Making Disciples in the Context of Small Groups (the Discipleship Loop).

Matthew 28: 19-20 Go, Make disciples, teach all!

As a young leader, I remember two of my pastors (Jack Little and John Wimber) teaching about the “discipleship loop.”  The discipleship loop was a way of viewing the discipleship process as individual steps.  The loop went something like this…recruit, train, deploy, monitor, nurture.  Although the process of discipleship is much more than a series of steps, the steps outlined in this post can be helpful when thinking about people you have a relationship with and/or who attend your group or ministry.  

The Discipleship Loop

Recruit (come follow me)

“And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ ” Matthew 4:19 NASB

My wife and I have led a number home groups/house churches.  One of them went really well for over a year before attendance dropped off.  I started praying about what to do with the group, wondering if I should just end it.  I had prayed, asking God to bring people, but the people just were not coming.  So, I asked one of my church’s pastors what he thought I should do.  His reply was simple and obvious, “Recruit some more people.” I thought to myself, “Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”  

Jesus recruited people.  He recruited the Twelve and others (Mt. 4:19; 6:22).  He also trained His disciples to be “fishers of men” (Mk. 1:17).  I had been expecting the Holy Spirit to “direct people” to my group.  But I had neglected the kingdom principle of recruiting. My wife and I prayed about who to invite and made a concentrated effort at recruiting.  The very next meeting our house was packed, there was a buzz in the room, and the group had a fresh start.  There were people who were happy to be a part of what we were doing.  They just needed to be invited.  The new participants just needed to know that my wife and I saw them as having something to contribute to the group.


“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” 1 Cor 11:1 NASB

Training is another essential part of discipleship.  There are a number of people who feel a call to lead, but they lack experience.  Inexperienced leaders need a place to practice leading.  Some need healing and more mature Christians to speak into their lives before they are ready to lead.

Small groups are a safe place for people to grow in their ability to practice spiritual gifts and leadership skills. Small groups are a place for people to try, fail, receive encouragement/direction, and try again. Values and kingdom ministry are often “caught more than taught.”  The best way to make disciples is through modeling and inviting others to participate.  Discipleship is more than just passing on information.  Discipleship is passing on a way of life that is imparted through modeling.  Here are some ideas to consider in help emerging leaders to grow:

  1. Invite them to pray along with you or with another experienced leader.
  2. Have them do a short teaching or share a testimony.
  3. Have them run a ministry time.
  4. Have them lead a discussion group of 3-4 people within your meeting.
  5. Have them plan and run and activity or outreach.
  6. Ask emerging leaders what they would like to do and what they feel called to do

Deploy-setting leaders in place/sending

“As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 NASB

“When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 14:23 NASB

I recently did a Bible study on sending.  Jesus talked a lot about sending and being sent.  Purpose and “mission” were important to Him.  Your group should have a sense that they are “about the Father’s business.”  

Look for leaders who are full of the Spirit, have strong character, and are committed to the Gospel of Jesus.  Talk with other leaders in your group and even pastors outside your group about who they see as emerging leaders.   When an emerging leader demonstrates consistency, invite them to be a part of your “core group” Give them an area of responsibility, or job within the group (worship leader, outreach coordinator, host, group intercessor, etc.).

Ultimately, it should be the goal of every person in the group to “reproduce themselves.”  Teachers should be training other teachers, worship leaders should be training other worship leaders, and the group leader should be looking to train others to lead home groups. Not everyone will be good at this, and there will not always be someone to train.  But, reproduction should, at least, be a core value of the group.

Monitor/Nurture (through continued relationship). 

“For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17 NASB

Pray for those you release as leaders.  When a leader is released to lead within the group or sent out with others to start a new group, relationships need to be maintained.  Check in with them.  Encourage them.  Give them direction when they needed it and speak into their lives.  Mentor them as Paul mentored Timothy.  Paul trained Timothy to mentor others.

© 2016 Alan Garrett,

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Alan Garrett

Family: I am married to a wonderful woman named Marialice Stewart Garrett. She is a gifted leader in her own rite and was a great help in editing my book (UnSilenced) as well as shaping its theological content. We have three children, Bethany, Tiffany, and Nathan. All three of them are passionate about their faith in Jesus. Education: BA in Religious Studies (Greek Emphasis) from Westmont College. MS in Special Education from National University. Ministry Experience: I am currently a lay pastor at the Family Church of Sacramento and credentialed through the River network of churches. I have been in church leadership for roughly 30 years. Leadership experiences include being member of two church planting teams with the Association of Vineyard Churches as well as leading missions teams, ministry teams and evangelistic teams. 


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