship group should be small enough for everyone to get the individualized attention that they need. There are no hard rules on how many people must be in a discipleship group. The important factor to consider is that each individual is unique, and your discipleship group should be small enough to allow you to meet the unique spiritual needs of the individual within the group.
A third major factor that must be considered when creating and maintaining a discipleship group that fulfills its biblical purpose is the engagement level of the disciples. You should expect them to do some things on their own. For example, if you are going to study a particular passage of Scripture, it is a good thing to have them read the passage of Scripture and meditate on it prior to coming to the meeting of the discipleship group. This helps them develop the practice of regular Scripture reading. It also teaches them the practice of meditating on Scripture. This, I think, is vital to helping disciples grow in spiritual maturity.
When assessing the effectiveness of discipleship ministries within the church, it is important to ask yourself whether or not the disciples are becoming more spiritually mature, stagnating, or becoming less spiritually mature. An effective discipleship ministry will see its disciples grow in spiritual maturity. If the disciples are becoming less spiritually mature, that is a sign that your discipleship ministry is ineffective. The same is true if they are stagnating, or staying where they were when they joined the discipleship group. The size of the discipleship ministries do not matter if the disciples are not becoming more like Christ.
When assessing the effectiveness of discipleship ministries within the church, it is also important to consider how engaged the disciples are. Are they enthusiastic about doing any assigned Scripture readings and coming to the discipleship group each week to share what they have learned? Are they reluctant to read Scripture and participate in the group? This is an important question to ask if you are trying to assess where the disciples are spiritually.
In short, the goal of any discipleship ministry is to help disciples grow spiritually and to help them look more like Jesus each and every day. The way to measure the effectiveness of a discipleship group is not by numbers, but by the spiritual growth of the disciples. If your discipleship group is not seeing these results, it may be time to reconsider your approach to discipleship. Any discipleship group must have Jesus Christ as its foundation, and should use Scripture as its primary source. Disciples should remain engaged in the group and in regular Scripture reading. Soon, you may see your disciples grow and mature enough to start making other disciples, preserving the fruit of your labor.