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I’m fascinated by tools. The right tool, used the right way, produces beauty in our world.

Unfortunately, I’m not a handy person, but I have the utmost respect and appreciation for those who are. Although I know that I can drive a screw into drywall using a hammer, I also understand intuitively that a hammer is likely the wrong tool for the job. There’s no universal perfect tool for all possible jobs, but discovering the appropriate tool for a variety of functions—and learning how to use that tool well—is one way to produce beauty in our world.

In the realm of developing disciples and leaders, I have sought to identify a simple tool that, when used appropriately, will help produce beauty in the form of transformed followers of Jesus, ones empowered to make disciples of others. In other words, a tool to make mature disciples and kingdom leaders. So, with the understanding that there are no perfect tools, and the further understanding that effective tools are valuable, I’ll offer a Disciple Development Plan (DDP) that we use at Calvary Nexus to develop disciples, and can likely be used in your context, wherever you might be.

There are six key elements to the plan that I’ll describe below. Our team reviews and updates our individual DDPs quarterly. Your rhythm might be different, but this plan has been very effective for us.

1. What are you reading or listening to that is helping you grow in Christ?

Here, we note Bible reading, podcasts, videos, books, articles, and any other content that we are consuming for the purpose of growing in Christ. The process of actually listing what you are consuming should ideally help a follower of Christ consider whether their diet of content is healthy. Is there adequate nutrition? And, is the content potentially focused too narrowly?

For example, if someone is volunteering in a Children’s Ministry (CM) context and the content they are consuming is limited to CM curriculum, they are likely to consider expanding their content to create a balance. Similarly, if someone was consuming several varied forms of content in a prior season, but now they are consuming very little content, it can be helpful to see the shift in a tangible way.

2. Who is mentoring you, and what are some of the matters that you are working on?

In my experience, most followers of Christ (disciples) move from generalists to specialists. As you begin your Christian experience, there are usually about 1-3 people who take you under their wing, or mentor you. You are generally trying to discover basic Christianity, i.e., what it means to be a disciple.

As you mature, there may be more specialized areas of focus. For example, as you enter into an area of service in a local church or para-church ministry, you likely will be mentored by someone with some expertise in that area (e.g., Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Usher Ministry, etc.). You move from generalized mentoring to targeted, specialized mentoring. During this season, you’re likely to continue receiving general and specialized (focused) mentoring.

As you develop, you might discover an area where you want to grow, and someone to help you in that area. For example, you become part of a small group and discover people who have a prayer life that you find attractive. You engage one and ask, “I really appreciate your prayers in our group. Would you be willing to meet with me and help me to grow in my prayer life?” Thus, a new mentor relationship is created.

By actually contemplating who is mentoring you and what you are focused on, you can make these discoveries.

3. Who are you mentoring and what are some of the matters that you are working on with them?

Similarly, we develop as we develop others. Ask, who are you mentoring? What are some of the areas that you are focusing on with them? Also, are the people that you are mentoring being encouraged to pass along what they receive from you, and are they doing so (2Tim. 2:2)? In essence, unless you are helping others develop, and encouraging them to do likewise, growth is hindered.

4. What do you believe are your best gifts? How are you using those gifts?

Over the course of time, through trial and error, you tend to identify where God has gifted you. Keep in mind that as you begin to discover gifting, there’s generally extra-effort. Just like learning to ride a bike, there’s a learning curve to developing God-given gifts.

Ask, where do you get “A” results without extra effort? For example, I like to play the drums, but learning new rhythms with more complex time signatures is challenging for me. I get “C+” results even with much effort. So, drumming is not my best gifting. On the other hand, as a teacher, I tend to get high marks without added energy.

I find it very helpful to ask people who know me, and whom I respect, “What do you believe are my best gifts?” Others have insights that I may be blind to. Once you identify your best gifts, contemplate how you are using them to advance God’s kingdom. Any gifting can be used for God’s kingdom to make disciples; it simply takes some contemplation and inspiration.

5. What are you seeking to delegate to others?

In the early church, the apostles realized that they were called to focus on prayer and Bible teaching, rather than overseeing a food distribution (benevolence) program (Ac. 6). So, the oversight of the benevolence program was delegated to people of good reputation and wisdom, and those whose lives were characterized by being led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Delegation relates to equipping and empowering others to do what you’ve been doing.

If you consider a Venn diagram with intersecting circles, the place where all three circles meet is the proverbial bullseye. So, where you are gifted, what you are passionate about, and where there is a need, are often great targets to aim at. Ideally, everything else can be delegated over time.

By developing others to do what you are doing, you and those to whom you delegate are growing as disciples. As a rule-of-thumb, if someone can do what you’re doing about half as well as you, they are ready to be developed, and the task is ripe for delegation.

At Calvary Nexus, there are ministry responsibilities that I like to do and am gifted to do, such as administration and biblical counseling. Nevertheless, there are others here who can do those tasks well. So, by delegating, they grow, and I grow too.

6. Reflection + development steps:

Review your answers to the first five questions (keys). As you reflect, you are likely to discover areas where there is clear development and targeted areas for growth. List a few action items that you want to take during the next quarter (3 months). The action items should be focused on growing as a disciple and helping others to grow.

Like any tool, it’s easier to use with practice. Also, helping others know how to use the tool will help you, and them. In the realm of developing disciples and leaders, I have sought to identify a simple tool that when used appropriately helps to produce beauty in the form of transformed followers of Jesus, those empowered to make disciples of others.

Bruce Zachary was raised in a Jewish home and has been a follower of Jesus for more than 30 years. Bruce was an attorney for 25 years and has been an ordained pastor since 1995. In 1996, he planted Calvary Nexus, a Calvary Chapel church in Camarillo, California, where he continues serving as teaching and leader development pastor. Bruce has authored 18 books and directed a global church planting initiative in the Calvary Chapel movement. In addition, Bruce continues to serve in a leadership role within the Calvary Global Network as a member of the CGN Executive Team and core initiative Cultivate team.