My wife, Kim, and I just returned from The Navigators National Staff Conference in Florida, where some 1,500 U.S. Navigators from across the nation assembled to be encouraged and equipped for ministry in various arenas—among students, military personnel, church members, and so forth.
For us, we’re convinced now more than ever of the need to help pastors, church leaders, and everyday laborers grasp a vision for intentional disciplemaking in the church context, which well reflects our work with The Navigators.
One highlight of the conference was processing it all with a key layman I met and equipped in Colorado Springs who now ministers with The Navigators in Florida. Vern and his wife, Deby, are dear friends of ours, and he and I continue to “meet” biweekly over the phone.
Among other highlights was hearing from David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, whose research is well known and respected in Christian circles. Kinnaman presented his findings from a brand new Navigator-commissioned research survey into the state of discipleship in the United States.
Pastors and ministry leaders, college and seminary professors, discipleship “exemplars” and everyday Christians from across the nation participated in this scientific study to assess what we’re doing well and where we need to rethink our approaches to disciplemaking.
The complete report is available on the Barna Group’s website here. In light of its findings, now more than ever we’re convinced that the church needs what God’s entrusted to Navigators through the years to help grow intentional disciplemaking cultures here in the Rocky Mountain Region and wherever God leads! Right out of the report, here are a few key findings:
Churches need new models for discipleship. Current programs capture only a minority of Christians, and most believers do not prioritize an investment in their spiritual growth.
Church leaders desire a clear plan and lack systems to evaluate spiritual health.
Though they are time-starved and distracted, millennials (born from the early 1980s to early 2000s) crave relationships, especially one-on-one.
“Each of these needs aligns with Navigators’ approach to discipleship,” the report says, “suggesting opportunities to provide much-needed influence and guidance.”
“People identify family members and people at church as having had the most significant spiritual impact on them,” Kinnaman adds. “So empowering disciples to disciple others (family members, someone at church, friends) is an important way churches and discipleship ministries can multiply their impact.”
Empowering disciples—that’s our mission, now more than ever!
By the way, here’s one more conference highlight. The picture above is one segment of a large display that was at the National Staff Conference. At the bottom left, I’m pictured with men I’ve been walking alongside—and who’ve been walking alongside me—as we've spurred one another on in disciplemaking ministries. The highlight is knowing that this is a small sampling of what God is doing exponentially through the some 1,500 staff in the conference auditorium and many more around the world!
Dean Ridings is a Representative of Navigator Church Ministries. To contact Dean or to learn more about the Ridings’ Navigator ministry in the Rocky Mountain Region, please click here.