Taking Discipleship out of the Coffee Shop

Life on life discipleship happens outside the coffee shop. Learn how to move from a coffee shop to a life on life model of discipleship

Discipleship can be quite the buzzword sometimes. We all want to be discipled, we know that we should be discipling, we see the value of discipleship in building missional communities and yet actually living out the discipleship model often feels elusive.

When you think about discipling someone, what environment comes to mind? A coffee shop maybe? Sitting down across from one another for some focused time together discussing life’s challenges and mysteries?

But let’s be honest, how much time do we have in our lives to sit down for an hour or so over coffee?

My Journey Out of the Coffee Shop

For a while I struggled with feeling like I didn’t have time to pour into another person. I had one or two young women I met with once a month, but struggled to find the consistency I desired in discipleship. The other frustration I had was wrestling the desire to disciple more young women while also feeling my budget and schedule didn’t have room for more coffee dates.

Eventually, I started to realize that the best discipleship doesn’t happen over coffee. The best discipleship happens over laundry, running errands, long car rides, and pulling weeds. Rather than struggling to find more time and money for coffee dates I have begun to just invite young women into my life and in doing so I have found infinite time and budget to walk alongside as many women as would seek me out.

This model shouldn’t be such a huge revelation; when we look at scripture we see few times where Jesus is spending set time face-to-face with His disciples and many times where He is teaching them along the road as they go, teaching them as they fish, as they eat together, as they go about the day-to-day mundane tasks that are just a part of life.

The effectiveness of this life model of discipleship became really clear to me one day when I met with a young woman for coffee but didn’t really feel like the conversation was going as deep as it needed to. On a whim I asked her if she’d like to go thrift-store shopping with me. As we searched through racks of clothing side-by-side she began to open up and share the deep hurts and struggles I suspected were there. Side-by-side she poured out the hurts she never would have had the courage to speak out face-to-face over coffee.

So how do we move discipleship out of the coffee shop and into our everyday lives? And especially, how do we do it without feeling like Tom Sawyer convincing people how fun it is to white wash a fence?

coffee shop coffee date

Five tips on how to move to a life-on-life discipleship model:

  1. Don’t be a Tom Sawyer

    Which means, don’t invite someone into an activity just because you don’t want to do it. This seems like a little bit of an obvious tip, but is an important heart check. The issue here is not the activity itself, the issue is if our desire is just to get someone else to do work we don’t like or if we genuinely want to spend time with that person investing in them, teaching them the value of doing the hard things well.

  2. Be Kingdom Minded in Conversation

    This is true whether you are sitting down over coffee or are cleaning out the basement together, but is all the more important to remember when you are working on a task side-by-side. Much like Jesus would take the mundane and teach about the kingdom, we have same opportunity in our side-by-side conversations. Actively point out the kingdom concepts you see in the tasks you are doing together.

  3. Be Real

    Invite your disciplee into things you actually would be doing anyway. If you try to force activities that aren’t natural to your day-to-day life it will feel forced; it also won’t be sustainable. I know it feels like you need to think of something fun like a craft project or baking cookies, but trust me, you’ll be shocked how many millennials are willing to come clean your house with you just for the chance to spend time together.

  4. Invite Yourself into their Life Too

    Life-on-life doesn’t just mean inviting someone into your life, it also means inviting yourself into theirs, asking to come walk along with them in the everyday. They don’t have time to get coffee because they have to pack up their dorm this weekend? Go help them pack! Entering into to the mundane of someone else’s life communicates how much we really care, and teaches practically that we will be there for them even at their worst.

  5. Don’t Abandon the Coffee Shop Completely

    There are still times when those face-to-face meetings over coffee are the best environments for the conversations that need to be had. One way to have these face-to-face conversations in a more budget and schedule friendly way is inviting your disciplee to come cook dinner with you and then share that meal together.

When we look at discipleship as a part of everyday life we realize that we have far more time to give than we realized and that we have far too few excuses not to invest in someone else’s life.

coffee mentor

Finding a Mentor to Disciple You

If you’re on the other side of this discipleship problem, struggling to find someone to disciple you, it can be frustrating finding someone to go to the coffee shop with you, let alone engage you life on life. In this post, Fantastic Mentors and Where to Find Them, I share seven tips for finding a mentor. Mentors can feel rare and hard to find, but they are out there! It’s not impossible to find one!

The post was originally shared by 3DM August 4, 2015.

3DM seeks to train leaders in discipleship and missional community models. They are active across the US and the world with locations in Europe, South America, and Australia. Leaders such as Jo Saxton and Mike Breen have been a driving force behind the 3DM movement. Learn more at their website.

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