Guest Post by John Miller

Are we making disciples?

Brandon, one of my student leaders, trains every new employee on hospitality at our local Chick-Fil-A. That puts him at #godlike status already. We grabbed burgers last week (no, not chicken) and I picked his brain on why good employees stick at Chick-Fil-A and he told me, “Any time I’ve ever made a mistake, no one came down on me. They sat me down, told me what I did wrong, and encouraged me. I feel like they made me a better me.” Sounds to me like he’s being discipled.

It made me wonder, “Do my volunteers feel like they are better disciples of Jesus as a result of serving in my ministry?”

I wish I could answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” but I can’t. I have done much in the way of training my team how to interact with students and develop successful programs, but I haven’t been intentional about their personal spiritual development.

After evaluating I realized that I expected my team to get secondhand spiritual direction. I simply hoped they’d grow by hearing the lessons I taught on stage and by internalizing what they ask their students in small groups. Sort of a Spiritual growth by osmosis. Hopefully they’ll soak it in by standing near it, being in the room while it’s taught. I wished they’d catch my godliness by being around me. While that occasionally works, God can make people grow any way He wants to, I can do a better job for my team. My youth workers, who give of their time, energy, and sanity deserve more than secondhand shepherding. They deserve a Christ-following leader who knows them, prays for them, and helps guide their spiritual walks.

What if we viewed our primary roles as making adult disciples who make student disciples? We would be shepherding our adult leaders, teaching them how to be better followers of Jesus while coaching them connecting with youth culture. After all, the words of Scripture we teach to students are completely applicable for adults as well. Why not make those same intentional strides for them?

Here’s another gut-check question: What if the way in which I led my small group leaders was the exact way that they led their small groups? Would I be satisfied? Would disciples be made? The book “Lead Small Culture” by the Orange staff has a great quote, “If you want small group leaders to make a weekly investment in kids, then you need to make a weekly investment in small group leaders.”

This concept could also radically change the way we retain volunteers. Imagine people in our congregation beginning to see lives change in the adults who serve alongside us. When others notice that impact and growth, they may want to be a part of that team for their own spiritual benefit. And if we get our team members to make significant gains in their spiritual growth, how rewarded and appreciated will they feel to continue serving at high capacities?

I wish I could tell you exactly how to implement this strategy, but I’m only in the beginning phases of brainstorming myself. Maybe you have some ideas you could leave in the comment section below. I do know this, though: If a fast food chain managers can help their employees feel like better versions of themselves, I think pastors have to able to do the same thing with our volunteers. We’re not simply program managers, we are disciple-makers.