Three P's of Discipling

Purpose, Plan, Preparation

When it comes to planning discipleship and discipling, some people feel overwhelmed wondering where to start and what to do. On the Useful Stuff​ page and in the Practical Stuff section​ of this page, you'll find ideas on how to lead a small group, how to have deep conversations, and more.

Below are some big-picture things to consider that will help shape and frame the details of your discipling.

Purpose (eternal)

The ultimate purpose of discipling is to help others become more like Jesus. Everything you do is aimed at that. Expanding the definition ("helping other become more like Jesus by ...") will determine what you do in your discipling and why. Expanding the definition to include just a few things you think are most important will give you traction and help propel you forward. Some of the obvious things to include are spending time reading the Bible together, spending time praying together, spending time talking about real life and real questions, and being a model of faithful discipleship in your own life.

It can be helpful to narrow things down even more. Identify one main goal or outcome that you want your students to experience with you and embrace themselves. What is one belief, one passion, and one practice you hope your students will take with them when they move on from your ministry?

Many people focus on Scripture. They want their students to believe the Bible is trustworthy and meaningful; to love Scripture and desire to engage with it; and to become more comfortable and confident learning from and living out the truth of God's Word.

What is it for you? What's the one main thing you want your students to leave with? How you answer that question will shape how you disciple others.

Plan (annual)

When mapping out a semester or a year of discipling content, you could follow one of these tracks:

  • Focus on whatever Bible passages or stories you use in your weekly clubs or outreach events, but go deeper. Instead of looking at the passage to just see who Jesus is, also look to see how it teaches followers of Jesus to live with him, through him, and for him.
  • Read through a book of the Bible together. Start with a Gospel. Then move to one of Paul's letters (consider Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians for starters). Psalms and Proverbs are great entry points to the Old Testament. You can read and talk about Mark, or use Mark in a Month​ or The John Project​ books with your group.
  • Read with your small group whatever part of Scripture you're reading in your own devotional time. The inverse of this is to spend your devotional time reading whatever passages and stories you'll be reading in your discipling conversations. This isn't cheating or working the system. Instead it's smart and wise, a perfect example of how discipling others is strongest when it flows out of one's own discipleship.

Prepare (weekly)

Leading up to each discipling small group or one-on-one, it's essential to be prepared. This doesn't mean creating a long list of to-dos, writing extensive lesson plans, or rehearsing a scripted intro. It does mean having spent enough time in the Scripture passage to allow opportunities for reflecting, learning, and digesting it yourself so that you can help guide students to a place of learning and discovery.

Some ways to do this:

  • Read the passage multiple times, from different versions, and listen to an audio version.
  • Jot down your observations and questions as you read. Engage with those and see where they lead.
  • Anticipate what questions you think your students might have and start exploring those yourself.
  • Learn something more about the passage from a study Bible, a commentary, or a BibleProject video. This doesn't need to be extensive or exhaustive. Just push yourself to be a learner so that you can cultivate the same attitude in those you're discipling.
  • Copy out the passage for yourself, more than once if possible. You'll notice new and different things through this practice.
  • Pray. Do not overlook the power and importance of inviting God to teach you and to guide you.


Reflect - Discuss
  • If you had to state your current overall big-picture purpose for discipling, what would it be?
  • How do you currently plan out a semester or year of discipling content?
  • How do you currently prepare for each week of discipling?
  • What's one way you'd like to continue growing and developing as a planner and preparer for discipling contexts?
  • How do you work with other leaders to plan and prepare discipling content and conversations?


Check out some online commentaries, study guides, and audio Bibles here.

Resources for people who help others become more like Jesus.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2103 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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