Intentional ministry model transforms student faith

Rachael East watches a role play interaction during Exploring Ministry class.

Rachael East watches a role play interaction during Exploring Ministry class.

What better way to explore ministry than to dive in and do it.

That’s what Michele (Schrock) ’81 Hershberger thought when she gave her students in Exploring Ministry the year-long assignment of the Missional Discipleship Initiative – a model of intentional and relational discipleship that takes to heart the Great Commission’s command of “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

The model on which the assignment is based was developed for church congregations by Mennonite Mission Network personnel Marvin Lorenzana and Hershberger’s husband Del, in an effort to grow and train church leaders through relational discipling.

“The Bible shows that discipleship is very intentional,” explained Lorenzana during a September visit to campus to help the class launch the assignment. “Fifty-two sermons a year does not make disciples.”

The implementation includes each of the 11 Exploring Ministry students inviting two others not in the class to participate weekly in a small group meeting,
or triad, where they read and discuss scripture, share their lives, create accountability and pray with and for one another.

At each weekly meeting, the same five questions are to be asked to help lead discussion and to keep group members mindful of their actions and responsibilities:

  • Where have you seen God at work this week?
  • What did you hear God say to you this week during your prayer time?
  • Did you finish reading the assigned portion of Scripture for this week?
  • How have you shared the love of Jesus with others this week?
  • Where have you fallen short this week?

“The goal is that the groups will disciple each other and grow,” said Hershberger. “Students are learning how everyone has something to give them. They feel supported and held accountable to read their Bibles weekly. They are having new thoughts about God.”

For many of the students, the assignment has pushed them outside of their comfort zone while at the same time teaching them new ways of spiritual and ministerial leadership.

“I was a leader in my youth group, but this is a much more intimate level of leadership and I was nervous,” said Exploring Ministry student Rachael East ’17 (Larned, Kan.). “The groups are smaller than traditional Bible studies, so you can’t leave without talking and being open and vulnerable.”

The result is 33 students growing in their faith and learning to be vulnerable together.

“Cool things are happening with the girls in my triad group; we’re talking and growing,” said East. “I overheard one of the girls telling a prospective
student about the group and she was genuinely excited about this thing she’s involved in.”

In congregational settings, after a year the groups disband and each person is to form a new group with new people to continue to spread the intentional discipling. Hershberger and East are both hopeful that Hesston College can continue the practice from year to year as well, even incorporating faculty and staff into the student groups.

“It’s a deeper way of doing ministry,” Hershberger said, “– with others instead of to them.”