Some months ago, I gave you a glimpse of the “whys” and “whats” of Discipleship Triads and how they operate at CenterPointe Church, a young church plant in Plainfield, IL. Writing the final report for the Sustaining Congregational Excellence Grant which supported this project for our church gave me the opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of Discipleship Triads and celebrate how God has worked in and through them in our setting. I share this with you hoping it will help you ask the questions you need to ask about the effectiveness of your church’s discipleship strategy.
1. What did you collectively learn from your Health & Renewal project experience?
- Being intentional about developing disciples of Jesus builds a missional church.
- Disciple making and mission naturally flow out from one another.
- Simple works! It is not necessary to have volunteer and resource intensive programs to grow disciples.
- God speaks through the Bible. Asking questions for transformation rather than information helps us hear and respond His voice.
- Spiritual disciplines are essential to disciple making.
- Disciple making happens best in community. We learn and experience God better together than alone. Accountability happens in safe environments.
- Leaders are formed through intentional discipleship.
- It is easier to incorporate new people into triads than larger small groups, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.
2. What impact has this project had on your congregation? Please include an example.
CenterPointe’s Leadership has identified Discipleship Triads as the single most impactful ministry over the past year for our church community. Triads have effectively introduced and engaged people in an intentional discipleship pattern and helped to create meaningful spiritual relationships within the congregation. Ben started to attend CenterPointe at the invitation of a member. He was invited to a Discipleship Triad and as a result has 3 spiritual friends, has found a place to ask questions and share life’s concerns, and is growing in faith. Ben is already at the point of being able to facilitate a triad himself.
3. What impact has this project had on your community? Please include an example.
We’ve seen evidence that growing disciples of Jesus and mission go hand-in-hand. A disciple naturally desires to participate in God’s mission and participating in God’s mission grows disciples. As a result our community, friends, and neighbors were impacted. Some triads decided to participate together in one of the serving options CenterPointe planned (for example: providing meals at a homeless shelter, serving at the elementary school we’ve adopted, prayer walking, providing meals for somebody with health issues, serving a meal to teens on a mission trip). Serving in these ways had a direct impact on our community. Perhaps a bigger impact has been through individuals as they have allowed.
God to shape their lives. Amanda is an example of how a growing disciple learns to “love your neighbor.” After last year’s spiritual retreat, Amanda longed to spend more time with God through daily Bible reading and prayer. Her triad held her accountable as she struggled to find the time to do this. As a result of her times with God and listening to Him, Amanda was challenged to stop the chaos and bring some order to her life. Her first step was to resign from two part-time jobs. The family went on a TV and computer fast in order to set new boundaries in those areas. She followed a cleansing food diet as a way of starting healthier eating patterns. All of these changes were a result of God’s prodding in her life. During this time, Amanda felt a call to engage in her neighborhood through a prayer group and she also started a Mom’s In Touch prayer group with others from the neighborhood elementary school. It took time (and struggle!), but eventually Amanda followed God’s call to get to know a difficult neighbor who moved in across the street. Amanda cannot relate to the lifestyle of this family, but in ways that only surprise her, God has brought them into a relationship. These neighbors recently asked about coming to CenterPointe.
4. What new issues were raised for future reflection and action?
- Is there a way to intentionally use triads in leadership development?
- How do we pay attention to the different needs of those exploring the faith, new to faith, and longtime Christians?
- How do we pay attention to the broader networking that happens in mid-sized groups?
- How do we continually raise the bar in serving with our community?
- How do we provide deeper teaching that triads aren’t meant to provide?
5. Were you successful in meeting the goals stated in your proposal? Why or why not?
More than we imagined!
- Discipleship Triads are the primary means of disciple making at CenterPointe. This method has filtered down to the teen ministry, which will incorporate them as part of its strategy.
- As of this writing, 82% of CenterPointe’s members and attenders have committed to a triad.
- During the course of this year, nineteen new people have been enfolded into a triad. Four people not affiliated with CenterPointe are included in triads, 3 of them exploring the faith. There is one story of a person accepting Jesus as Savior during a triad session.
- We have noticed the strong connection between spiritual development and reaching out to non-Christians or the unchurched
- Bible reading and prayer have become “staple” spiritual disciplines. Many have been stretched to practice others such as retreat, examen, fasting (food and electronics), physical exercise, etc. Our corporate worship times include reflective elements; times to hear and respond to God. A common question among us has become, “How have you seen God at work in your life?”
- The number of triad leaders has grown from 9 to 13. Just over 10% of those who participated in triads over the past year have become triad leaders.
- Most triads have found ways to serve the community or CenterPointe together. All have held one another accountable for acts of service.
6. What is the greatest reward that the congregation has experienced from this project?
Discipleship Triads have helped us read the Bible for transformation, not just information. Consistently asking, “What is God saying to me in this passage?” and “What will I do about it?” has produced life change in many. As a result of the unity in spiritual focus, CenterPointe has a sense of moving and growing together; there is a strong cohesiveness among us. Studying the same scripture passages and asking similar accountability questions has given a common language for the church as a whole.
7. Please share one story which illustrates how your congregation’s health was enhanced.
We just held our second spiritual retreat. Perhaps the best comment shared which illustrates how CenterPointe’s congregational health was enhanced is this: “I can tell we’ve all grown spiritually over this year. We all seem closer to God.”Can a congregation ask for anything more than growing disciples of Jesus who are actively showing His love in their surrounding community? It’s a beautiful thing!
How effective is your church’s discipleship strategy?