A common mistake I see many college ministers make is putting their discipleship goals ahead of their disciple’s hearts.
Now don’t get me wrong. Disciples are not made without intentional, well-prepared content, but often we place the cart in front of the horse. If we are not careful, the content can become king, and the disciple becomes a project. This is a sure-fire way to grow disciples that do not feel cared for.
What is the solution?
We must move from a “check up” mentality to a “HEART Check” approach.
Check Up Mentality
This is when your time with your disciple becomes more about them doing the right things rather than your care and concern for them. Typically these times together consist of A LOT of questions. Some of those might include:
- How often are you meeting with God?
- How much have you been praying?
- How is your Bible study going?
- How many guys/girls came last week?
- When will you share the gospel with them?
- What is the next step for each of them?
- Do you have any ministry appointments coming up this week?
Now let me be crystal clear. There is a time and a place for these direct questions, a ministry team or disciple-making group, for example. I ask these exact questions to the guys I am discipling regularly. The one-on-one setting should be approached differently than a ministry team setting. We must use our one-on-on time to engage our disciple’s HEART.
HEART Check Approach
The word heart serves as both the focus of the time together and a useful acronym to guide us through this style of meeting. Each letter will serve as a reminder to guide us into the next section of our time with our disciples. Here is how it works.
The “H” triggers you to ask HOW ARE YOU type questions. Your disciples are human, just like you. They have gone through an entire week since the last time you sat down together, most likely, filled with exhausting days, hard conversations, and missed expectations. They may have received tough news that week that has consumed their thoughts. We must open up by allowing them to share this. It is equally important that we listen well and respond with concern. Here are some potential questions to ask during the “How are you?” section of your HEART Check.
- What has been good about this last week?
- What has been difficult about this last week?
- Are you enjoying your time with God in the mornings?
- If yes. What has he been teaching you?
- If no. Is there an obvious reason why?
- What are you enjoying about work?
- What did you think about the different pieces of training we did this week?
- Who is someone you are enjoying getting to know better?
These questions are designed to open the door for honest dialogue. One goal is to ask questions in such a way that you avoid one-word answers. Rather than “how was your week?” which will inevitably lead to the answer “good.” We can bypass that question and go straight to, “what was good about your week?”
This is also a great place for feeling-type questions. Beginning a question with “how did you feel” removes any threat. There is no right or wrong. It is simply allowing them a chance to process out loud with you about everything that is going on in their lives.
The “E” will cue you to ENCOURAGE. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” We have all personally experienced the “sweetness” of a well-thought-out encouragement by someone we respect. Our words to our disciples will either build them or break them! Using our words to build them up is a biblical command, while the other is sin. This section is not only sweet, but it is simple and short. Here is how it works.
- Come up with 1 or 2 specific ways to encourage them. These are areas of their lives that you have noticed over the previous week that need to be brought to their attention for encouragement. Here are a few examples.
- “I have noticed that you have been up extra early to meet with the Lord before work. That has inspired me to want to love God and his word more, and it is positively impacting our group; keep it up!”
- “I noticed last week that our group keeps leaving dirty dishes in the sink, but you went out of your way to clean them without anyone asking. That was an amazing example of Christ to our group. I love your servant’s heart.”
That is it. It only takes 30 seconds to sweeten the soul and bring health to the body of your disciples. It is the ghost pepper of a discipleship meeting because it is small but has a powerful and lasting effect!
The “A” sparks you to ASK HOW YOU CAN HELP. Jesus left the right hand of God to come to earth, but Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:6-7 remind us that, although he had every right to be elevated, he made himself a servant. When we think too highly of ourselves, we will not serve others. We must use our one-on-one time to humble ourselves, set our agenda aside, and ask, “how can I help you?”
Now to avoid the common American response, “I can’t think of anything right now,” we must strengthen our servant-driven questions. Feel free to try some of these or come up with some on your own.
- Has there been anything from this last week that has been difficult for you that I could help with?
- I know you got hit with a lot of new info this week; how do you feel about everything?
- Anything I could clarify or help you think through?
- I know you are leading Bible study this week, would it help if I looked over it with you and helped you think through some questions?
- How are you feeling about sharing the gospel, would it be helpful to go over it together at some point?
- Is anything confusing you that you have learned this week?
- What, if anything, is stressing you out about the upcoming week? I could help you with that.
One thought you might share with me as you read through these questions is, “what if they ask me to do more than I have time for?” In the rare case that this might happen, it is good to remember that serving them doesn’t always mean you personally helping them. It may be you helping them find the help they need. For example, if they said they needed help practicing sharing the gospel. You helping them is one way to serve, but what if your week is full? Another option is to serve them by connecting them with someone else that they can practice with. You may say something like, “I would love to help you with that. For me, getting more reps helped grow my confidence; what if you shared the gospel with each person in our discipleship group this week?”
The “R” is your bread and butter. It is the “Read the Bible” section of your time together. It can be a single verse, multiple verses, a parable, or any other area of the Bible that you want to insert into the heart of your disciple. The key is to address a specific issue or obstacle that is prohibiting maximum growth for your disciple. This can happen in one of two ways.
Situation 1: Your participant has shared an obvious problem or obstacle as you are sitting together. If they don’t have a prominent issue, this can also come from the “How are you” section or the “Ask how you can help” section.
- “Hey, I get that. I have struggled with similar things. What if we looked at God’s word to see what it has to say about it?”
- “You mentioned that you are having trouble with your attitude at work. I get that. Let’s look at God’s word and let him speak into that area of our lives.”
Situation 2: Your participant seems to be doing fine. They are not sharing any pending problems. In this case, something preplanned is an excellent option.
- “Seems like things are going well for you so far. I want to share a few passages of scripture that will continue to encourage us in our walks with Jesus.”
I realize that there are many directions this section of your one-on-one can go so I wanted to take a minutes to think through some common Q and A’s.
- How do I prep for this time? Here is a link to a handout you can use to prepare for this section of your one-on-one.
- How do I figure out the content for this time? Two ways. The first is to be prepared for the common issues that your disciples will inevitably run into. For example, if your disciple says, “I am just so stressed and anxious about life right now!” in the “H” section, I would make a note. Then when you come to the “R” section of your one-on-one, I would say, “Hey, you mentioned being really stressed; let’s spend some time seeing how God tells us to handle our stress and anxiety.” Then I would open the Bible to Matthew chapter 6 or Philippians 4:6-7 and read them together. The second is to prepare general content on the front end but still be ready for other issues. Be sure to refer to the handout mentioned in the previous question before doing this.
- What if they have any issues that I don’t know any Bible verse for? Please stick to the prepared content you have already prepped, but be sure to let them know you want to talk more about what they mentioned. Then spend the next few days discovering in God’s Word great truths that your disciples need to hear. The following week use the content you have discovered as your “R” time. Obviously, if the issues are more pertinent, there is no need to wait a week to get back together.
- How long should the “R” section be? 5-10 minutes is plenty of time. That may seem short, but remember that there is another context when spending extended amounts of time in the Bible together is appropriate. A devotion together or a ministry group meeting. A HEART check is casual. It can be done sitting down at a coffee shop, at the gym, or even on a car ride. There will be exceptions to this rule. For example, if someone shares something of extreme significance or if the conversation is highly emotional.
The “T” is both a natural flow to this time as well as the most powerful way to end your HEART check. It stands for “Talk to God.” Once you close your Bibles, go ahead and say, “could we spend some time praying over what we just read and ask God to give us desire/strength to live out these truths?” Then you pray. Not just one of you, both of you. This would also be a great time to share prayer requests. I would recommend keeping a prayer journal just for your disciple’s prayer requests so you can be praying for them regularly and checking in on their requests each week.
Some closing thoughts…
A few things are assumed before implementing a HEART check one-on-one in your discipleship.
Assumption 1: You and your disciples have other consistent spiritual rhythms in their lives. The HEART check is designed for disciples who are in the “battle,” so to speak. This means you both are actively participating in a disciple-making group, attending a healthy church, spending regular time in God’s Word and prayer, and fleeing from sin to pursue holiness. The HEART check is a way to kick the tires of a vehicle that is in use. It will not function as a stand-alone appointment once a week in the life of a nominal or unbeliever.
Assumption 2: You are personally committed to disciple-making. The HEART check asks more from the mentor than the disciple. It will challenge you to study and memorize the Bible. It will push you to consider your disciple above yourself. It will challenge you to become a better life-on-life disciple builder.
Assumption 3: You love and believe the Bible literally. The HEART check is not a counseling or therapy session. If one spent their time listening and giving advice without inserting the truths of the scriptures, the HEART check loses its power and effectiveness. The greatest purpose of this time with your disciples is to identify lies/obstacles/burdens and insert God’s truth through reading the Bible and prayer.
Now you are ready to prepare and launch into your first HEART check one-on-one. Please leave feedback and thoughts in the “reply” section to continue to improve this resource. I would also love to hear any encouraging stories as God moves in your life and the lives of your disciples.