In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande shares several disciplines that use checklists to accomplish major and minor task such as construction companies, restaurants and hospitals. This got me thinking, “Shouldn’t there be a check list for youth pastors when it comes to discipleship?”
You may think that more important jobs like airline pilots or school bus drivers require check list, but youth pastors? Why not? I would ask you, “Why isn’t the discipleship process important enough to get a checklist?” If we want to see students become life time followers of Jesus, don’t we want to take every measure possible to see that is accomplished?
There may be some of you who think a checklist is antithetical to the work of the Spirit, that if someone receives Christ, things will just happen. Did that happen for you or did someone guide you through a process of maturity? The checklist is not a substitute for the Spirit but a tool of the Spirit, that will remind you that just like there is a process to creation, there is a process to maturity in Christ.
Here is my version of a discipleship check list, feel free to steal and edit this your liking.
Pray with them (and for them)
Once a student receives Christ, our work has just begun. We ought to pray with and for that student as often as possible knowing that the Enemy seeks to steal or crowd the seed of the gospel.
Set reminders on your phone, put sticky notes up, whatever method works for you, put that student’s name before you as a reminder to pray. Be like the Apostle Paul who said,
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…” Ephesians 1:16
Connect them to a mature believers (yourself or someone else)
You may or may not be the best person to disciple this student. If you are a male youth worker, and your new believer is a female, you should seek to find a female leader in your group or church to connect that student with. Likewise, if you are a female youth worker, and your new believer is male, you should find a male leader.
The best people to disciple students are their parents, if they are believers. If their parents are not believers, then connect them with mature believers in the church.
Has the new believer been baptized?
Part of connecting new believers involves next steps like baptism which lets the church know, publicly, this new believer is choosing to be a part of the Body of Christ. Connection and accountability go hand in hand and both the church and the new believer have to do their part.
Place them in community
Do you have a deeper community, beyond youth group to place them in? Do you have a group of 2-3 students who are eager to learn and grow in their faith that you could schedule a once a month breakfast with them share God’s word with them?
Do you have a small group or Sunday school class you can invite them to? If you are not the leader of the small group or class, this adds one extra person to the students spiritual growth team.
Follow up with them, often
It’s easy to get busy and forgetful of new believers. To assume that God is going to do all the heavy lifting is the wrong attitude. Even if you connect them with another believer you should still follow up once and a while to see how they are progressing in their faith.
Text them/message them over the course of a few weeks asking if they have any questions or prayer requests. This will help you pray more specifically for them. Follow up shows you care and they are not just one of ten, they are one of one.
Encourage them to serve
Is the student aware of what opportunities are available to them to use their gift and talents? Students learn best when they serve. Asking students to serve is normal and there is no task you do that they, with a little training, cannot do including speaking. Check out this post for how to empower students and this one for 31 roles and responsibilities for teens.
Serving doesn’t make them a leader, but participating in making your youth meeting happen gives them purpose and helps them discover their gifts and abilities. It also gives you a way to see where they might fit in the Body of Christ and if they have leadership potential.
Ask them to share their story
A students testimony is a powerful thing. First, because they hear the words coming out of their own mouth. They get to be bold and share their story, to their peers, no matter how short it is. Sharing testimony in youth or church can be a watershed moment.
The second reason you should ask them to testify is to inspire their peers. Students hearing about God moving in one of their friends life may embolden them to do the same.
The third reason to ask a student to testify is so they can understand their own salvation. Students have to think about their experience and separate pure emotion commitment from genuine faith. This is not today that emotions are bad, just that testifying puts the emphasis on faith not emotion.
If you are needing some resources to help with this you can check out my series Time ToTell
Feed them resources to help them grow (books, bible studies, websites, who to follow on social, etc.)
I recently discovered a young lady who had a bible, but it was difficult for her to her to read, so I set our to get her a new bible. Be sure to ask the student if they have access to a bible, if they do not have access to a bible, consider getting them one or make sure they know how to download a bible app.
Understandably it seems archaic to students to read something to gain information when they can just Google it, but there is value if you say, “Let’s walk through this together.”
You cannot expect students to know what’s next, you have to show them what next and invite them to be accountable to building their faith through whatever resource you offer them physical or digital.
Invite them on a mission trip (local or foreign)
I believe the time between believing and doing should be as short as possible. If a student believes they have to gain a ton of knowledge or reach a certain level to do anything for God, they’re going to get bored, fast.
It doesn’t matter if it’s serving across the world or across the street, invite new believers to put their faith to work and stretch their faith in God. Mission trips, foreign or local, expands not only the students mind but their heart. Give God the opportunity to use them beyond a classroom setting.
Warn them of the pitfalls of the faith and show them the grace of God
This conversation should start with curiosity, “What do you think your biggest obstacle to living out your faith will be” or “Is there a temptation you need to be more aware of than others?” You’re not asking this to be nosey, you are asking to see if the new believer is self aware of the challenges ahead.
If they are aware, congratulate them and empower them to push through and not judge themselves too harshly when they feel like they’ve failed themselves or God. Continually offer them grace as you would with a baby taking their first steps. They have to learn how to walk before they can run.
Challenge them to share their faith with someone
Testifying in church is one thing, sharing with your friends who do not know Christ is another. When I got saved, I got really saved, Like, I told all my friends, “you going to hell” saved. Encourage a new believer to share what they have learned with the same grace that they have received it.
Testifying in church is a stepping stone to sharing outside of church. In the Go Tell series I encourage students to share their story on social media either in word or video or graphics, whichever medium they are most comfortable sharing in. As scary as it seems, it may help break the ice to make face to face conversations less awkward or anxious.
Train them to lead (if they have potential/gifting)
If you have a student leadership team and after the new believing student matures a little, consider inviting them to sit in on a meeting and get their impressions. Ask them their thoughts on what they think it means to be a leader and if they think they would make good leader and why?
In doing this you are opening up the youth ministry multiverse. In other words, church is not just about attendance and how much of the Bible you know, it’s about making a difference. You don’t have to be a leader to serve, but all leaders serve.
Define what what kind Christian you want graduating from your youth ministry and move this student through as may milestones as their maturity will allow.
This is my checklist but feel free to subtract or adding as you see fit.
Write down each student’s name and walk through the checklist. Ask yourself some key questions:
- Have I been skipping steps?
- Have I afforded all opportunities to new the believer?
- Where did I assume students would take the next step but didn’t?
- Who do I need to go back to and re-energize their faith with new challenges?
We have all missed a step or a kid has bailed on the process, so don’t beat yourself up.
If a checklist can help a surgeon, a pilot or a chef diminish mistakes and achieve peak performance, the a discipleship checklist could help you lead many students to a lifetime commitment to Jesus.
Here’s your checklist for more discipleship resources