Yesterday I mentioned that I am going to begin experimenting with some new methods for life-on-life discipleship in the coming year.

For most of my ministry, I spent a lot of my time doing life-on-life discipleship in a one-on-one context. One-on-one discipleship has some really strong benefits: focused attention, confidentiality, and a depth of relationship that can't be present in larger groups. Those relationships also allow for an agility that groups can't have; if someone is struggling with a particular issue, it doesn't impact other people to camp-out on something, or move more slowly.

However, one-on-one discipleship also has some fairly strong weaknesses as well. It is almost impossible to avoid a sensei/grasshopper feel to the relationship which is de-valuing to many "mentees," and has a tendency to puff-up many "mentors." It can also lead to codependency or a lack of accountability - it's easy to roll the alarm clock when you're only letting one person down. If one of the two people is busy or out of town, it's impossible to get together, which makes it hard to get in a rhythm. Finally, one-on-one discipleship depends extremely heavily on the individual skill of the mentor which is not always reproducible, even when the material is.

Greg Ogden has written about a philosophy of doing life-on-life discipleship in triads in a book called "Transforming Discipleship" (I reviewed the book here). This year I'm going to give it a shot. Instead of meeting one-on-one, I'm going to try to grab two guys at a time who are interested in growing together. As a really young pastor, I think it will help the invitation on the front-end by eliminating the sensei/grasshopper mentality. Rather than asking someone several decades my senior to let me "mentor" him, I'll be able to invite a couple of guys into a process through which we'll all grow together. In fact, through the use of triads I'm hopeful that we can eliminate most (if not all) of the weaknesses of one-on-one discipleship while retaining the ability to be transparent, accountable, and agile.

I'll keep you posted...