This post is part of our Playing the Long Game series

We’ve reached the end of January and you already know what question I’m about to ask you: How many of you have already quit your New Year’s resolutions? Better yet, who hasn’t even started on those resolutions yet?

If you raised your hand don’t worry, you’re not alone by a long shot. According to Forbes, less than 25% of people stick with their resolutions even for 30 days and only 8% see their resolutions on to completion.

The good news is, disciplemaking is not a resolution you make for a year. Disciplemaking is a commitment to a lifestyle that lasts forever. There is no perfect discipleship group or leader, there are only progressing or regressing groups and leaders.

With that in mind, you are inevitably going to come upon stumbling blocks in your group that could make you wonder if the group is worth the time and energy you are investing. Let me assure you, it is! Let’s conquer some of these speed bumps and keep progressing towards Christlikeness.

One hang up we hear about all the time is that people are not doing their journal entries. Whether you use the HEAR method of journaling or a different method, journaling is essential to spiritual growth and to the functionality of the group. Discussion of journal entries (and therefore Scripture) ideally takes up the majority of the group time. Here are a few thoughts on how handle this issue.

  1. Don’t underestimate the value of a covenant. I learned the hard way this past year what it is like not having one. I thought I would be fine without it and there were several occasions when I wished I had someone’s name in ink saying they would journal weekly to reference. As Tim LaFleur says, “They used covenants all the time in Scripture, why can’t we?”
  2. During your group, have your journal out and open so that everyone can visibly see you journaled throughout the week.
  3. Ask specific questions like, “What did you journal about this week?” A more generic statement like sounds less intimidating but it also lets everyone off the hook. Everyone can come up with a thought off the top of their head.
  4. Be patient and encourage someone that is struggling to journal outside of the group time. The vast majority of people are not going to hit the ground running with five detailed journals every week. Keep “The +1 Rule” in mind. Have a conversation with the person one-on-one and challenge them to do one more journal entry (+1) than they did the week before. Don’t set the expectation that someone is failing if they don’t hit the mark you set every week. Just keep them moving forward.
  5. If you really are not making progress, take time out of the group to actually read and write a journal entry right then and there. We’ve seen this work well especially with students.

It may take much longer than you envisioned for journaling to become a regular and valued habit of each of your group members. But remember, we’re playing the long game. Don’t be discouraged if people grow slower than you hoped.

Three weeks into my group this year one of our guys said, “You know, I haven’t taken journaling seriously so far but I’m realizing how good it is for me and I’m not going to skip this anymore.” The cool part is no one had said a word to him about it. He figured it out on his own by being in an environment for growth.

Discipling is not a pass or fail resolution and that a great thing because I know if you’re reading this blog you have more of an appetite for discipleship than you do for eating more broccoli. Keep pressing forward. Keep praying for your group. Keep setting the example yourself. The results will take care of themselves.

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