10 essential elements of an effective discipleship curriculum

Discipleship is a vital part of everyday Christian life, but it can’t be done alone. Jesus set the example for us by spending several years ministering, traveling, and teaching his disciples how to become more like him. In other words, discipleship is a process that requires time, instruction, and practice between a teacher and a student. 

The challenge facing church leaders today is that they have a limited amount of time to spend with their people—maybe just an hour or two every week. To successfully nurture the faith of their followers, they need to find an effective discipleship curriculum to strengthen their courses and encourage students to develop spiritually throughout the rest of the week. 

Fortunately, whether you’re looking for basic discipleship materials to get started or wanting to take your existing curriculum to another level, there are a lot of options available to choose from. Let’s take a look at 10 must-have components that your discipleship materials should have to help encourage healthy and sustained spiritual growth in your community. 

Discipleship curriculum: 10 must-haves for healthy students

Before reviewing how to choose your new discipleship curriculum, it’s important to begin the process by praying for God's guidance and wisdom. Remember that discipleship study resources are a tool to facilitate growth, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit in individuals' lives that ultimately brings about transformation. 

Remember to ensure that the curriculum aligns with the overall vision and mission of your church. It should support and enhance your core values and objectives. 

When using new resources or materials, carefully vet them for the following fundamentals in order to provide your people with the best discipleship training materials as possible:

1. Biblical foundation: The Bible is the bedrock of any successful discipleship program. The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of using Scripture in developing disciples in 2 Timothy 3:16:17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Every discipleship curriculum must be firmly rooted in the Bible. It should align with sound biblical principles and teachings, ensuring that the content is accurate and faithful to the Scriptures.

2. Spiritual growth focus: The primary goal of a discipleship curriculum is to facilitate spiritual growth and maturity in your church community. Look for materials that foster a deeper relationship with God in each person’s daily life, and encourage spiritual growth and Christ-likeness in character and conduct.

3. Comprehensive & long term approach: A well-rounded curriculum covers various aspects of discipleship—including Bible study, prayer, worship, evangelism, community service, personal transformation, and understanding core Christian doctrines. Ideally the courses will last for an extended period, such as a year or more, to allow for deeper growth and discipleship. 

Digital discipleship tools

4. Contextualization & flexibility: Consider the unique needs and backgrounds of your congregation. While the discipleship course outline should have structure, it should also allow room for flexibility and adaptation based on the dynamics and needs of the group. Study materials that are personalizable, culturally sensitive, and relevant to their lives will be more effective in engaging and transforming their faith.

5. Clear objectives & measurable outcomes: What spiritual goals do you want participants to achieve? List and define specific objectives and outcomes for your curriculum and share those with your students. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum through feedback from participants and leaders. Make necessary adjustments based on the feedback received. 

6. Engaging & interactive: Everyone has different learning styles and preferences, so be sure to incorporate various teaching methods and activities that engage participants actively. Using discussion questions, group activities, multimedia, and real-life applications can enhance the learning experience.

7. Emphasis on discipleship relationships: In the end, the success of discipleship relies on healthy relationships. A good discipleship curriculum will encourage small group discussions or even mentorship opportunities. Building authentic relationships is an important part of fostering accountability and encouragement among members.

8. Focus on spiritual multiplication: The ultimate goal of discipleship is helping others learn how to raise up more disciples. Be sure that your curriculum focuses on Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus instructed his disciples to “make disciples of all nations,” baptize them, and instruct them “to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is known as the Great Commission, and it’s still as significant today as it was over 2,000 years ago.

9. Leadership development: One of the fundamentals included in basic discipleship materials should be a focus on developing future leaders within the congregation. Nurture and equip individuals who can lead small groups and disciple others effectively.

10. Accessibility & inclusivity: Make the curriculum accessible to all members of the congregation, regardless of age, background, or spiritual maturity. Consider providing materials in multiple formats—like audio, video, and written—if possible.

Add personalized content to your discipleship curriculum 

There are many curriculum options available for your church’s discipleship classes. However, some of the richest, most personalized discipleship resources available come from your own content that your church is already creating each week in the form of sermon videos, podcasts, blogs, and more.

A powerful way to personalize your discipleship materials is to encourage your students to engage with that content through your church’s website and church app. For example, Subsplash Media makes it easy to create a searchable library of your sermon videos based on topics, speakers, or scripture references. You can also instantly convert your videos into audio content or podcasts that are published on your website and app.

With a built-in Bible and customizable Bible-reading plans, it’s easy to encourage your disciples to engage in daily Bible reading and study—all on the Subsplash Platform. You can also add world-class discipleship resources to your mobile app like The Chosen, Ligonier, The Bible Project, and more! 

All of these resources help strengthen your church’s discipleship programs by keeping people connected with the Bible every day of the week. To learn more about Subsplash and how your church can disciple people anywhere and anytime, [.blog-contact-cta]let’s chat.[.blog-contact-cta]

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Jeff Harvey, Guest Author

Jeff lives in Austin, TX and is a husband, father, and bonsai enthusiast. He’s served churches for over 20 years as a pastor, teacher, and missionary. He also holds a MBA from George Fox University and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish.

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