The Inconvenient but Effective Key to Making Real Disciples


Big-attendance days, like Easter and Christmas, are important for the growth of a church. You get to meet a lot of guests and then follow up with them after they visit. You also get a visual picture of what your church can look like a year down the road on an average Sunday.

The problem with big days, however, is that we sometimes see them as the end goal, and they're not. High-attendance days are just one part of a bigger picture when it comes to making disciples.

After Easter, a lot of churches start preparing for what many leaders refer to as the "summer slump," when attendance and giving decrease because of vacation travel, sports, and other interests competing with the church for time on the weekend.

That's why it's vital to focus, on a regular basis, on the systems you have in place for making disciples in between those big days.

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To put it another way, you have five or six weeks per year to invite as many people as possible to attend a special worship event, but you have 52 weeks per year to help people take their next step in their spiritual walk.

Every week, you can consistently teach the truth of the Bible in a way that helps people apply it in their daily lives. That means planning your preaching over months at a time, teaching in series and growing in your understanding of preaching for life change.

Every week, your church can see people growing spiritually by helping them develop the spiritual disciplines. You can use a membership class, followed by a discipleship class, followed by classes to help people start serving and sharing their faith, too.

Every week, you can connect more people in vital relationships by helping them join a small group or start a small group themselves. To make this happen, focus on building a small groups system that develops leaders who can coach other leaders.

Every week, you can help people discover how God has shaped them for ministry and offer opportunities to serve others. Every new believer has been given a gift by the Holy Spirit, and every week is an opportunity to open the door for someone else to serve.

Every week, you can equip people to share their faith, live on mission and invest their time, talent and treasure for the Kingdom's sake. On high-attendance weekends, you'll have a lot of people who come to observe what you're like as a church. Your goal is to empower them to move from being consumers of the church to contributors within the church.

Some of the work you do as a church leader has to do with promoting Sundays and inviting more people to attend. But a larger portion of your leadership energy should be devoted to growing people and building the systems necessary to help people take their next steps.

If you will focus on making disciples on a regular, consistent basis, then the high-attendance weekends simply become opportunities to help more people plug into the body so they can grow spiritually and become world-changing missionaries.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global internet community for pastors.

This article originally appeared at

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