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Discipleship in the Margins

This past summer I had the privilege of directing an FCA leadership camp called EXCELeration Leadership Training Camp at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO.  The camp was geared toward coaches and their invited team leaders, but my focus as director was to get the right staff and volunteers involved.

A great camp is only possible when you have great people making it happen.  It was also evident, however, that my primary responsibility was not to develop the coaches and athletes that were attending the camp. It was to train, develop, equip and empower our staff and volunteers to do that.

With this in mind, I intentionally scheduled two half days of training for our camp staff and volunteers.  I poured every possible leadership principle into them that I could during that small window of opportunity.  I also created a few training checkpoints throughout camp so that I could further develop our camp leaders along the way.  We even ended camp with a one hour follow up so that our leaders would be better prepared for their next camp as well.

A Surprising Discovery

After camp was over, I asked my assistant director what he thought the best part was.  Without hesitation he said, “discipleship in the margins.” When asked to elaborate he explained that the scheduled training sessions were helpful because they gave him tools for his leadership tool box and put him in the right frame of mind for camp, but that it was the one-to-one time that he and I spent together in between scheduled activities that made the biggest difference.

Image via bestforbeginners.com

Image via bestforbeginners.com

His response caught me off guard. I thought for sure he would have said a segment from our pre or post-camp training.  Looking back on it, though, his answer makes sense.  When the assistant director and I were able to connect walking between activities, during a meal or on break we were able to discuss what we were learning as it was happening in real time.

I asked him questions.  He asked me questions.  I gave him leadership pointers and we were able to identify together what the Lord was doing in his life right then and there. It was personalized leadership development that was tailored to what he was experiencing as he was experiencing it. 

Intentional Relationships Not Just Scheduled Meetings

In John 3:22, the Scripture says that Jesus went to the Judean countryside and “remained their with” his disciples.  The Greek word used in the verse is “diatribo.” It literally means “to rub against” or to “rub off.” In other words, Jesus was doing discipleship in the margins.  This time wasn’t scheduled training, it was just Jesus “rubbing off” on the disciples by spending intentional time with them in between scheduled ministry activities.

In the same way, our most impactful discipleship will come not from scheduled meetings, but from intentional relationships.  Scheduled meetings are important (and we should utilize them), but they are only half the equation.  We must always work the truth of Jesus Christ into the lives of the people we’re discipling by being intentional in our relationships outside of those scheduled meetings.

You and I can exponentially increase our disciple-making effectiveness simply by being more intentional in our relationships.  This kind of discipleship is never convenient, but it’s always worth it.  It will happen with your children late at night when they should be in bed, but are instead struggling with theological questions.  It will happen when a co-worker shows spiritual curiosity while you’re trying to finish that email so you can get out of the office and go home.  It will happen after church when that person you’ve been ministering to finally asks to hear more about Jesus, intruding on your football watching.

This kind of discipleship cannot be planned, but it must be prioritized. Always be prepared to coach people up, to ask heart level questions and to point people to Jesus. If you’re willing to be intentional, it’s the time int he margins that will make the biggest difference.

  1. October 31, 2014 at 6:44 AM

    I love the idea of discipleship in the margins, it is definitely a concept I will take to staff training next year. Thanks for sharing!

  2. December 5, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It will always be helpful to read through articles from other authors and use something
    from other web sites.

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