Indiana church reformulates discipleship

Muncie, Indiana

South Side Church of the Nazarene in Muncie, Indiana, is changing the way it engages with its congregants by investing in a new discipleship program.

They call it The Journey, a unique collection of Sunday School and Discipleship International's The Discipleship Place materials curated and edited for South Side’s specific needs.

Jennifer Coffman, who leads the program, describes it as “a sacred process of spiritual formation.”

It all started about a year ago when South Side selected Paul Dazet to be their new lead pastor. During this time, Coffman transitioned from pastor of Women’s Ministries to pastor of Spiritual Formation. Coffman and Dazet took this opportunity to ask themselves what it should look like for a church to intentionally disciple its people.

“We really like the metaphor of movement, of moving forward — toward Christ, toward heaven, toward oneness — so we came up with the name and then we created the format,” Coffman said. “It's been tweaked a couple of times. As we have offered certain classes, we have realized that there is probably a different resource more suited to what we want to share, or we have seen that we really need to go in a different direction with a course or a level. It could still be tweaked now, as we continue to grow.”

Coffman says the plan is for those who complete the quarterly membership course to “flow right into The Journey.” Long-standing members are encouraged to join the program as well, but the hope is that as the church moves forward and gains new membership, those new members will immediately begin the process of communal discipleship.

Right now, the church simply doesn’t have enough teachers. Dazet and Coffman are the only two teachers heading up the program thus far, but they are looking to change that.

“My hope is to generate more leaders as they finish each level,” Coffman said. “They don't have to have finished it all to lead. We want to encourage teachers to walk The Journey with the students. No one is an expert. I may have ‘pastor’ in front of my name, but I am learning right along with them!”

Around 40 of South Side’s 180 members have participated in the program, which consists of five levels and each level is nine months in length. When all is said and done, the course takes two and a half years to complete and ends with the participants earning their Lay Minister’s License.

Of those who have participated so far, two groups stand out in Coffman’s mind.

Juan and Patricia have been attending South Side for a year now.

“[They] went to the first membership class and became members and then moved right into [The Journey] class that started right after membership,” Coffman said. “[Now] they are fully invested in the church and are even considering joining the mission trip to the Dominican Republic in June.”

Natalie is a single mother with two kids. Even though she works nights, Natalie still wants to live out what she has learned from The Journey by serving the church.

“Natalie feels like God is calling her to music ministry, ministry with teens, or both,” Coffman said. “[In both cases, they] have grown so much in such a short time.” 

These aren’t the only examples of those who South Side is witnessing grow through The Journey. A couple weeks ago, Dazet preached about being disciples and encouraged anyone who wants to take the Lay Minister course — the fifth and final level in The Journey — to sign up without feeling the need to take the first four levels. Coffman was ecstatic to report that 24 members responded, signing up to take the course as soon as they could.

Now that The Journey has proven to be successful for South Side, they are working on ways to expand its influence, specifically to the youth and children’s areas.

“I’ve just seen an excitement around here that I haven’t seen for a long time … instead of being event-driven, we are transformation-driven, and God is working and moving,” Coffman said. “I know I still have a lot of tweaking to do, but even though I can’t see the complete picture yet, I know God is working through The Journey and I couldn’t be more excited.”

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