Mapping discipleship pathways in local churches

Note: These pages of the Evangelism & Growth section of the Methodist Church website are aimed primarily at presbyters, deacons and lay church leaders. Their focus is on developing a strategy for growth in people’s discipleship and spirituality in circuit and local church contexts. If you are looking for guidance to deepen your own discipleship and spiritually personally, then please see our Personal Discipleship webpages.

We want our churches to grow! This section of the website follows on from the pages on Core Practices of Growing Churches. You can learn more here about one particular practice of growing churches: they offer clear discipleship pathways. 

But why pathways? Why not just a general commitment to developing disciples? Because a pathway offers an intentional plan of action that enables progression, transforming our commitment into a practical reality. The three key factors here are intentionality, progression and action.

Intentionality: We need to have a clear idea of what we want to achieve. We need to be intentional.

Progression: Once we are clear about what our goal is we can plan the steps that we need to take to achieve our goal.

Action: Talk, or planning, which isn’t acted on will not bear fruit. Our pathway must identify clear actions to which we are committed. 

When we talk about growing people as disciples, we are thinking about progression. Of course, we should provide a variety of courses and other learning opportunities for our people to benefit from. But there is a change of gear from that to planning systematically how to take people from where they are to where they need to be in their discipleship. When we do this, we are planning a pathway for growth.

A basic framework that can be used to develop pathways for discipleship in local churches can be accessed by clicking on the first button below. It is not a one-size-fits-all template. It is flexible and can be thought of as a ‘container’ that can accommodate appropriate content planned by districts, circuits or local churches. In this way, the pathway can meet the discipleship development needs of the local context. 

We offer this suggested discipleship pathway for use by Methodists in Britain because our consultation with colleagues and churches across the Connexion suggests that it is suitable for most contexts. However, there are other discipleship pathways in use by our partner churches overseas and by our ecumenical partners in the UK, which may be of interest. Some examples of other discipleship pathways are also offered below.

The third button will take you to ways in which the pathway can be implemented in some different contexts, whether in new church plants, older churches that don’t currently receive many newcomers, or other kinds of church communities.

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