Organizing Discipleship

In Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin says, “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.” It has also been said this way, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Both statements express great truth. Unfortunately, the church has a great reputation for not planning. Instead we live on activity and hope it is accomplishing something. Remember the last seven words of a church? “We’ve always done it that way before!”

For all the success stories that make their way through the Christian community, the reality is that the church is reaching fewer people. The famous Willow Creek Church has shown that in many congregations it is only the newer Christians who are being discipled. Those who have been in the church for any length of time feel they are not being fed. Planning and organizing is needed if we are to grow true kingdom disciples.

The Search Institute in Minneapolis in their published findings said, “Of all the areas of congregational life we examined, involvement in an effective Christian education program has the strongest tie to a person’s growth in faith and to loyalty to one’s congregation and denomination…. This is as true for adults as it is for adolescents…. Done well, it has the potential beyond any other congregational influence to deepen faith and commitment.”

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Some people love to organize. Their schedules are governed by Day-Timers. For others, it can be a terrible burden. Volunteers are hard to find, enthusiasm wears thin, and programs–even those already in place–can weigh heavily on the people “in charge.”

Organization is a tool.

In the hands of the craftsman, it can make the job easier and the product better. But when it takes the place of the craftsman, it becomes ludicrous. There is nothing intrinsically good or spiritual about trying to decide what a group will study two weeks before it is scheduled to meet. At the same time, a three-year program of study (approved by all the appropriate individuals, committees, and boards) can become deadening if it fails to adjust to the needs and resources of the group. In one case, it is like a person trying to work without the needed tool. In the other, the tool may take the place of the person. Can you imagine how little discipleship would take place if your pastor did not plan his sermons a year ahead?

Organization is a means to an end.

That end, in this case, is discipleship. Without a stated purpose and goals, there may be significant differences in what leaders are trying to accomplish. So before there is serious discussion regarding the organization of your structure and programs, there must be a careful consideration of your purpose. Organization will then provide the structure for you to tackle the job to which you are committed. Without some organization, there is no defined way for a group to work together; and the larger and more diverse the group, the greater the need for organization.

Those who know CEP Training Consultant Bob Edmiston know his favorite phrase is, “Go with the flow.” By that he means, “Be flexible. Without flexibility there is little sensitivity to the situation or to the Spirit. At the same time, it is imperative that ‘Go with the flow’ is said in the context of a structure.” Bob has written a manual he would not willingly tell you about himself – so I will. The aim of Organizing Your Christian Education Program is to give you the tools necessary to put together a structure for you to accomplish the Great Commission. It is designed for any size church that is willing to put the time into investing in a full discipleship program for all ages and for more than just Sunday school. Much of what you have been reading here was taken out of the introduction.

Make no mistake about it, planning takes work. But if you are not willing to take the time to plan for discipleship, you will still have made plans, but they won’t be to carry out the Great Commission.

Having spent the last eight years in Cape Town, South Africa, as academic dean of the Bible Institute of South Africa and serving there as a PCA missionary, Dennis and his wife Cindy, his son Dustin, daughter Bena, and son Innocent have returned to the states to rejoin the staff at Christian Education and Publications where he served for eleven years prior to going to South Africa.

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