This past week I had the opportunity to take an 11-year-old young lady with me while I helped lead a week-long ministry workshop in Colorado Springs. We’ll call her Anna. She was the youngest attendee of the group by far. Many of the other participants were already experienced missionaries on the field or were preparing to ship out for foreign missions within the year.
The workshop was with Simply the Story, a ministry offering tools for people to experience Scripture through stories and discussion, effective for use in evangelism and discipleship. Is 11-years-old too young to start training a believer to make disciples of Jesus?
Here’s what Anna told me on our drive back from the workshop: “Before the workshop, I wanted to teach other people about Jesus, but I didn’t know how. Now I feel like I know how.”
During the workshop, she heard and processed the same information veteran missionaries were learning. She jumped into the practicals and demonstrated her understanding of Scripture and how to share it with others. She helped me prepare my presentations in the evenings for the next day and rubbed shoulders with ministry leaders from around the world.
Now she’s back home, sharing stories from God’s Word with her younger siblings and praying for the opportunity to go overseas with missions. Is 11-years-old too young to start this sort of thing?
Here are three things to consider as you engage in real-life disciple making:
1. Make Disciples Who Will Make Disciples
Paul wrote Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). We should be making disciples who are making disciples. The question is–do you wait until those you mentor are in their thirties and forties to train them to do so?
It’s interesting to note that Jesus sent out twelve young men to make disciples of the nations after He had only been with them three years. At the end of those three years, these young guys walked up a hill to meet Jesus before He gave them the great commission and returned to Heaven. Here’s what Matthew wrote about that event:
“And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted” (Matt. 28:17).
All of these boys were commissioned to make disciples of the nations. Even the doubters. Ten days later, filled with the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus, they led over 3,000 people to repentance and baptism.
This passage brings me to ask the question: am I really making disciples the way Jesus did, or do I just create and follow my own formula for discipleship? I often hesitate to commission believers who don’t seem “there” yet. But Jesus didn’t wait until His disciples were scholarly gray-haired sages before sending them out to make disciples. He entrusted the discipleship of nations to a handful of young men, some of which were still processing their own questions and doubts.
2. Start Now
I won’t always have the opportunity to disciple Anna. Soon she’ll be a teenager, and then an adult. Will her life be bearing fruit through these years? During this time, is she only learning half of what it means to be a follower of Jesus–the half that focuses on just her and Jesus? Or, is she grasping and walking in light of the fact that the great commission is directed to her too? Is she learning how to point others to Jesus?
I don’t want her to be robbed of the calling Jesus has given her for right now. I also don’t want to do her the disservice of encouraging an inaccurate mindset that her Christianity exists for her enjoyment alone.
How can she grow more and become better rooted in her faith? What would best prepare her to be a fruitful believer in the future? How about sharing her faith and discipling others now?
3. Bring Them Along
What might that look like? I’m not suggesting dropping an 11-year-old along the side of the road to do street preaching alone. How did Jesus do it? Did He send out His disciples alone? Or the other extreme–did He create an artificial environment for them to work in? No. He just took His disciples along with Him to do the ministry He was already doing.
What are you already doing that those you mentor can join? Can you bring them along with you in areas where you’re serving? As you go, make disciples. I was already headed to Colorado Springs to help lead a workshop. Anna just came along. Sometimes this sort of discipleship will feel like it’s slowing you down or hindering your ministry. Don’t believe it. Yes, you’ll have more interruptions, more questions, more to think about. But that’s all part of real-life discipleship and the fruit of that investment will be invaluable for years to come.
Check out our Online Leader Training Course for tools to disciple children and youth to know and follow Jesus. Click here to learn more about our Leader Training Course.