139 – Research Findings on Successful Discipleship Programs (Part 2 of 2)
What I Learned From 236,325 Pages of Reading, 653 Web-Sites,
123 Hours of Interviews, 4, Churches, 2 Crashed Hard Drives and
1 Dissertation Committee
In the last issue of A Look in the Mirror we covered the following parts of my doctoral research…
Purposes, Research Question, Research Method
The Literature: 9 Essentials to Sustain Change
Data Collection and Findings
(If you missed Part 1 you can view it at ALM 138 )
In this second of two parts we will look at…
Some recommendations for leaders who want to implement a sustainable church-based men’s discipleship program
Some recommendations for further research
An overall Summary
Two Recommendations to Implement a Sustainable Men’s Discipleship Program
1. Questions for Church Leaders to Ponder
The first recommendation is a list of 27 questions to ponder—each about one necessary success factor. Those questions are found in Table 1. It may prove beneficial for church leaders who want to implement an effective men’s discipleship program to discuss these questions among themselves before deciding to proceed further. Notice that the questions are built around the nine themes mentioned in Part 1.
2. An Implementation Model for Building an Effective Men’s Discipleship Program
The second recommendation pertains to the purpose of this study, which was to develop a model for implementing a church-based men’s discipleship program based on the research findings.
After interpreting the findings, I decided that expanding a model first developed in 1996 fit the data and conclusions better than any other model. That model, depicted in Figure 1, consists of phases and incorporates the 27 implementation factors suggested by the questions in Table 1. Rather than go into detail I will only reproduce the graphic. You can learn more about the model in the following ways….
Take our free mini-course (click here), especially lesson 2
Attend a Leadership Training Center course (click here)
Read the Men’s Ministry Action Plan workbook (click here)
Read our new book, No Man Left Behind (click here)
Click here to read “How to Reach Men on the Fringe Through Your Church”
Figure 1. The create, capture, sustain model: a model
to create, capture, and sustain momentum in a church-
based men’s discipleship program
The model has the advantage of parsimony and intuitiveness. A seminar leader or workshop speaker could quickly have an audience draw the model. For example, he or she could say:
On a sheet of paper please draw a circle about the size of a silver dollar. Inside the circle please write the word ‘vision.’ Next, just on top of the circle at twelve o’clock, please write the words ‘create momentum.’ Now go to four o’clock and write ‘capture momentum.’ Then, go to eight o’clock and write ‘sustain momentum.’ Finally, following the arc of the circle, draw an arrow from ‘create momentum’ to ‘capture momentum,’ then from ‘capture momentum’ to ‘sustain momentum’ and, finally, from ‘sustain momentum’ back to ‘create momentum.’
Suggestions for Further Research
Also recommended are further research suggestions. Successful church-based men’s discipleship programs have not been systematically studied prior to this research. A number of questions rose during the course of the study which are suggested for further research:
(1) What percentage of churches have started and sustained a men’s discipleship program, and why? What percentage of churches have started but been unable to sustain a men’s discipleship program, and why? Investigation is needed to quantify what has taken place among churches attempting to implement a men’s discipleship program. It would be useful to segment the research to understand differences by church size, denomination, and geography.
(2) How long does it take to implement a sustainable church-based men’s discipleship program? Further research is needed to understand how long it takes to reach sustainability when implementing a church-based men’s discipleship program. Answers to this question would provide a benchmark for what to expect
(3) What is the impact of an effective men’s discipleship program on the health and vitality of a local church, the members, and community; particularly in comparison to a local church with no such program? Future work is needed to understand the relative positive impact of a men’s discipleship program. What difference does it make? What is the difference between a church that makes disciples of men and one that does not?
(4) What are the benchmarks to measure the effectiveness of a men’s discipleship program? Other studies are needed to establish benchmarks by which a church can measure its progress in implementing an effective men’s discipleship program. This research would address program results. For example what outcomes represent an ineffective, effective, and highly effective program? For instance, potential ways to benchmark/measure effectiveness to be investigated might include:
• Percentage of men who are disciples
• Percentage of men involved in any kind of ministry
• Percentage of members giving
• Percentage of giving members who tithe
• Divorce rates of church compared to general population
• Percentage of attendees professing faith
• Counseling load of staff
• Asking wives how their husbands are doing
• Asking residents within a five mile radius what they think of church
• Interviewing women members of the church
• Interviewing children members of the church.
(5) What are the most highly effective men’s discipleship programs and their best practices? Further research is needed to understand the best practices and applicability of the most effective programs. A number of interesting questions could be asked, like: What models are highly effective programs using? What do they teach? What do they require? What do they promise? Answers to these questions could provide models for study and imitation.
(6) Answers to these and similar questions can assist church leaders in applying successful organizational concepts to church-based programs.
In general, church-based discipleship programs for men have been unsuccessful. This study analyzed factors that contributed to the success or failure of church-based men’s discipleship programs in four Protestant churches. The case study analyzed why and how the implementation factors for effective church-based men’s discipleship programs differed from factors that led to ineffective and failed programs.
The study confirmed that program implementation factors found in management literature can generally be applied to nonprofit religious institutions to increase program effectiveness (Collins 2005).1 The two men’s discipleship programs which consistently applied implementation factors from literature were more effective than the two programs that applied factors erratically.
The findings lead to the conclusion that there were three primary implementation factors for the men’s discipleship programs in this study to be effective: (a) a senior pastor who personally championed the program, (b) a strong vision to make a disciple of every man in the church, and (c) an implementation model designed to sustain momentum. When these three factors were in place, the other needed implementation factors appear to follow in the course of time.
I hope this two part overview can help you build a more sustainable men’s discipleship ministry in your church. This is a battle we can win if, as D. L. Moody put it: “We pray like it is all up to God, and we work like it is all up to us.”
1 Collins, J. (2005). Good to great and the social sectors: A monograph to accompany good to great. Boulder, CO: Jim Collins.
Pat Morley is the Founder and CEO of Man in the Mirror.
© 2006. Pat Morley. All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced
for non-commercial ministry purposes with proper attribution.