Examples of other pathways
These examples of pathways used in churches elsewhere in the world may help to understand our suggested pathway and how it works. (You are welcome to adopt or adapt one of these if it seems appropriate to your situation.)
Discipleship Pathways from other churches
A discipleship pathway from the United Methodist Church (UMC) – the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries agency provides a general framework for churches to use in developing their own discipleship pathways, based on five stages: (1) Searching, (2) Exploring, (3) Beginning, (4) Growing, and (5) Maturing. More information and a helpful template on how to implement this framework are also available. Variations on this pathway are offered across the UMC.
A discipleship pathway from the Canadian Baptist Convention is based on four stages: (1) CURIOUS – Hungry for Jesus, (2) TRANSFORMING – Being fed, (3) MATURING – Feeding themselves, and (4) CENTERING – Feeding others.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles offers a ‘Pathway to Missionary Discipleship’ which is similar in some ways to the Canadian Baptist pathway. It has six steps: (1) Initial Trust, (2) Curiosity, (3) Openness, (4) Seeking, (5) Intentional Discipleship, and (6) Missionary Discipleship.
Discipleship Pathways from across Britain
The examples which are given here are interesting because they don’t set out to identify four or five or however many stages, but they do envisage a pathway from the beginnings of faith to a mature faith. What is more, they recognise that growing in faith is about more than the ‘head’; that it’s about acting as well as thinking or believing.
The Pilgrim Course consists of eight short courses of six sessions each. There are books for each short course along with optional audio and video resources. Pilgrim is comprised of two stages which address different levels: the Follow stage for those very new to faith, and the Grow stage for those who want to go further. Each stage contains four short six-session courses which focus on a major theme of Christian life. Pilgrim is written from an Anglican perspective but it can be used in Methodist churches with a little adaptation.
Pilgrim provides a comprehensive introduction to the broad Christian tradition. As the course information says, Pilgrim assumes very little understanding or knowledge of the Christian faith. It is designed so that it meets the discipleship needs of new Christians but also so that non-Christians can feel comfortable with the discussion. Pilgrim goes on from the beginnings of faith to accompany participants in growing towards Christian maturity. Doctrine features in Pilgrim but there is a strong emphasis on spirituality and the practice of the Christian faith, so Pilgrim aims to equip people to follow Jesus Christ as disciples in the whole of their lives.
Unlike many of the other resources which are recommended in this section of the website, Pilgrim aims as far as possible to provide a discipleship pathway which takes participants through all four of the stages of growth which are outlined in our suggested pathway. But it does not presume that growth ends with the conclusion of the course – Pilgrim aims to provide participants with a springboard to take them into continuing spiritual growth throughout their lives.
Using the Alpha course together with the Freedom in Christ course
The widely used Alpha course is sometimes used together with Freedom in Christ as a comprehensive way to address growth from first enquiries about Christian faith through to establishing participants as mature Christians. The two courses are offered from a charismatic evangelical perspective.
The Alpha course is described elsewhere in the Connect section of these webpages. It aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to Christian beliefs and spirituality. Freedom in Christ is a 13 session course with a leader’s guide and DVDs which focuses less on doctrine than on living the Christian life. When it is used as a follow-up to the Alpha course, the aim is to provide an all-inclusive pathway for growth in the Christian faith, although once again the expectation is that participants will continue their spiritual growth beyond the two courses.
Living the Questions 2.0 is a 21-session DVD-based presentation of Christianity from a progressive Christian perspective. It is designed to help people wrestle with the relevance of Christianity in the 21st century by focusing on questions which are often asked about Christianity. The course then aims to take participants beyond merely an intellectual focus, to a commitment to action flowing from the questions which are wrestled with in the course, so that participants ‘live the questions’.
Living the Questions is presented from a liberal or progressive theological stance but it is quite possible to adopt a question-based approach from other theological perspectives. This is discussed in more detail in the page on implementing the pathway.