Church Leadership
Serious About Discipleship? Mentoring Is Better Than Curriculum
Small churches have a serious advantage when it comes to discipleship. If we’ll use the right tools.

In Jesus' day they didn't have a classroom bias. People learned because a mentor took an apprentice under their wing. They lived and worked together. The mentor showed the apprentice how to do the task until the apprentice could do it on their own. Then the apprentice mentored others.

It still happens that way in many non-western cultures today.

Why Curriculum?

In addition to our classroom bias, we've defaulted to a curriculum bias in most of our churches because of size. Once a church, or any group, gets beyond a certain size, mentoring becomes impractical, even impossible.

But we should stick with mentoring as long as we can. It is always the preferred way to make disciples.

We should stick with mentoring as long as we can. It is always the preferred way to make disciples.

This is not an anti-curriculum rant. Curriculum is great. It can be used quite effectively to supplement a mentoring process, including providing theological and methodological guardrails against extremism. But curriculum should never replace mentoring. Especially in a smaller church.

Which brings us back to where we started. Most of the churches in the world are small. The reason we gravitate towards curriculum isn’t because there are too many people to mentor. It’s because we're so used to using curriculum that we've forgotten about mentoring.

But we need to think about what we’re missing when we undermine the value of mentoring.

Ask anyone to list the top spiritual influences in their lives. They will never mention a curriculum. What do they mention? A teacher. A pastor. A parent. A friend. In other words, a mentor.

The truth is, we’re already doing mentoring because we’re having relationships. But we’re not mentoring as well as we could because we’re seldom as intentional about as we need to be.

The Power of Mentoring

I wonder. I don’t know, but I wonder. Could mentoring be part of the answer to the current wave of people – especially younger people – leaving the church in record numbers?

I think the possibility is worth considering.

Talk to 100 people who have left, or are considering leaving their church. I doubt if you’d find 10 of them who have an ongoing mentoring relationship with someone at that church.

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August 24, 2015 at 10:32 AM

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