Training is the process by which someone matures from learning to leading, from participating to performing. It is a process we regularly underestimate but can’t go without.
Some self-disciplined, intuitive types can train themselves in a skill by merely observing and imitating successful people. But there are masses of people who, to make progress, need rigorous coaching and instruction. This is why athletes, entrepreneurs, and executive teams hire personal trainers or outside consultants. Classes and books may help with communicating information, but effective skills-training rarely takes place without close contact, personal investment, and frequent feedback.
The world gives many names to such training: mentoring, coaching, supervising, parenting, tutoring, consulting, counseling. The Bible calls it “making disciples.” And when we use this fitting label, we’ll quickly realize the Bible has much to say about how to go about doing it.
While I write this post as part of a series about how to train someone to lead a Bible study, the process I outline1 can be applied to almost any skill. Since it describes how God works in the world, we should expect it to work as we follow his example.
- I do, you watch; aka “Come and see” (John 1:39). Invite this person to become your official assistant leader. Meet with your assistant before the group meeting to go over the passage. Teach that person how to do OIA Bible study. Practice it with that person over the course of a few months.
- I do, you help; aka “Come and follow me” (Mark 1:17). Ask your assistant to evaluate your leadership and make suggestions for improvement. Give assignments for your assistant to carry out during the meeting. “Please help me to draw out the silent person.” “Please feel free to ask a key question if you think the discussion is lagging.” “Please come early and be ready to help welcome people.” “Please let me know what you hear that will enable me to make the next study more relevant to them.”
- You do, I help; aka “Go out and come back” (Luke 10:1-24). Let your assistant lead one of the meetings, and then meet to give that person feedback on how it went. You now play the support role during the meeting, helping with difficult situations or participants. Encourage your assistant with what went well and offer suggestions for improvement. Avoid correcting every minor mistake; focus on broad patterns that might hold back this person’s leadership ability.
- You do, I watch; aka “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). Right when your assistant starts being truly effective, you’ll need to send that person out to start a new group without you. This is painful, because it will feel like your own group is moving backwards. You’ll lose the momentum and excitement of visible progress. But where there had been one group, now there are two. This is worth it.
The beauty of this process is that it’s neither time-sensitive nor dependent on factors like capacity, competence, education, or learning style. Because it’s merely a framework to guide the discipleship of an individual, we can tailor the process to all the different kinds of people we train.
If, after delegating the task fully (step 4), you suspect the person is struggling to succeed, that’s okay. Most trainees need to make their own mistakes and find their own style before they find competency. But perpetual floundering may also reveal that you moved too quickly through the steps and should return to one of them.
For the rest of this series, I’ll walk through these four steps in detail, explaining how we can use them to train people to lead their own Bible studies.