Three Keys to a Successful Discipling Relationship

Women Talking

Sandra and I have been meeting for a year–we meet once every three weeks or so. She is 23 and I am 63. Her heart to know Christ and help other women grow is what attracted me to Sandra as a discipler. Fresh off campus, she has a full-time job and is engaged to be married. My one-on-one time with Sandra is limited, so I know that when I’m with her I need to be listening well, sharing the Word wisely, and trusting God for her growth!

The one-on-one discipling relationship is unique. It is informed by Christ’s during last interaction with His disciples (see Matthew 28:18-20) where, embedded in His command to “go and make disciples,” we find three keys to a successful one-on-one discipling relationship.

1. Appreciate that the discipling relationship is supported by Christ Himself.

The reason for the relationship is to help the one being discipled to obediently attach to Christ; thus He has great interest in the one-on-one discipling investment. Jesus promised His disciples that as they went out into the world they would be supported by His power and presence.

So the discipling relationship is different than other relationships—Jesus is at the table as we meet with women one-on-one. His power is operative as we share His Word and the Holy Spirit guides and transforms.

For the disciplemaker, this brings great relief as we build the discipling relationship. Though I am not responsible for the growth of the one I help, I am accountable for courageously offering the Word of God, engaging in supportive prayer, and sharing life with her.

2. Embrace the fact that the discipling relationship is not necessarily about “friendship.”

I say this because when I first began discipling others in my twenties, I believed that unless I was a “forever friend” to the one I discipled, then this discipling thing would not be fruitful! Such a belief is a subtle lie. We Americans have multifaceted definitions and expectations of friendship. Certainly we will find that as we disciple one-on-one we are indeed developing a strong relationship. “Dana, build a bridge of relationship that will bear the weight of truth” was the advice I received as I realized I was burning out on discipling others.

Over the years, we women negotiate various seasons of life. Sometimes we have more energy and time to hang out with those we disciple. Sometimes our lives are extremely complex with a myriad of responsibilities, and we don’t have the same capacity. Rather than think I had to be her “best bud,” what I learned was to share my heart, be vulnerable, invite her to open her heart, and accept her unconditionally. Grasping that the main requirement for a discipling relationship is a caring heart has helped me to continue making disciples over the years.

3. Be intentional as we disciple others.

To be faithful to the one we disciple, we must plan our time together. This means contemplating with her where she is in her growth as a disciple and planning content accordingly. As disciplers we want to consistently and faithfully share the Word, prayer, and the goings-on of our lives with those we help.

Even though I am not a linear, organized planner, as I grew in the art of discipling women I began to take intentionality seriously! I found that it affirmed the value of each woman I discipled. And as we customize our preparations, the discipling focus proves stimulating because we know it will serve her unique path to maturity in Christ.

As a disciplemaker, yes, I have failed at the three keys mentioned above. That is why I know they are important! There were times when I wanted to give up on this “discipling women” thing! I marvel that Christ kept me engaged with women . . . and that He continues to send young women like Sandra into my life.

As Sandra and I continue to meet, I remind myself that her growth is my interest and the Father’s responsibility. Our relationship, rooted in vulnerable sharing and trust, is growing.

I intentionally think through what portion of the Word Sandra and I will talk about each time she comes over to my house. Sandra works at an alternative school for teens designed for those who have left the public school system. As a disciple she daily offers herself to these students. I am watching Sandra mature in her walk with Christ, supporting her in prayer and feeling inspired as she seeks to help those around her come to faith.

978-1-63146-382-2Dana Yeakley is the author of The Gentle Art of Discipling Women (NavPress).

Dana Yeakley

Dana Yeakley is the author of The Gentle Art of Discipling Women (NavPress). She and her husband, Tom, have been on staff with The Navigators since 1978 and married for over 40 years.

Dana Yeakley

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(Photo credit: WOCinTech)

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