Digital discipleship coaching

March 30th, 2020
This article is featured in the Growing Spiritually issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

We find ourselves in a challenging time. Many of the paradigms we have held onto for so long have shifted in the last few weeks. Pastors, leaders, and church congregations who thought they would never worship online suddenly find that is the only option. One thing that has not changed? Our mission. We are still in the business of making disciples. How we go about doing that, though, might look and feel a little different for a while.

What follows is meant to equip you to offer Digital Discipleship Coaching in this new era of personal distancing we face for the foreseeable future. There are many digital options for pastors and leaders to continue to connect with those in their care (Zoom, Facebook Live, Skype, Facetime, etc.). You can find various sources to help you choose the right one for your ministry.

Discipleship Coaching builds on three foundations:

  1. As followers of Jesus Christ, people want and need to grow as disciples. None of us are through growing into the image of Christ as long as we are on this side of heaven. This is a lifelong process sometimes known as sanctification, or as John Wesley called it, “becoming perfected in love.”
  2. Spiritual disciplines are the building blocks of discipleship. These behaviors and actions are the means by which we best grow as disciples of Jesus. By taking intentional steps in the spiritual disciplines, over time we become more fully devoted followers of Christ.
  3. Coaching is a partnership process designed to help a disciple best discern their next steps. By asking powerful questions and then actively listening, the coach acts as a spiritual guide.

Discipleship Coaching happens best in one-on-one situations. Most people, no matter how long they have been in church, have never had a one-on-one conversation with anyone about their spiritual growth. With everything suddenly being forced online, now is a perfect time to schedule a conversation. People in our congregations need the connection and the encouragement to continue their discipleship journey.

"Stride: Small Group Workbook" by Mike Schreiner & Ken Willard. Order here:
Prior to your first Digital Discipleship Coaching session with a person, you may want them to provide you with some basic information. This could be done through email, or you might consider setting up some type of online survey utilizing a service such as SurveyMonkey. Gathering this information prior to the session will help speed things up, and since you will not have to ask these questions, it will also allow you to focus and ask questions where you discern the need to go deeper. Here are a few samples of what you might include in some form of pre-work:
  1. I would describe my current relationship with God as:
    Very Close | Close | Fair | Distant | Very Distant

  2. I would describe my current feelings about my church as:
    Very Positive | Positive | Fair | Negative | Very Negative

  3. I would describe my prayer frequency as:
    Constantly | Often | Sometimes | Rarely | Never

  4. I read one chapter or more of the Bible:
    Daily | Weekly | Monthly | Yearly | Never

  5. I typically attend a worship service:
    Every Weekend | 2-3 times a month | Once a month | Occasionally

  6. I typically volunteer/serve at church or in the community:
    Every week | 2-3 times a month | When asked | Occasionally | Never

  7. I participate in a group with other Christians (outside of worship):
    Yes | No | Not Sure

  8. Overall, I would describe the current state of my spiritual growth as:
    Rapid | Moderate | Slow | Stalled

  9. Using the image below, where the outside of the circle represents when you first started your spiritual journey and the center is Jesus, where do you feel you are in each of the spiritual disciplines?

  10. Which ONE spiritual discipline would you like to step further into in this season of your life?

Once you have gathered the pre-work information, you are then able to schedule a Digital Discipleship Coaching session. Spiritual growth is not something to be rushed or made to feel like either the coach or the person being coached are just checking off boxes. So, it is always best to give yourself and other some space to breathe, pray, and listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout this whole process.

The following is shared as a sample outline for an initial 30- to 45-minute Digital Discipleship Coaching session. The intent is for this to be a guide, a starting point for you to use, not the only way.

  • Open with a prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide your discussion.
  • Spend a few minutes hearing how they are dealing with the current situations in your community. Be sure to ask about their family if applicable.
  • Ask them to share a little about their overall spiritual journey. (Not just where they have attended church.)
  • Share a scripture verse. (Suggestions: 2 Peter 1:2-8 or Ephesians 4:11-16)
  • Give them an outline of what you want to cover and accomplish today. The goal of the session is for them to have a clear next step on their spiritual journey.
  • Review their pre-work as needed. Ask questions where you feel the need to go deeper or for clarification.
  • Ask questions to gain a clear understanding of where they are currently in each of the eight spiritual disciplines listed on the image.
    • Meet them where they are. Celebrate where possible.
    • Spend time in at least three main areas:
      • Community. How are they staying connected with others in Christian community during a time of overall disconnection?
      • Bible. How are they reading and reflecting on God’s Word in this unusual season of life?
      • Prayer. How are they listening to God’s Spirit each day?
  • Agree on ONE next step they want to take on their spiritual journey in this season. Not many steps, ONE.
  • Schedule a date and time to get back together for follow up and accountability.
  • Close the session with a prayer.

All of us need the encouragement of others to continue taking steps on our intentional journey of discipleship, today more than ever. Invest time in those you are journeying with to help them grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Together we can emerge from this “tomb” of isolation stronger disciples than when we entered! May God bless you as a Digital Discipleship Coach.

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