Are You Over-spotting Your Students?

When weightlifting or resistance training, the job of the spotter is simply to support the one who is training during a particular exercise, with an emphasis on allowing the participant to lift or push more than he/she could normally do safely.

Correct spotting involves knowing when to intervene and assist with a lift, and encouraging a training partner to push beyond what they normally could without a spotter’s help.

A spotter can fail in two major ways:

  1. Ignore the lifter. If the lifter is ignored, there is a possibility of wearing out and being crushed under the weight of the lift or at least suffering injury.
  2. Doing the work: The spotter can also fail by lifting too much of the weight off the one who is training. In the end, they do the work for the lifter. This does not allow the lifter’s muscles to grow. It also fools the lifter into thinking they are further along in their strength training than they really are.

These two errors are the same two errors that pastors, parents and leaders make in developing disciples who are engaged in making other disciples.

Are you failing to spot?

In the church, the way that we fail to spot is by depending on our teaching to do all the work. We tell students that they need to be reading their bibles, praying, serving others or sharing their faith, but no one comes alongside them to provide “show how” training. Then, we send them out and wonder why we don’t see much transformation in their lives.

Disciplemaking requires we move from ministering to the masses to stepping alongside a few. In pulling them close, we come to understand which of their disciplemaking muscles need strengthening. We better understand how much weight should be added to the bar to help them reach their next step.

We fail to spot when we simply minister to students. We throw passionate messages at them assuming that because we’ve told them they get it. All this does is add weight. Weight of information without the support, alongside encouragement and attentive eye of a spotter can become crushing.

Are you over-spotting?

A lot of parents, pastors and leaders are falling into a second trap: over-spotting. We over-spot in disciplemaking when we do everything for students. We study, pray, plan and create artificial environments in which relationships are to be developed.

One way that we do this is when, week after week, we study the scriptures, seek God in prayer and then deliver a message to students. We tell students what the passage says, what it means and how they should apply it. And yet rarely do we give them an opportunity to share what they are learning from God’s word or help them wrestle it’s meaning and implications for their lives. In essence, we fill in the blanks for them. We do the work for them. We over-spot.

When we do this, we can easily think that students are much farther along than they really are. After all, they appear to be lifting the weight. But when the learning environment is teacher-centered rather than learner-centered, there is often far less disciplemaking strengthening going on than it may appear on the surface. Are you over-spotting?

Let The Weight Fall

We must let the weight of disciplemaking fall on the student. We must move from ministry TO or FOR students to ministry WITH students. We do this when we pull a few students close and provide “show-how” training. For instance, instead of telling students to have a quiet time, have one WITH them.

  • Instead of praying for students, invite them to pray WITH you
  • Instead of preparing a message alone and delivering it to students, prepare a message WITH some students. Even consider letting them deliver the message.
  • Instead of planning outreaches where you share the gospel, plan an outreach WITH students. Give them opportunities to share the story of how they came to trust Christ or are trusting Christ.
  • Instead of visiting a student who has been absent for several weeks alone, take a student WITH you and invite them to encourage and pray for that student.
  • Instead of finding mentors for younger students, ask older students to pray and ask God who He wants them to invest in this year. Then, spot them through the year as they minister to their peer.
  • Instead of merely teaching a series on spiritual disciplines, create avenues where you can experience spiritual disciplines together.
  • Instead of simply expecting students to be sharing their faith, create consistent opportunities for students and adults to pray for those they are reaching, along with sharing stories of opportunities and obstacles they are experiencing.

The role of a disciplemaker is to spot the disciples we are training to make disciples. Draw them close enough to know which of their spiritual muscles are weak and what amount of weight would help them stretch to a next step on their disciplemaking journey.

What are ways you are allowing the weight of disciplemaking to fall on your students?

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