Disciple Project

cross roadsBy Beth Hartfiel, Disciple Project Coach

Life is full of crossroads where we choose our path forward. What path are you currently taking? What path have you invited others to join you on?

Most leaders today can name one or more people who took a chance and invited them into leadership. People need others to validate their gifts, to support them as they take on new responsibilities, and to support them when things don’t go as planned. Who are the potential leaders around you? Who are the young people in your life that you will take a chance on? Who are the experienced leaders that would be energized by expanding their gifts?

Over the years, I have been part of many different kinds of leadership schools. Each time I came back from one of these schools, I had to figure out how I could get the maximum impact beyond this mountain-top experience which often times was difficult. I found that it is easier to go with someone so I have a talking and thinking partner when I return. It’s always more memorable and impactful when I am able to quickly put into practice what I learn.

I have seen this every year I have been involved in the Disciple Project. The stories of leaders returning to their congregation with real skills and a renewed sense of call to serve are wonderful. More importantly, I see leaders of all ages using new skills integrated into their life following this experience.

Adults attending the Disciple Project are amazed at the gifts and leadership capacity of their young people. They learn side-by-side, and through the course of the week, mentor one another. Those who attend together have a shared experience of growth. This gives each participant, both youth and adults, the support they need when they take their learning back to their congregation.

The Disciple Project is a great community learning experience, which is part of what makes it so unique. Participants are part of at least three communities during this leadership school:

  1. The Congregational Community– Congregations are encouraged to bring teams of adults and youth to learn together. This maximizes the opportunities for youth to be empowered to use their skills when they return home and includes a mentoring component. There is time each day for congregational connections. Congregations that come with small groups or individuals who come alone are intentionally connected to groups so that they have a “DP Congregation” for the week.
  2. The Learning Track Community– Every person chooses a focused learning experience for the full week. Within a track, the design may include small groups and larger group experiential learning. Participants spend 16-17 hours learning and practicing alongside each other.
  3. The Disciple Project Community– During the week all participants join together in morning Bible study, worship, meals, and free time. Through these times, there is a synergy of all the learning tracks. This larger community becomes a place of gift sharing, as tracks celebrate what they are learning.

The variety of learning tracks offered by the Disciple Project means that students and adults would learn leadership skills within their area of passion. This is not a leadership school for volunteering at the church or a chance for youth to be a better youth group leader. The variety of tracks allows participants to safely explore their leadership gifts over the span of a week. They can learn, discuss, and practice what they are learning about themselves and the world around them as they grow in faithful leadership with the gifts God has given them.

All participants at the Disciple Project will experience an inclusive, outwardly focused Christian Community, learn and practice leadership skills, discern God’s call in their life, and live in response to God’s grace. This is an inclusive leadership school, in the fullness of what that means.  The Disciple Project strives to be a diverse intergenerational, multi-ethnic, and multi-socioeconomic learning community where all participants feel safe sharing their views as they grow and learn from a variety of perspectives.

”All of us desperately need people to believe in us, to name in us what God has put into our lives to use for his glory. The more you can empower every leader in your church to be on the lookout for another leader to whom they can pass the baton, the more people you will have stepping up to the leadership plate.” Forman, Jones, Miller

How are you encouraging the young people in your life as they struggle to figure out their identity and their gifts? One way to do this is to tell them about the Disciple Project, or better yet, join them at the Disciple Project. Come explore some paths with me on the campus of Texas Lutheran University June 20-24, 2016.