goal based discipleship, starting in discipleship, youth ministry, student ministry

Goal-Based Discipleship

By Dan Colwin March 19, 2018

What is goal-based discipleship?

I know what you’re thinking. Goal-based discipleship has a weird ring to it, almost like going back into the days of indulgences or something. It kind of sounds like students earning their way through the discipleship process by reaching certain pinnacle points we’ve set for them. But that’s not what I mean. We all know “achievement-based discipleship” is not discipleship; it’s school. And this is not school. Discipleship is the process of multiplication through relationship.

“Goal-based discipleship is the simple idea that we would have a personalized, long-term goal in mind for our students’ discipleship.”

Consider a student that you mentor, and ask yourself the question, “Where is this student at in their life, and what is one specific way that they need to grow closer to Jesus?” Now imagine directing your times of meeting with this student toward reaching that goal. That’s goal-based discipleship: a simple, yet profound idea that we would have a personalized, long-term goal in mind each time we meet with our students. This type of focus requires us to really know our students, but it’s so powerful. When we determine what their greatest need is, we can personalize the discipleship process and thoughtfully direct them towards a single goal.

Why does goal-based discipleship help?

  1. Keeps the focus on the greatest need

Discipleship is strengthened through consistency. Having a goal keeps you on track to what is most important in this relationship rather than going wherever the wind takes you.

  1. Shows growth over time

Growth is not an immediate thing, but if you have one clear goal to obtain over the course of a season, you can see a student’s growth more clearly.

  1. Clear message to parents

Parents want to know the purpose of your time with their child. Having a clear goal helps clarify for them why you’re meeting and what you’re seeking to achieve.

What does goal-based discipleship look like?

I just finished up my year of meeting with the student I mentor and disciple. When we starting meeting together this past fall I had a very clear goal in mind of what I wanted to see happen in John’s life during our time together. I wanted John to discover his burden. Why you may ask? Simply put, a burden is a weight on your shoulders, a deep yearning in your heart to help fix a problem that you see in the world, and John didn’t have one. John has had the advantage of being raised in a Christ-loving home with two parents and two other siblings, all of whom love Jesus. He’s had their love and support his whole life and has been shielded from a lot of hardship and pain. I pitched the idea to John and his parents, being very honest about why I wanted to meet and what I wanted to accomplish, and they were all in. We met every couple of weeks at a coffee shop and walked through a book written by a teenager about discovering your burden. Every time we’d meet, we would check back in from our last meeting, we’d walk through the same four very specific questions, and then we’d discuss a chapter in the book.

And this amazing thing happened! John, after months of reading, discussing, and applying what he was learning, told me he knew what his burden. I almost shouted, “Praise Jesus” from the top of my lungs, but I contained myself. The goal I had wanted to achieve, the goal God had laid on my heart, was accomplished. But some other pretty amazing things were accomplished in the process. John learned more about his identity in Christ, about how God’s grace covered his sin, about how his character and life was a reflection of the God he serves, and about who Jesus is calling him to be. Together, we saw the Spirit move in all sorts of ways.

Goal-based discipleship kept me focused on praying for John and challenging him in a specific way, and it just might do the same for you.

About the Author

Dan Colwin

Dan Colwin is director of trips at LeaderTreks. He and his wife, Clare, live in West Chicago with their sons, Everett and Oliver, and little puggle, Roxy. They love their church family at Life Church in Wheaton, where they volunteer together in the youth group. He enjoys spending time outdoors, taking walks, having fires, reading, building Legos, working in the garden, and…  Read More