The Three-Thirds Disciple-Making Process

Those who spend a significant amount of time investing in others eventually run into a practical question: “What should I cover when I meet with those I’m training?” Without some kind of plan, meeting times with trainees can easily dissolve into directionless conversation or teaching that never works itself out in real life.

The three-thirds disciple-making process1 is a simple model for conducting training sessions that many trainers around the world are using with noteworthy results. In essence, the three-thirds process divides a training session into three equal parts called “Looking Back,” “Looking Up,” and “Looking Forward.” Together the three-thirds process establishes a framework not only for biblical learning, but also for obedience and accountability for that learning.



Looking Back

The first third primarily reviews what has happened in between the current meeting and the prior one. Trainer and trainees discuss how the trainees’ weeks went and may engage in a brief time of worship. They then turn their attention to how the trainees did in biblical obedience and witness, with particular focus on whatever goals they set last week. This is a time of loving accountability; the trainer comes alongside the trainees to help them see their triumphs and where they could have done better. Finally, the trainer casts vision to the group to make sure they all keep their eyes on the mission Christ has given them.

Looking Up

In the second third, the trainer or a trainee leads the group in investigating a passage of Scripture or a specific discipleship principle. This is the portion of a three-thirds disciple-making process that most resembles the Bible studies evangelicals are accustomed to. Looking Up showcases the versatility of the three-thirds disciple-making model, as the group can study any Bible passages or principles over time as the Spirit leads. The leader of the group may be more or less directive in selecting passages and principles, depending on the needs of the group.

Looking Forward

This segment contains two primary elements:

  1. Practicing any skills necessary at that point in the group’s training (which usually corresponds to the material covered in Looking Up)
  2. Setting goals to be accomplished before the next meeting

This is the portion of the meeting in which the trainer and trainees work hard to distill noteworthy information, commands, or examples from Scripture into concrete, actionable items. The expectation is that in the next meeting’s Looking Back segment, the group will be able to assess whether or not they obeyed the passage or principle they covered.

Which of these elements have you incorporated in your disciple-making efforts? Leave us a comment!

Like what you’re reading?

Each Thursday we send out our Training Resources Newsletter, which shares a new ministry tool and an encouraging story about God’s Spirit preparing someone for service.
Subscribe to the newsletter

1 This model of disciple-making was developed by Ying Kai, a missionary in Asia, and is described in detail in Ying Kai and Steve Smith, T4T: A Discipleship ReRevolution (Monument, Colo.: WIGTake Resources, 2011), 125–141.

One Response

  1. Katie Rader says:

    Excellent….I have never seen it outlined in such a manner, but it sure makes sense. I do look forward to these emails. Thanks for taking the time to do them. The emphasis that Grace is moving in…small groups, outreach, accountability, and prayer…are the main tools that I have seen God use the most in my own life and those of my three sons. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *