If you’ve spent some time on this site, you know that the Four Earmarks of Discipleship are qualities or characteristics that help us understand what discipleship looks like and evaluate its effectiveness. Discipleship is a way of teaching and forming another person. All too often, we in the Church approach the task of formation like we should just be able to instruct on something and others will automatically do it. The reality is that we live in a culture that is so relativistic and distrusting of authority that it will take much more to inspire others to do something than simply telling them to do it. Only love for another will motivate a person to freely adopt a new way of thinking and acting. This love and the trust that corresponds to it will increase with growth in intimacy. Developing intimacy in discipleship can take time, and discipleship will deepen intimacy over time. But how do we begin to work on intimacy in discipleship and through our discipleship groups? I thought I would share some ideas from my own experience.
Spend Time Together
Time together will help to build intimacy. In fact, intimacy requires time. Spending time doing study and talking about the faith is important, but be sure to spend time just enjoying each other’s presence as well.
When you experience joy together, it will deepen the desire to be with each other.
Every relationship needs to be going somewhere. When your group has a purpose that is clearly communicated, it creates a strong sense of support and belonging, which leads to a more faithful commitment to discipleship.
A key part of intimacy is trust. Do not be afraid to speak honestly. Be prudent and humble in your sharing, but do not hesitate to be honest, and expect honesty from those in your group as well.
Share Each Other
Be sure your relationships are being shared with others. When you see the other person proud and excited to be with you and share you with others, it will deepen the trust and care you have for each other.
Talk About Each Other
In your discipleship group, do not be afraid to talk about yourself and address personal questions to each of the others. Get to know the youth you work with, and do not be afraid to step outside of programming and curriculum. Always make your time centered upon each person and not the curriculum or study.
Pray For and With Each Other
Bring your relationships to Christ. Pray daily for the youth you work with, and remember to keep prayer a central component of your group meetings.
Youth have people coming in and out of their lives all of the time. When they discover someone who will make more than a program or a simple time commitment, it will inspire more faith in that relationship. Ensuring you are consistent with your time, attention, and care for the youth in your group will also build intimacy in your group.
Lastly, do not be afraid to say you’re sorry for the times where you may have let the youth in your group down. The patience and trust the youth have for you will grow because you have expressed a desire to love better.
If we can foster intimacy among the youth we are working with, it will be hard for the other things in their life to compete. Youth are hungry for intimate and healthy relationships that inspire commitment, sacrifice, and growth. Do not be afraid to truly give of yourself to the youth you are serving and receive the love that they have to give as well.