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Sue Prins gardens in Holland, Michigan. Actually, Sue is the Discipleship Coordinator at Providence CRC. I asked her a few questions about how she creates an environment for growing disciples at Providence.

What is Providence’s vision or picture of a disciple of Jesus?  Providence is in the process of forming a Dream Team to answer that question! We hope to sharpen our picture of what it looks like to be a disciple.  We currently describe a disciple as someone who loves God with all of their heart and loves others. People love God by engaging in spiritual practices and they express that faith by loving others.

What is the current design or shape of your church’s discipleship ministry? Providence took the Willow Creek Reveal Study a couple years ago. The Reveal study showed that our congregation needed to deepen our congregation’s experience in the word in order to catalyze spiritual growth.  As a result, we now provide tools to help people grow in love for God through the Word. Each week our bulletin contains a scripture reading guide. The guide encourages people to read the Bible personally and with their families. We also nurture the small group environment where people connect with others and connect to the Bible.

Loving others takes on many forms. We encourage people to engage inside the church by using their gifts to serve meals, lead a Bible study, or serve in children’s ministry, youth group, etc. We also ask people to impact our community by serving outside of the church. People live out their faith by serving with Habitat for Humanity, “Last Call Ministries”, a driving service that provides safe rides and more.   

How do you communicate your discipleship picture to your congregation?  The vision is caught in many ways. The messaging is embedded into the life of the church. For example, the weekly scripture reading guide is found in our bulletin under the heading “Beyond Sunday.” Congregational members hear about the importance of the word on Sunday morning and kids are encouraged to “Lock on the Rock” by memorizing scripture.

What does the growing season look like at Providence? Every fall we plan a big, church wide event to re-engage people after the summer. This past September we held a five hour Saturday event which we called “ReMarkable”.  At the event, Brad Gray creatively taught through the book of Mark.  On Sunday, people worshipped in their homes or with their small groups using a guide prepared for them. They also encouraged small groups to follow-up on the ReMarkable study.

In addition, each January we focus on one topic for the entire month. Learning happens in the morning message, Sunday evening gatherings and small groups. We hire childcare on Sunday evening so that everyone can participate. We also have speakers and daily devotions for the month. It all ends on Super Bowl Sunday by sending everyone out to serve our community.

What is your most effective way of developing leaders? The first thing that comes to mind is the leadership retreat for Oasis, our women’s Bible study ministry. Each year we have a daylong retreat for all of the leaders. This is an important leadership development tool. But, I think the best thing we do is weekly leadership meetings. We started meeting for 45 minutes before our weekly Bible study. I discovered that those 45 minutes had the most impact on the development of our leaders. They became community, they were more prepared and they grew spiritually.

How do you manage difficult situations that come up in your discipleship ministry? The best way to handle difficult situations is to work with a team. The team has honest conversations about what is really happening and make decisions together.  In addition, it is essential to always be learning. I read and attend conferences in order to get better at my job. Better leadership helps prevent problems.

How do you instill the DNA of multiplication in your ministry? Give ministry away! My job is to not be the doer but the person who helps people discover their passion. I must hold things loosely and be an encourager of others.   

One more question, how do you take care of yourself as a leader? A few things come to mind: my daily quiet time with God is the most important thing to "keep my tanks full".  Then, I am getting better at working hard when I am at work, but then leaving work behind at the end of the day, mentally and physically.  That has not been an easy thing to learn, but it's coming.  I take a spiritual retreat once a year, and that is always a really rich time that keeps me inspired and focused.  And finally, Christian community is a high priority to me because my godly friends listen, understand, laugh, pray with and for me.  Without those people in my life, I think I would have given up a long time ago, because working in ministry is wonderful and fulfilling, but it is also demanding and hard and frustrating at times! I make time to nurture those relationships. It's amazing how a cup of coffee and a good, honest conversation with a friend can encourage and lift me up and help me tackle the next challenge. 

Please join me in thanking Sue for her great ideas and honest answers!

How would you answer these questions? Who do you suggest that we interview next?

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