Church administrator Lei Felmey has been discipling others for nearly 50 years. The past few have introduced new territory—digital discipleship.
How does it really work in a church? How do you do digital discipleship in a normal week?
Lei shares that and more in Faithlife’s Equipping the Church podcast, episode 3: “Go and Make Disciples.” It’s well worth a listen (especially today on National Podcast Day)! You’ll hear about how
- 85-year-old Betty loves to stay connected with her group
- One small group showed love to a family battling multiple sclerosis
- Lei’s church follows the model Jesus set for discipleship
Here’s a highlight from Lei’s fascinating interview with Faithlife’s Kristen Tetteh.
1. Does your church have a discipleship strategy?
Yes, we do. We have several different ways of discipleship through small groups, through individual mentoring, to temporary groups that have needs, to them.
So from the time people come into the church and we get to talk to them, they get invited to all kinds of activities to participate. Our church is very loosely structured. And that makes it easy for people to enter a group or a class or get involved in any kind of ministry.
2. You’re in a rural community with about 300 people who attend your church each week. Give us some practical discipleship tips you have for churches that look like yours.
We keep things kind of loosely structured. And we offer a variety of groups. So it’s not all the very same thing. And we make it easy for them to engage. We encourage fellowship outside of the groups.
We know that all of our groups have people that meet outside of the group in between groups, they go and they have lunch or coffee or something, they meet out and do things together. So in between, we do have someone that oversees a group that connects people. And so having more than one kind of group, making it easy for people to be in a group. . . . Some of our groups take breaks, others do not. So we just make it easy for them. You don’t have to go through an application process. You don’t have to go to a committee, you come up and you say, “I want to be in a group.” We talk and see what kind. We look at the times that groups are offered and the kinds of groups we have, and then people are engaged in that way.
3. You said to me in previous conversations, “How are you going to make disciples if you’re not focused on teaching God’s Word?” That’s an important part of your ministry, of course, but your small groups especially. So tell us about how you teach God’s Word in your small groups.
I love teaching God’s Word, and I love just studying, but if you don’t do something with what you learned from studying, then you’re really not getting anywhere. So I’m very big on the Bible study, but then we have to have the application.
So we do a lot of digging deep into whatever book we happen to be in. And we do a lot of very application- or disciple-based questions. I don’t accept what they call “Sunday school answers.” It has to be not a, “I think we should do this”—it should be “I am going to do this” or “This is how my life has changed.” And things like that.
So I want them to understand and love God’s Word so much that whenever they read it, they’re excited about it. And from that, they have a plan for their life.
They get excited about it, and one of the things that I have found with using social media, some of our ladies gave up Facebook because they found that they’re scrolling for hours and accomplishing nothing. By the time they’re done, they’ve not thought one complete thought. So they switched over to using our social media on Faithlife.
The challenge that they’ve seen is that on Facebook, you scroll and you don’t have to think. But in posting onto something like the social media on Faithlife, you have to actually think a thought and that is what I want to get across in groups, how to do critical thinking.
Most people don’t know that. They go to church, they hear the sermon, they go home, but to actually take a passage and to think it through . . . So in the ladies groups, they actually now have to think. It’s a cultural change that is going to be a slow change, I think, because you have to be able to look at a life issue and think it through.
So I try to either post a question out there [in the Faithlife group] that will make people think or an article. (I posted several Easter articles recently, and I’ve gotten some very good responses as far as “I never thought that before” or “Here’s what I think.”) And so, if we don’t teach people how to think, then they can’t do any kind of discipleship with anyone else or any kind of application. And you need that through life, through your family life, and through your own life. You need to know what God’s Word says, and how do you use it today?
Listen to the rest of Equipping the Church podcast episode 3 for more encouragement from Lei and stories of what God is doing through her church’s digital discipleship. You can also find the Equipping the Church podcast on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
After you listen, think about your own church’s discipleship and incorporate digital elements to reach people where they are—online.