How To Make Disciples Who Make Disciples

I’m passionate about the Why and the What of disciple-making. I can talk about the theology and philosophy of disciple-making all day. Yet, I’m also aware that there is a rising awareness and conviction among people about the importance of making disciples  (see #3 in my denomination’s recent report on declining baptisms) and they’re asking the next question after Why and What. They want to know How. The fact is we won’t create a disciple-making culture until we are making disciples and teaching them to do the same!

Here’s one approach to disciple-making, called the triad model, that I have used effectively in both established church and missional settings. It’s not a new method, nor did I create the model. There are variations of the model developed by different people, but the basic approach was instituted by Jesus as He poured His life into a few to multiply and change world. Remember, this is A model, not THE model. Nevertheless, it has been recognized as an effective model in lots of contexts with lots of different types of people.

Disciple-making triads are groups of 3 people (sometimes 4) who meet together for the purpose of discipleship with the goals of spiritual growth, authentic relationships, and multiplication. These groups provide a relational discipleship environment akin to Jesus’ relationship with Peter, James, and John. Don’t miss that last goal: multiplication. Plenty of guys gather in small groups for spiritual growth and relationships. Without intentional multiplication, though, you’re not being obedient to the Great Commission to multiply!

The discipler should begin the first triad with a goal of multiplication over time. If you are leading in a church setting, avoid the temptation to promote triads as a program for all and enlisting leaders who have never experienced this format. The “DNA” of the first triad will reproduce! If the first one is not focused on the goals of transformation and multiplication none of their “offspring” will be either. Some exceptions to this would be (1) starting 2 or 3 groups using leaders the discipler can have an on-going accountability relationship with who are debriefed weekly; (2) enlisting a competent person of the other gender to begin a triad for his/her gender. NOTE: These groups should consist of the same gender in order to increase accountability and transparency as well as to avoid ethical pitfalls.

Three Elements of a Triad:[i]

  1. Truth of God’s Word
  2. Transparent Relationships (Build a safe-zone over time)
  3. Mutual Accountability

How to Start a Triad

  1. Prayerfully select 2 people who are “ripe” for discipleship. (Luke 6:12-16)
    1. Be prayerful
    2. Be discerning – Candidates may not be the “usual suspects”
    3. Be selective – You select them, they don’t select you
    4. Be prepared to be accused of “playing favorites”
  2. Ask them to commit to these expectations:
    1. Meet weekly for 60-90 minutes for 6-12 months
    2. Study the Bible
    3. Memorize Scripture
    4. Pray together
    5. Share the gospel of Christ with people throughout the week
    6. Share their struggles within the triad
  3. Ask them to commit to multiplication by leading a new triad when this one is complete with the same expectations.
  4. Lead them through a weekly guided Bible study.
    1. Study a book of the Bible by reading a chapter each week
    2. Or use an appropriate study guide or method (see resources below)
    3. Memorize the same Scripture weekly and recite to one another
    4. NOTE: The Triad model is not dependent upon a specific curriculum guide or piece of literature. The key is immersion in God’s Word in the context of transparent relationships characterized by mutual accountability.
  5. Ask accountability questions such as:
    1. What has God taught you this week?
    2. How has He taught you that?
    3. Were you able to share the Gospel with anyone?
    4. Were you faithful to your family this week in thoughts and actions?
    5. How can we pray for you?
  6. At the end of the agreed upon time multiply by launching new triads!
    1. Cast the vision for multiplication weekly.
    2. Begin praying with them about who they will invite about half-way through your time together.
    3. Ask them to bring a list of 10 people from whom they might select 2 or 3, three months before you expect to end.
    4. Pray through the lists until they have prioritized the first 5 the Spirit has led them to invite.
    5. Charge them to make the invitation one month before your triad concludes.

As I stated above, any resource can work with this model. The key is to find the best resource for the people you are trying to disciple! It really doesn’t matter which resource you choose as long as you consider the learning preferences of those you’re trying to reach, the centrality of God’s Word, relational transparency, and mutual accountability.

Below are three different resources I’ve used in different contexts:

Resources Specifically Designed for Triads

  1. More Structure (Workbook Format) – Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden
  2. Some Structure (Reading, Bible Study) – DNA Groups (Discipleship, Nurture, Accountability) – Soma Communities
  3. Less Structure (Bible Reading, Accountability Questions) –Life Transformation GroupsCultivating a Life for God, Search and Rescue, Neil Cole

So, get started! Begin by asking the Father to show you who you need to invest in and obey!



[i] Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials, exp. ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 10-11.

  • Great info Brian. Keep it coming, we certainly need it!

    • BrianUpshaw

      Thanks, Jeff!