The work of a Discipleship Pastor is significant to the development of and ministry in any New Testament Church. Churches employ a discipleship pastor to guide the church in developing and maintaining a comprehensive strategy as well as enlist and equip disciple making leaders.
The Discipleship Pastor must respect the position and responsibility of the lead or senior pastor. He must develop a mature, productive, supportive relationship with the pastor based on mutual respect. He must also create a work environment in which other discipleship ministry staff and lay leaders feel secure, successful, and productive in their service. He or she accomplishes this task by being knowledgeable, supportive, and appreciative of their position and work.
Qualifications for a Discipleship Pastor include a sense of divine call, a desire to lead people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, a deep abiding love for and ability to get along with all people, a growing faith characterized by personal Bible study and prayer, commitment to Bible-teaching organizations, attention to detail, ability to enlist volunteer leaders and delegate authority, and a knowledge of church organization.
The work of a Discipleship Pastor is multifaceted. The work of the discipleship pastor focuses on four areas: strategy, leadership development, organizational administration and congregational ministry.
As a strategies the Discipleship Pastor is usually responsible for leading the church in both spiritual and numerical growth. This includes the following tasks: creating new small groups, facilitating new-member assimilation, projecting needed physical facilities and meeting spaces, and leading short-term and long-range planning processes.
As leadership development coordinator, the Discipleship Pastor is responsible for the enlistment and training of staff and volunteers in the discipleship ministry of the church. This includes the following tasks: anticipating learner needs, selecting and evaluating curriculum materials, identifying church member’s gifts and skills, securing teaching resources, knowing age-group teaching/learning processes, and evaluating the spiritual growth of members.
As organizational administrator the Discipleship Pastor is responsible for overseeing age group discipleship and small group ministries. This includes the following tasks: working with staff; assessing church members’ skills and gifts; enlisting and equipping lay leaders and volunteers; mobilizing members toward a common purpose and goals, requesting and managing budget funds; leading in setting goals; and evaluating programs and organizational effectiveness.
As minister the Discipleship Pastor takes on the role of a ministering servant. This includes the following tasks: counseling, visiting hospitals, aiding in worship services, and preforming other services as delegated by the pastor.
Preparation for ministry is a lifelong process. While education is not confined to the classroom, a Discipleship Pastor’s leadership and ministry skills can be enhanced through formal education. A high-school diploma is essential. Studies in sociology, psychology, Bible, time management, human develop and educational methodologies are beneficial. A liberal arts degree provides a broad base of education that will be useful in meeting the challenge of the variety of responsibilities assigned to a Discipleship Pastor. Formal and/or informal study of small group and disciple making principles and practices is imperative for success. Additional study at a Southern Baptist seminary develops needed discipline through arduous study, refines strategic planning skills, problem-solving skills, and provides a broad base of Bible knowledge that engenders confidence in a minister, exposes new fields of ministry, provides opportunities for fellowship and affirmation, and acquaints the Discipleship Pastor with Southern Baptist polity and resources.
As Southern Baptists continue to emphasize evangelism and missions and remain committed to establishing new churches, the demand for Discipleship Pastors is on the rise. History has taught us that where there is a vibrant, alive, growing, maturing religious movement, a discipleship process must be created and maintained to guide new believers. As churches grow numerically, the need for individuals to direct the disciple making process and a church’s ministry becomes more apparent. Increased demands on the pastor’s time for counseling, sermon preparation, and ministry service will also magnify the need.
Persons are selected for the position of Discipleship Pastor by pastoral recommendation independent of or in conjunction with the recommendation of a personnel or staff search committee. Search committees often-learn of prospects by requesting names from church members, college and seminary placement offices, and association and state convention offices.
The skills and qualities required of a discipleship pastor may also qualify them to serve as a consultant in associational, state convention, and denomination departments; or as a staff coordinator in larger, metropolitan churches. As a church’s ministries growing number and scope new discipleship related ministries emerge and require additional staff such as age-group ministers specializing in ministry to preschoolers, children, youth, young adults, senior adults, single adults, and college students. These leaders become “Discipleship Pastors” to a particular segment of a church’s population. Some congregations are adopting alternative titles to describe the foundational work of the Discipleship Pastor with other functional positions such as “Small groups Pastor” or “Family Ministry Pastor.”