Wrestling with questions like, “Are we really making disciples?” Or maybe, “Where are the mature disciples?” I want to suggest that while those are valid questions, they might not be the most helpful questions. In addition, asking the right questions is essential if you want to discover discover the best solutions.
W. Edwards Deming said, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the discovery you seek. The questions you ask determine whether you arrive at the best solution.
6 essential questions about making disciples and small group ministry
- What is a disciple? This is a foundational question. The answer to this question will inform what your next questions should be. I find two Dallas Willard quotes helpful on this. First, “As a disciple I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.” Not a bad definition. And second, “A mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do if Jesus were him.” That is a very good end in mind, don’t you think?
- What is the best way to help the largest number of people to take a first step toward becoming a disciple (or a better disciple)? When this is not the second question, or an early question, it’s easy to be led in a direction that does not scale (i.e., one-on-one discipleship, triad discipleship or groups with high entry requirements). When you think steps, not programs, you determine to create steps that are easy, obvious, and strategic. Let me add that the very best followup question is, “What would have to be true for that option to work?” See also, How Would You Rate the First Steps out of Your Auditorium?
- How might we build a pathway that would help the largest number of people take next steps toward becoming better disciples? A pathway is a series of next steps that lead in the direction of the destination. I love Andy Stanley’s line, “Path, not intent, determines destination.” Again, an excellent followup question is, “What would have to be true for that option to work?” See also, 5 Main Causes of “Failure to Thrive” in Small Group Ministries.
- What are we not doing about making disciples that we should start doing right away? Isn’t this an obvious question? The absence of a sense of urgency about making disciples should make our dashboard light up with flashing lights and piercing alarms. See also, Beware of the Lure of the Status Quo.
- What should we immediately stop doing in order to allow for the emergence of a better pathway? Perpetuating an ineffective status quo is standing in the way of a better way. Peter Drucker pointed out that, “The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon.” See also, Growth’s Counterintuitive First Step.
- What are the obstacles that keep the most people from taking a step toward becoming a better disciple? This question is only slightly different than #5, but it is an important difference. Designing an effective pathway requires the elimination of obstacles, barriers and stumbling blocks at the entrance and along the way (i.e., the first step is hidden or hard to find, the next step menu includes too many choices, etc.). See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
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