If you build it, they will come.

posted Jul 23, 2013, 9:41 PM by Ginger Bowman
Last week at the Family Gathering in San Antonio, I led a seminar that largely focused on churches ministering to college students through mentoring relationships.  At the end of our time, a student in the room raised his hand and said, "I just want to affirm what you said.  That's what I am looking for, an adult who will disciple me and teach me in the faith."  He went on to say that up to now, he has done much of his spiritual growth and learning on his own.  Other students with him felt the same way.  

His testimony drove home the point, and tugged at our hearts.  How many students are out there in our communities looking for someone to walk with them on their journey?  How many more students need an adult to mentor them?  A safe place to ask the hard questions?  A helping hand in learning how to navigate the perils of adulthood?  

If you build it, they will come.  I am convinced that if the church will be available for those kinds of relationships with students, students will come to be a part of the church.   The question is, how do we equip adults in the church to be disciplers and mentors to students?  It may not be as difficult as you think.  

"You want me to disciple someone?"  Many Christians don't feel that they are adequately equipped to disciple someone else in the faith.  Certainly learning how to disciple someone well is a process, but it can be done.  Here are a few things to share with a new leader to help them overcome any anxiety and get started: 
  • Discipleship is simply saying to someone, as Paul did, "follow me, as I follow Christ (1Cor. 11:1)."  Being a discipler doesn't mean that you have "arrived" at your spiritual destination.  It means sharing your own spiritual journey with someone else.  Share what God is teaching you.  Listen and be prepared to ask good follow up questions.  
  • Discipleship is modeling and sharing our lives with other Christ followers.  Many students need help with the practical things of life.  Personal finance.  How to buy a car?  Navigating difficult family relationships.  Applying for a job.  Sharing practical life experiences can help students with their own lives.  Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." 
  • Discipleship doesn't mean having all of the answers.  Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders says that students have access to the information.  What they need from us is someone to help them process it.  Read what they are reading and ask good questions about what they have read.  Help them know which sources are reliable and which are not.  Why isn't Google a good place to go to interpret difficult Bible passages?
  • You may already be discipling someone.  Where are some places that you already are influencing others?  Are you training new workers at your workplace?  Are you already serving in a church ministry?  Who looks up to you?  It's likely that you are already investing in someone's life, but you haven't defined it as "mentoring" or "discipling."  What small intentional changes could you make that would transform those relationships into a discipling relationship?  
We are all called to disciple others.  Though we do not have to know everything, we do have to be becoming disciples ourselves, studying God's Word, abiding in Christ and intentionally following Him daily.  And, as we go along, teach others.  As we model these skills in our own lives we enable those we lead to disciple others.  Let's start now building a culture of discipleship in our churches that will lead to generations of students and others being discipled in their faith.