Exponential Shifts Toward Discipleship – From Attracting to Deploying

Don’t just accumulate people. Deploy them.

-Dave Ferguson

To me, this brief quote may have summed up the heart of the Exponential conference for me (and may be the best brief philosophy of ministry statement I’ve ever heard). It certainly pulled together the final shift: from attracting to deploying. It seems that many churches aim to have more people there on Sunday morning than the church down the road. We don’t say it that way, and I know we probably don’t even see it that way, but is that what we’re actually doing? Accumulating people?

Now, I know that every number is a person who matters to God, so it feels like getting more people in our doors would always be a good thing. And generally speaking, it probably is. But if we’re not doing anything to equip them for the work God’s got for them to do and then to deploy them to do that work, we’ve missed the point. But we don’t always do a very good job of counting deployments do we? We count attendance pretty well… We count offerings meticulously… And so we work to increase the score in those areas.

But deployments?

How do we count those?

Admittedly, it’s a little harder to track this on the scoreboard than bucks in the plate and butts in the seat. But I’m convinced that if we could learn to score what matters a little better, we’d see amazing results in our effectiveness at doing what we’re actually put here to do: make disciples. Ferguson (of Community Christian Church and New Thing Network) suggested a few areas that they count that might be a great place to start.

  • Apprentices – What if we counted the number of people who are in a 1 on 1 type of mentor/apprentice relationship in our bodies?
  • Groups Sent on Mission – How many groups or ministry teams are we sending out into our communities and the world on specific mission opportunities?
  • Family Tree – How many churches have we planted? How are we fostering our whole church relationships with our own ‘family’?
  • Leadership Residents – How many leaders are working with us ‘in training’ to go out and plant additional churches?

As a youth minister, it’s always made sense to me to measure the percentage or number of students who graduate HS and go to Bible College or plug into leadership of a campus ministry. I want to make sure I’m not just connecting kids with my youth group/ministry, but connecting them with the mission of Christ – and that they’re pursuing that mission when they launch from here. (This may be why Jen Hatmaker’s statement, “Don’t be a landing zone. Be a launching pad.” really resonated with me.)

A couple years ago, we asked students to track the number of hours they spent reading the Bible each day. Guess what happened? Our students dug into the Bible that summer like never before. Several of them read the whole Bible during their summer break from school!

Current Middle and High School students involved in leading campus ministries and Bible studies at school is another important category to count.

Also, former students working in ministry is a category that matters deeply to me.

Because these things matter, I hopefully find myself working toward these kinds of deployment efforts a lot more than just getting more kids to show up for youth group. It’s fun to have a big crowd. But the big crowd attendance numbers can’t compare to the excitement I feel when talking about former students serving Christ faithfully on 4 continents or getting their classmates involved in a run to raise money for ActiveWater or sharing Who they’ve found in Scripture with their own families and then baptizing their own moms and dads…

What are some other ways you’ve seen to move from attracting to deploying?


I’ve outlined each of the shifts presented at Exponential 2013 in the following posts, but if you want to get a firsthand look for yourself, check out the very first Exponential West in October in southern CA or look into some of the free ebooks available on Exponential’s site.

“Exponential Shifts Toward Discipleship” Series

  1. Exponential Recap – Discipleshift
  2. From Reaching to Making
  3. From Leading to Being Led
  4. From Teaching to Modeling
  5. From Assimilating to Creating Community
  6. From Attracting to Deploying
  7. Exponential Recap – Drift Happens, Shift is On Purpose

2 Replies to “Exponential Shifts Toward Discipleship – From Attracting to Deploying”

  1. Last summer I allowed a group of student leaders to plan and organize any kind of service project that they wanted to do. After looking at a bunch of options, they decided they wanted to do a 30 Hour Famine to raise money to feed kids in Haiti. After a number of fundraisers and going through with the going without food for 30 hours, our kids raised over $10,000 to help feed the starving children of Haiti.

    This was one of the proudest moments for me as a youth minister, because my students got up and actively did something to help serve and love other people. They took charge, did most of the hard work, and courageously charged forward to help change the lives of others.

    For me, this was a moment of deployment, and many of those students have never been the same!

    1. That’s awesome, Drew! And definitely a moment of deployment that makes a difference in a whole lot of ways.

      It’s an amazing privilege that we’ve been given a place in preparing students for this kind of life!

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