Discipleship part 4: A Discipleship Toolbox

With all this talk about multiplying your life through discipleship, it might be good to pause and ask why you should consider leading a group before moving on to the how of leading.


Why lead a discipleship group? The purpose is twofold: 

1. To know God. Growing as a disciple is not just growing in your knowledge of God, but to really know God. 
There are a lot of opinions about God—who we think He is, how we want Him to be, or even who He is rumored to be through our culture. But getting to know God is firstly about both studying His Word and then living out our faith day to day, and thus getting to know God relationally.
2. To create an environment for disciples to grow in character (to learn to be like Jesus), and in competency (to learn to do the things Jesus instructed us to do).


It is helpful to know some basic techniques for leading and facilitating. The most important thing you can be doing even before you start leading a group is to be praying for your group.
Pray for the right mix of people (good chemistry), for willingness to unlearn some old habits (surrender), and for everyone to get to know God deeply (growth).
Pray for your group throughout the week, but also before your group meets. Spend time ahead of the meeting and pray for the time you’ll be spending together—for clarity, and for vibrant, fruitful discussions.
Keep in Mind | These are God’s people; it is His work. God knows what He’s doing in each individual life—you don’t. You simply get to be a part of what God’s already doing in your disciples’ lives by being faithful in what He asks you to say and do. So, to be asking God for His help and for His wisdom and discernment is the most effective way you can help and shepherd your discipleship groups. And it’s how you will see the most Spiritual fruit!


Discipleship Group Done Wrong & Right
As you watch the following video, look for things you might be guilty of…

supplemental resources

Truth be told, even the most seasoned group leader sometimes can get carried away in their own thoughts, or be quick to answer on behalf of group members.
Here are 10 skills worth adding to your “Discipleship Toolbox” as you prepare to lead a discipleship group.
1. Invitation & Challenge | Effective leadership is based upon an invitation to relationship and a challenge to change. Create a culture where there’s an appropriate mix of invitation and challenge. Draw disciples closer by loving them (invitation) but also give them the opportunity to accept the responsibilities of discipleship (challenge).
2. Lead with Vision | Regularly communicate the mission and vision of your discipleship group. What are you aiming for? What do you hope to see happen in people’s lives?
3. Know How to Ask Questions | By asking good questions, a couple things happen.
  • You help them to build confidence in knowing God and speaking about Him.
  • You provide an environment for self discovery! Self discovery sticks; you remember what you share.
What about when you ask a good question and … silence. Should you just answer the question yourself? Not so fast! Your group might be …
  • processing the question, or
  • processing what God is teaching them and how to articulate that.
So, what happens when you wait a few seconds and then share your own experience in order to answer the question?
In doing so, you might …
  • stop the internal processing and what God is teaching them,
  • limit others’ sharing,
  • cause them to feel like if you give “the answer,” why should they share? They might feel like their answer isn’t as good as yours.
However, it’s also good to know that…
  • Sometimes, it is helpful to jump in and share your experience. It is okay to share once or twice in your group meetings.
  • If the questions seems hard to answer, before sharing your answer try rewording the question to spur thoughts and invite sharing.
  • Awkward silence is likely only awkward for you.
4. Create an Environment | Create an environment that is a safe place to be honest, but one of accountability, learning, encouragement, and challenge. Be authentic and appropriately open, vulnerable, transparent and real to allow others to do so.
5. Be a Good Listener | Good group leaders need to be good facilitators of discussion.
What are ways that you can help group members feel heard or that you have listened intently to them?
  • Make eye contact. Do not looking around at other people walking by, or, worse yet, keep your phone on the table and look at it when it buzzes.
  • Nod or give non-verbal responses.
  • Respond after someone shares. For example, say “Thank you, Jake,” or, “That is a helpful reminder that God’s love is unconditional. Thanks for sharing that!”
  • Use the person’s name.
  • Celebrate their responses. Be sincerely enthusiastic.
6. Know When to Defer or Move On | Remember the goal of your session. Don’t go into a discussion where it is not needed.
If a question comes up, how do you know if you should answer it?
  • Is it something that would benefit the whole group?
  • Does time allow for it, or would it distract from the bigger picture?
How about when something is said in the group that is totally wrong… they are sharing or answering a question that totally misses the point. When and how do you as the group leader correct them?
  • Is it central to understanding the Gospel? If yes, correct it.
  • Identify a “go-to person.” Ask if they agree, or ask, “John, how would you answer that?”
If it’s a rabbit trail and not central to the Gospel, and doesn’t benefit the group to talk about, what could you say to move on?
  • “That’s an interesting question, Matt. In light of time, let’s see if we have time to come back to that, or let’s talk about that more afterward.”
A question comes up that you don’t know the answer to, what do you do?
  • Don’t feel pressure to give the right answer or make one up because you are the group leader.
  • Be willing to admit you don’t know the answer.
  • Share the responsibility to find an answer by saying, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answe. You and I can both look into it. Let’s talk more at another time.”
7. Address Some Things Privately | There may be bits of their story that are better discussed in private. Or if you noticed that someone if something was confusing in the group, circle back with the individual afterwards.
8. Be Intentional About Nurturing Relationships | Strong relationships are built over time and as trust grows.
9. Maintain Confidentiality | Trust is crucial for nurturing strong relationships.
When is an appropriate time to break confidentiality?
  • In the case of self harm, abuse and when you feel you are in over your head, talk with a mentor or local pastor. If a local pastor or spiritual mentor is not available, feel free to contact the AIA Coaching Center for help.
10. Encourage Interaction | There may be some in your group who are very comfortable talking about what they are learning about God, while others may need to be grow in confidence in speaking about God. As the facilitator, it is up to you to keep track of the time, pace and to encourage interaction from all group members.


Answer the questions below. As before, consider sharing your answers with growth partners. If you’re completing the program solo, write your responses in a journal. 
  • What are one or two highlights from the videos?
  • Which of the 10 “tools” in the Filling your Toolbox section stood out the most, and why?

live it!

Look at your calendar and find 2-3 openings in your schedule that would allow for you to disciple someone.
 Now that you understand why discipleship is important, you’ve prayed for folks to invite, you have some tools in your discipleship toolbox and know when you might host such a group, all that remains is to invite some folks to join your group.


Discipleship and Multiplication is the fifth and final journey of the Equipped Disciples Curriculum from Athletes in Action. Learn about the whole five collection series and how the parts fit together.