09 Implications & Recommendations

Implications & Recommendations


Many findings from the State of Discipleship study suggest that churches need the approach to discipleship that The Navigators has historically embraced and imparted: relational, intentional, organic (rather than systematized) and spiritually transformative. This presents a great opportunity for Navigators to be a strong voice and much-needed leader in these changing times by emphasizing what the organization already knows and does best.


Millennials (and older adults, too) isolated by personal technology crave real-life, face-to-face relationships with individuals and small groups. The younger generation also desires wisdom—not just knowledge—to navigate changing times and culture. One-on-one mentoring is the ideal setting to deliver this type of guidance, fostering deep relationship that leads to transformation and serves as an anchor for continuing engagement with the Church. In a culture of isolation, discipleship relationships are an open door for spiritual transformation.

How are these one-on-one and small-group relationships established? Among the broader Christian population, the catalyst for existing one-on-one mentoring relationships is unclear and variable, suggesting there may be many ways leaders can spawn such relationships: through church, work, community-based or volunteer activities, or even social media. Millennials indicate a desire to better integrate their faith into their lives and respond positively to notions of “whole-life discipleship.” This desire may be an area for further testing and development, to identify best practices for catalyzing discipleship relationships based on their needs.


Our time-starved, always-on culture means the cost of discipleship, in time and attention, feels higher than ever to both leaders and participants. Data from this research show a lack of initiative toward investing in personal spiritual growth, even when Christians express a desire to grow. What is necessary, then, for Christians to make the investment of time necessary for real spiritual growth? Intentionality and accountability.

Exemplars foster intentionality by creating a church-wide culture of discipleship. Senior leaders support the vision, model transformative disciplines and shape their church around the goal of spiritual transformation. Discipleship is a top priority, and they are intentional about keeping it that way. They communicate this intentionality in word and by example to their flock.

Our culture’s propensity for “busyness” also coincides with the need for whole-life discipleship—to meet people where they live, work and play. Rather than organizing all activities at the church, effective discipleship is intentionally integrated physically and conceptually into the workplace, community, social media and more. If people are scattered, then perhaps churches must be as well.

Accountability is essential for busy, scattered people to make the time to invest in their spiritual growth. Small groups and one-on-one relationships, in particular, provide excellent structure for accountability and encourage commitment to make time for discipleship.


Gone are the days when one-size-fits-all, systematic models of discipleship were effective. Christians, and especially young adults, desire conversation and relationship, not imparting of knowledge, which require more organic, customized approaches. Exemplar churches have embraced this shift and say they create their own models and their own materials to fit the unique needs of their members.

These shifts present an opportunity for Navigators to create modular, customizable tools and training to guide discussions of life application in discipleship contexts. Navigators should continue to equip church leaders to better understand their members’ needs and to employ tailored approaches that reach them where they are. This—more than content—is what leaders need for an organic, relevant approach to discipleship.


Church leaders who embrace a culture of discipleship describe a shift away from “head knowledge” toward life transformation. Further, leaders and Christians alike prefer the term “becoming more Christ-like.” Both are great news for the future of the Church, as this phrase aligns with the ultimate goal of spiritual growth. It is more specific and evocative than “discipleship,” which is vague and not as easily defined.

On many measures, Navigators alumni are more committed to spiritual growth even than church leaders, a testament to the coaching they have received from the organization. Alumni report excellent spiritual health and commitment to their own growth, and to the growth of people around them through mentoring and evangelism.

Given its track record, The Navigators is primed to be a chief advocate for relational, intentional, organic spiritual transformation. The organization’s history and expertise with these concepts puts it in a key position to equip and provide resources to church leaders who wonder how to create transformative discipleship programs. Some work will be necessary, however, to refresh the presentation of these concepts and to ensure they are communicated and delivered in a way that is relevant to today’s younger generation. Navigators is poised to equip the next generation to become more Christ-like and to pass faith on to the generation after them: to know Christ and make Him known.

Previous Section


Read Section
Next Section

Data Table

Read Section